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Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Game Day Breakdown: No. 1 seed Kansas vs. No. 16 seed Texas Southern - 2022 NCAA Tournament

The Kansas Jayhawks come together at half court to start off their open practice on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Kansas Jayhawks come together at half court to start off their open practice on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

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No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (28-6) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern Tigers (19-12)

Time: 8:57 p.m., Thursday, March 17, 2022

Location: Round 1 of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Dickies Arena, Fort Worth, Texas

TV: Tru TV | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

Keys for Kansas

1. Stay disciplined

With so many athletes and TSU coach Johnny Jones electing to play so many players, Texas Southern prefers a wild style that forces opponents to play sped up and tries to create chaos and mistakes whenever possible.

That approach plays to their athleticism and requires the team on the opposite bench to stay disciplined all over the floor, possession after possession.

The chaos comes as much on offense as anything the Tigers do defensively, and the Jayhawks are well aware of the importance of staying locked in to their individual defensive assignments no matter where the guys they’re guarding go on the court.

“We know that they like to back cut a lot,” KU guard Dajuan Harris said Wednesday. “So if we stay focused and watch man and ball and get a lot of tips, it starts with me first. So I've got to start the pressure out first. If I do that, then I get the other guys going and (they get) tips and deflections.”

Turning offense into defense has been a strength for the Jayhawks in recent weeks, and if they’re able to do that in this one, it will go a long way toward Kansas dictating the style it wants to play.

2. Attack TSU's stout D

Texas Southern enters this one ranked 184th overall in the KenPom.com rankings — the lowest ranking of all 68 teams that made the bracket — and just 269th in KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings.

But the Tigers have a defense that, statistically speaking, is in the top 101 in all of Division I. The reason for that is simple. TSU forces teams to take tough shots and defends both 2-point shots and 3-point shots extremely well.

The Tigers’ overall effective field goal percentage defense ranks 12th in Division I (44.9%) and their 2-point defense (44.9%) and 3-point defense (29.8%) both rank in the top 20 in Division I.

“And they played a monster schedule,” KU coach Bill Self said of the slate that featured nonconference games against Oregon, Saint Mary’s, Washington, North Carolina State, BYU and a win over Florida.

While watching film of the Tigers after learning Tuesday night that they would be KU’s first-round opponent, Self said their defense really stood out. Particularly their 39.5% overall field goal defense.

“You think, ‘Wow, there’s some good teams in our league that guard that aren’t close to that,’” Self said.

To double check, Self looked at just the nonconference numbers, thinking that playing in a small conference could have skewed the numbers. Nope. That number was 39.6%.

Patience, spacing and a good activity level will be key for Kansas on offense. The Jayhawks' ball movement has been terrific in the past couple of weeks, and continuing to use that to get open looks and shots at the rim, while keeping the Texas Southern defense off balance, will be a big part of KU’s attack in this one.

“I think they’re good,” Self said Wednesday. “They’ve got interchangeable parts. They’ve got three big guys they can throw at you. One of them (Brison Gresham) is as athletic as any big we’ve gone against all year long. They’ve got a 4 man that can stretch it, in (senior forward John) Walker, and they’re quick out front. After studying them, they don’t look like a 16 seed to me, at all. So, we know we’ll have to really compete and play well.”

3. Match TSU’s intensity

Everyone knows that a 16 seed has defeated a No. 1 seed just one time in NCAA Tournament — sorry, Virginia — but it has not been for lack of trying.

Year after year, these lower-seeded teams show up to play some of the Goliaths of college basketball knowing that they have to play harder and smarter than the favorite to even have a chance.

That’s the focus for Texas Southern players, who are two nights removed from their First Four win in Dayton, Ohio.

“Definitely to play harder than them,” Walker said Wednesday. “That's absolutely nonnegotiable. You’ve got to play harder than the other team. That’s really what we’re focusing on. At the very least, we’re going to have to play harder than them to gain anything.”

Kansas has been in more than its share of big games against tough teams, but the games where they’ve been favored by 20-plus points have been few and far between.

The Jayhawks won’t be worried about that number as much as they will be focused on matching the Tigers’ intensity.

“I think they’re going to come out with tons of energy and ex-citement to play against us,” KU senior Remy Martin said Wednesday. “I think that we’ve just got to remain ourselves. You know, do what got us here, stay connected. They may make some runs, but as long as we’re together and stick to the basics and stick to what we know how to do, we’ll be fine. I know they'll be excited to play us. And we've just got to match that energy.”

Marquee Matchup

KU senior David McCormack vs. 44

It’s no stretch to ask Kansas to play inside out, but doing so could be a huge key in this one, particularly if it leads to early foul trouble for Texas Southern.

With senior forward Mitch Lightfoot’s status uncertain because of his sprained left knee, McCormack becomes an even bigger key for KU.

The Tigers have good, athletic big men, who can use their size and length to be disruptive. But they also like to use their strength and size.

“Smashmouth basketball” is the way Texas Southern big man Gresham described the TSU style of play, and he said he hoped the officials would let both teams battle inside without bogging the game down with whistles.

“We want the game to be as physical as it can possibly be,” Gresham, who finished Tuesday’s win with six points, 13 re-bounds and six blocks.

McCormack has said in the past that he’s good with physical showdowns, and his size, skill, strength and offensive re-bounding prowess make him well built for such a battle.

He also has a recent history of success using his physicality to help Kansas win an NCAA Tournament game. Last year, in Indianapolis, McCormack’s 22 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes fresh off of COVID, helped KU survive a first-round scare from Eastern Washington.

Beyond that, the Jayhawks routinely like to start games by throwing the ball inside to McCormack, and that first posses-sion at Dickies Arena could tell us a lot about this game.

“We know they have really athletic, really strong post players,” McCormack said Wednesday. “And they’re really strong on the offensive glass. They crash hard. So, we just have to be defensively sound (and) not give them second-chance opportunities.”

Jayhawk Pulse

It’s been three years since anyone on the Kansas basketball roster has experienced a normal NCAA Tournament. But that’s exactly what the Jayhawks get to experience this year.

No bubble. No cancellations. Just good, old-fashioned postseason basketball.

As a No. 1 seed, KU is among the favorites to win this year’s national title and the Jayhawks enter the tournament playing some of their best basketball of the entire season. Three wins in three days last weekend in Kansas City, Missouri, provided a serious boost to the team’s confidence, and Kansas coach Bill Self has said throughout the week that he believes his team is both loose and locked in on the task at hand.

“Hopefully the confidence, the good feeling of winning is something you can bottle, so to speak, in a way that it does carry over,” Self said Wednesday. “I think we’ve got it in us to recreate that and I know our guys are very excited to play.”

While the Kansas veterans who have been through March Madness before said the tournament’s return to normalcy was great to see, they also made it clear that the opportunity to play in March and compete for a title, no matter what it looks like, is the best part of every season.

In all, eight players on this KU roster have appeared in at least one NCAA Tournament game. But the experience will be new for a few Jayhawks and the experience of competing in this tournament and chasing this title will be entirely new for everyone in it.

“I'm just grateful to be able to play basketball, and March is a very big month for college basketball,” Martin said. “(I’m) just really grateful that we’re able to play. Because I know other teams’ seasons (are) over with. So I’m just grateful to be able to play with the guys and be able to put a Kansas uniform on. I think it's a great opportunity for everybody.”

Added McCormack: “I appreciate every moment that I have to play in this month.”

Probable Starters

No. 1 Kansas

G – Dajuan Harris Jr., 6-1, 180, Soph.

G – Ochai Agbaji, 6-5, 210, Sr.

G – Christian Braun, 6-7, 205, Jr.

F – Jalen Wilson, 6-8, 225, Soph.

F – David McCormack, 6-10, 265, Sr.

No. 16 Texas Southern

G – John Jones, 6-0, 165, Sr.

G – A.J. Lawson, 6-5, 205, Sr.

G – Justin Hopkins, 6-5, 205, Sr.

F – Joirdon Karl Nicholas, 6-9, 220, Sr.

F – Brison Gresham, 6-9, 240, Sr.

Comments

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

I like their players.

Interesting that Gresham’s last comment was about taking care of the little things that fans don’t even notice but that can be the difference between winning and losing.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

Discipline. Hmm, I can only think of one player on our team who doesn't know what that word means.

Hope one of our other bigs can step in for Mitch if he can't go. DMac will need a blow in each half. Team rebounding, low turnovers, and team D.

We should have more than enough to win this game. Should.

Andy Godwin 2 months, 1 week ago

Well spoken and thoughtful coach. Clearly this team will not be intimidated by the KU jersey. Like many smaller schools their non conference is loaded with guaranteed road games to help fund their program. They took an early beating, started 0-7, but continue to improve (won on the road against Florida). This program dominates their conference, going to the big dance for 3 out of the last 4 years (COVID-19 being the reason for not perfection). Texas Southern players want this game to turn into a street and they have “nothing to lose”. Hopefully KU will not look at the line (21.5 point favorite) and respect their opponent and play solid basketball from the tip. My guess is KJ Adams might get a few minutes if David McCormack struggles with their physical and athletic center and if Mitch Lightfoot is limited. Just win and advance. Rock Chalk.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 1 week ago

As I recall, Missouri and Virginia were 20+ point favorites before they fell to Norfolk State and UMBC, respectively, in 2012 and 2018.

Bryce Landon 2 months, 1 week ago

I still resent that we have to play TSU in Ft. Worth. The lower seed is not supposed to have the home court advantage!

I'd like to see the NCAA change the tournament to where the Rounds of 64 and 32 are played on the homecourts of the top two seeds in each region. All other rounds are played at neutral sites like normal.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

define home court advantage please, because I'm pretty sure that Kansas is going to have 10 times the number of fans of TSU in Fort Worth tonight.

Dale Rogers 2 months, 1 week ago

While not exactly distant, it's 260 miles from Houston to Fort Worth. About the same as Lawrence to St. Louis. Still pretty close.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

we could be playing them at NRG stadium IN Houston, and still have a bigger crowd than them.

Barry Weiss 2 months, 1 week ago

Its probably difficult, logistically, to accommodate every higher seed.

William Leoni 2 months, 1 week ago

Beware the Ides of March? No, Beware the Hot Mic, DMac! 😂

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

The color of the NCAA tourney balls is driving me crazy. It's way to bright for me... I hope that I can get used to it.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

Do cities bid on hosting regionals? I know this type of tourism is a big economic boost that is part of city planning.

Think about hosting 8 teams and fans in Lawrence or worse. And fitting fans in Cameron or worse.

No need for a bigger advantage for the top seeds. Besides, the upset possibilities are part of the attraction for the people in general.

Duke flamed once before - I think the same year as mizzoo. Maybe K can go out in style again. Make the rest of the tourney more palatable.

Blake Brown 2 months, 1 week ago

Added McCormack: “I appreciate every moment that I have to play in this month.” Let's hope he gets to appreciate playing in June as well.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm just hoping for April, but I assume that's what you meant.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 1 week ago

12 Richmond takes down #5 Iowa out of Kansas' region.

1.) reminder of the 2011 group that beat Richmond in the sweet 16 and lost to VCU in the E8

2.) I had Iowa as a tough out for KU in the Sweet 16. Iowa had multiple games over 110 points this year. topped 100 5 times, and topped 90 like 10 times.

3.) Providence is vulnerable against Richmond on Saturday as providence has been less than dominant of late despite only 5 losses on the year.

Lee Short 2 months, 1 week ago

I don't care what Rodney Crain thinks, like most KU basketball fans, I think it would be pretty cool if Kansas had the most program wins in history, in spite of having more games/seasons than some of the contenders.

With Kentucky losing to a 15-seed, we might be a little closer to capturing this record, although it could be short-lived.

Rodney, we all know how awful you think mentioning this stat which is in the same spirit as so many other records often mentioned in other sports. Since you hate it so much, why not just ignore this stat if Kansas were to end up having the most program wins in NCAA basketball history after its run is over in the tourney.

You can let others enjoy this, should it occur, without trying to rain on us KU fans who don't think the same as you.

Rodney Crain 2 months, 1 week ago

Lee, I don't think its awful to mention it. It makes no sense to beat our chest about owning a record when you are cheating to get it.  

I did like to watch UK lose to a 15 seed.  Especially with Oscar going for 30/16.

It's hard to ignore such a glaring error when you Einsteins keep bringing it up.

I do want to tell you that it was good you did not try to use Baseball this time to counter my point.  I have been trying to think of a way most wins really means something, but just can't find any reasonable excuse that is does.  

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