Advertisement

Advertisement

See you in St. Louis: 5 things to watch for KU basketball

The Kansas Jayhawks huddle up before tipoff against Toledo on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Kansas Jayhawks huddle up before tipoff against Toledo on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Now that the bracket is set and the Kansas University basketball team knows its path, it's time to look a little closer at what the second-seeded Jayhawks will have to do to advance in this year's NCAA Tournament.

The following is a list of five things to consider as Kansas attempts to find the right recipe for a deep postseason run:

• Bill Self alluded to this on Sunday evening in his press conference after the bracket come out, but it's important that the Jayhawks focus on this year's run with the cliché one-game-at-a-time mentality. Although KU got tossed into a tough regional with top-tier squads Syracuse and Florida and a host of solid mid-range seeds, things definitely could be worse. It absolutely does no good to worry about facing No. 1 overall seed Florida today because KU is still a few games from even getting that chance and, if the match-up does happen, it'll mean the Jayhawks reached the Elite 8, which would likely be viewed as very good news. The one-game-at-a-time thing is particularly important for the young guys on this roster, who have never been here before and could get overwhelmed by all that's at stake. Taking the focused approach and emphasizing scouting report, defensive assignments, offensive identity and all the little things like those will give the Jayhawks their best shot at advancing.

Kansas forward Tarik Black pounds his chest next to teammate Naadir Tharpe after a dunk against Towson during the first half on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Tarik Black pounds his chest next to teammate Naadir Tharpe after a dunk against Towson during the first half on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

• Tarik Black has to play big for the Jayhawks early on. In its opening round game against Eastern Kentucky, Kansas will have a big-time size advantage and should be able to pound the ball into Black, Perry Ellis and even Jamari Traylor. In a potential Round of 32 meeting with New Mexico, the Jayhawks will need Black to deliver on both ends of the floor against the Lobos' quality big men. What will it take for him to do that? The most crucial thing is for him to stay out of foul trouble. In the Jayhawks' Dec. 14 meeting with UNM, Black played just two minutes, recording one foul and two turnovers during that short time. He's a different, more confident player now, and, with this being his final act as a college basketball player, it seems like a safe bet to guess that Black will be ready to bring it for the Jayhawks during the next couple of weeks. He doesn't have to be as good as he was against Texas Tech on Senior Night at home, but he can't be as bad as he was at West Virginia in the regular season finale either. Something like he gave in the Big 12 tourney quarterfinals against Oklahoma State would probably be enough to get KU to the Sweet 16.

Injured Kansas center Joel Embiid celebrates a dunk by forward Tarik Black during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Injured Kansas center Joel Embiid celebrates a dunk by forward Tarik Black during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

• KU can't worry about the return of Joel Embiid. If the big man can come back and play at some point this postseason — be it in surprise form next Sunday or the more expected target date of the Sweet 16 — that will be gravy for the Jayhawks. But even if he does return at some point, don't expect him to be a dominant force right out of the gate. Let's say the Jayhawks make it and Embiid plays in the Sweet 16. That game will take place on March 27, which will mark 26 days since Embiid last played in a game. I know he's been working out in the pool and doing some things to keep himself in decent shape, but there's no substitute for game shape and almost a month off will create problems for even the most finely tuned athletes. Embiid averaged just 23 minutes per game this season in the first place, and if he is able to return at some point during the Jayhawks' run, expect him to contribute fewer minutes than that initially.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins (22) celebrates a dunk with teammate Wayne Selden against Oklahoma State late in the second half on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins (22) celebrates a dunk with teammate Wayne Selden against Oklahoma State late in the second half on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

• Don't be surprised if we see the Jayhawks turn to a smaller, quicker lineup for significant portions of the NCAA Tournament. With Embiid out, the Jayhawks still have some legit big men inside who can make up for his absence. But this team is and always has been at its best when it has been running and gunning and getting out in transition. Because of that, I think it's very possible that we'll see a lot of small lineups in the NCAA Tournament, particularly in the first game against Eastern Kentucky, which is a perimeter-oriented team. This could mean a couple of different things, but one of the lineups we could see playing some serious minutes together might include Naadir Tharpe, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins and Perry Ellis. That's not to say Tarik Black, Jamari Traylor and Brannen Greene won't be involved. Clearly they will be. But if KU has to go small to match up or considers throwing in a zone defense from time to time, Wiggins is definitely capable of playing up a position because of his length and athleticism.

The Kansas bench goes wild after a three-pointer by teammate Perry Ellis against New Mexico during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The Kansas bench goes wild after a three-pointer by teammate Perry Ellis against New Mexico during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

• Three-point shooting could be the most important factor in determining whether the Jayhawks survive St. Louis or not. All three of KU's potential foes in the second and third rounds (Eastern Kentucky, New Mexico and Stanford) made more three-pointers than the Jayhawks this season and two of the three (EKU and UNM) made a substantial amount more than their opponents this season. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, made 23 fewer three-pointers than their opponents this season. Obviously, the match-ups and the strengths and weaknesses that go along with them, will determine how important KU's three-point shooting will be. For example, in the opening game against EKU, the Jayhawks' size advantage might keep them from relying too much on the three-point shot. Regardless of KU's offensive advantages, though, KU's three-point defense will be a factor. And if the Jayhawks give up the kinds of open looks they gave to Iowa State and West Virginia, things could get dangerous in a hurry if the KU opponents are knocking them down. Expect Andrew Wiggins to be called on to lock down each foe's top three-point threat, thus increasing the odds of KU advancing.

Now that we've outlined a few of the keys for the first weekend of this year's tournament, here's a quick look at how online gambling sight Bovada.lv sees the odds of winning the entire thing and each region:

2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship - Odds to Win
Florida #1                     11/2
Michigan State #4          7/1
Louisville #4                  13/2
Arizona #1                     9/1
Virginia #1                     10/1
Wichita State #1            10/1
Kansas #2                     10/1
Duke #3                        12/1
Wisconsin #2                20/1
Villanova #2                  20/1
Michigan #2                  20/1
Syracuse #3                  20/1
Creighton #3                 20/1
Iowa State #3                33/1
Kentucky #8                  33/1
Oklahoma State #9        40/1
UCLA #4                       40/1
North Carolina #6           40/1
San Diego State #4       50/1
Pittsburgh #9                66/1
VCU #5                         66/1
Cincinnati #5                 66/1
Ohio State #6                66/1
Tennessee #11              66/1
Connecticut #7              66/1
Iowa #11                       75/1
Oklahoma #5                 100/1
Gonzaga #8                  100/1
Memphis #8                  100/1
Saint Louis #5               100/1
Baylor #6                      100/1
UMass #6                     100/1
New Mexico #7              100/1
Oregon #7                     100/1
Texas #7                       100/1
Kansas State #9            200/1
Saint Joe's #10             250/1
Nebraska #11                250/1
Providence #11             200/1
George Washington #9  250/1
Colorado #8                  250/1
Stanford #10                 250/1
NC State #12                 300/1
Xavier #12                     300/1
Harvard #12                  500/1
BYU #10                       500/1
Arizona State #10          500/1
Dayton #11                   500/1
SF Austin #12               500/1
North Dakota State #12 500/1
Tulsa #13                      1000/1
New Mexico State #13   1000/1
Delaware #13                1000/1
Manhattan #13               1000/1
Western Michigan #14    1000/1
UL Lafayette #14           1000/1
NC Central #14              1000/1
American #15                1000/1
Wofford #15                 1000/1
Albany #16                    1000/1
Mount Saint Mary's #16 1000/1
Weber State #16            1000/1
Coastal Carolina #16      1000/1
Cal Poly #16                 1000/1
Texas Southern #16       1000/1
Eastern Kentucky #15    1000/1
UW-Milwaukee #15        1000/1
Mercer #14                    1000/1

— 2014 South Region - Odds to Win —
Florida #1                     9/5
Kansas #2                     15/4
Syracuse #3                  5/1
UCLA #4                       9/1
VCU #5                         9/1
New Mexico #7              12/1
Pittsburgh #9                14/1
Ohio State #6                14/1
Stanford #10                 40/1
Dayton #11                   50/1
SF Austin #12               50/1
Colorado #8                  66/1
Tulsa #13                      66/1
Western Michigan #14    100/1
Eastern Kentucky #15    100/1
Albany #16                    200/1
Mount Saint Mary's #16 200/1

— 2014 West Region - Odds to Win —
Arizona #1                     2/1
Wisconsin #2                4/1
Creighton #3                 4/1
San Diego State #4       9/1
Oklahoma State #9        12/1
Baylor #6                      14/1
Oregon #7                     14/1
Oklahoma #5                 16/1
Gonzaga #8                  18/1
Nebraska #11                40/1
New Mexico State #1     350/1
BYU #10                       66/1
UL Lafayette #14           75/1
North Dakota State #12 50/1
American #15                100/1
Weber State #16            100/1

— 2014 East Region - Odds to Win —
Michigan State #4          5/2
Virginia #1                     11/4
Villanova #2                  15/4
Iowa State #3                6/1
North Carolina #6           12/1
Cincinnati #5                 16/1
Connecticut #7              16/1
Memphis #8                  25/1
Providence #11             33/1
George Washington #9  50/1
Saint Joe's #10             50/1
Harvard #12                  50/1
Delaware #13                100/1
NC Central #14              100/1
UW-Milwaukee #15        100/1
Coastal Carolina #16      100/1

— 2014 Midwest Region - Odds to Win —
Louisville #4                  8/5
Duke #3                        7/2
Wichita State #1            4/1
Michigan #2                  11/2
Kentucky #8                  12/1
Saint Louis #5               20/1
Tennessee #11              25/1
Iowa #11                       25/1
Texas #7                       33/1
Kansas State #9            33/1
UMass #6                     40/1
Arizona State #10          50/1
NC State #12                 66/1
Xavier #12                     66/1
Manhattan #13               75/1
Mercer #14                    100/1
Wofford #15                 100/1
Cal Poly #16                 200/1
Texas Southern #16       200/1
 

;

Comments

Ian Emerson 7 months ago

I think you hit the nail on the head with the prediction of small packages in use during the first couple of tournament games.

Scott Smetana 7 months ago

Matt, cudos to you for picking each and every one of the Big 12 tourney games correctly. I'd like to cheat off your NCAA bracket now.

Matt Tait 7 months ago

Hey, thanks. I missed one, though. I had WVU beating Texas. If I get half that lucky in the big bracket, I'll be satisfied.

Tony Bandle 7 months ago

The oddsmakers do know that Jo Jo is not playing this weekend, right????

For what it's worth, it appears, the West has the greatest chance of the 1,2,3,4 all advancing and the Midwest has the least chance. The East and the South are somewhere in between with the East maybe having a little better shot at it and the South a little less.

For my money, the Midwest looks like the gunfight at the OK Corral between Wyatt Earp, The Lone Ranger, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rodgers, Marshall Dillon and Wild Bill Hickock.....a lot of good gunfighters are gonna die!!!

Mike Riches 7 months ago

To me the number one thing the Jayhawks must do in this tournament is play aggressively every minute of every game, especially early on. Passive play seems to be the number one thing that keeps good teams from achieving their full potential in a loser-go-home setup. This team has consistently shown it can get up for big games, especially in conference play. No one liked ending the regular season/conference tourney losing three of five, but the truth is none of those five games really mattered. We had already won our 10th straight league title, we may have gotten a #1 seed with another win or two, but that wasn't assured. We did win the only two games that mattered a little bit in that stretch (senior night and revenge against OSU). Not being emotionally invested in a game is what leads to passive play, and that's what leads to the losses. Now if Coach Self can get these guys to emotionally invest in every game, one game at a time as mentioned above, I like our chances against anybody. In that sense, I'm more worried about EKU than Florida, simply because if we get to the Elite 8, our guys will be 100% fired up, and I like our chances when they come out that way!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.