After a somewhat disappointing regular season, the Jayhawks head into postseason play looking to make another run deep into March.
KU finished the regular season 23-8 and failed to win the conference for the first time in 14 years. The team is down two starters from the start of the season as Udoka Azubuike was permanently ruled out back in January and Lagerald Vick won’t be returning after stepping away for personal reasons.
A quick side note on Vick: He had one of the most interesting careers of any Jayhawk in recent memory. It was shocking when Self allowed him back to the team for his senior season, and Vick has been somewhat of a punching bag for fans on social media. However, he should be remembered fondly. He became a dynamite scorer and this team would have several more losses if it weren’t for his early-season bursts.
Kansas also wouldn’t have another Final Four in the record books from last year if not for Vick’s play in the tournament. Overall, I hope fans remember how fun it was watching him when he was locking down opponents and scorching the nets on offense.
I’ll get off my soapbox now about Vick.
KU is 3-2 in their last five games, but those two losses were beat downs at the hands of Texas Tech and Oklahoma. The Tech loss is defensible, but the loss to OU is a head-scratcher, as KU needed that win to keep their regular-season championship hopes alive. They did respond though, with a nice win over a good Baylor team in the final regular season game.
Now, let’s look ahead to the postseason to see if the Jayhawks can turn a down season into one to remember.
Big 12 Tournament
KU enters the Big 12 Tournament as the three seed and will play Texas in their first game. The Jayhawks won the tournament last year, and you have to think that they’ll come into it this year with a little more oomph than usual after having the streak broken.
This tournament also means a little more as it could propel them to a higher seed in the NCAA tournament. I think two wins could be enough to bump them up a line in the selection committee’s mind and winning the championship would be sure to get the trick done.
I think they Jayhawks cut down the nets and win their 3rd Big 12 Tournament in the last four years. Dedric Lawson should be playing like his hair is on fire after being snubbed for conference player of the year. He gets some payback and dominates his way to becoming the tournament MVP.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently has KU as a four seed in the East region, which is not where KU wants to be. Their goal going into the tournament should be the three seed in the Midwest, ensuring that they’d play in Tulsa for the first weekend and Kansas City should they make it to the second.
Expectations seem to be relatively low for a team that came into the season ranked number one, but I think this team uses those low expectations to their advantage and plays loose. I’m predicting a surprising run to the Elite Eight for the Jayhawks, before they get knocked out a game away from the Final Four.