All sorts of impressive streaks died in Lawrence, Kansas this season. Someone other than KU won the Big-12 Regular Season Title for the first time since Oklahoma State won it outright in 2004. That Cowboys team featured Tony Allen, who some young hoops fans may remember from his time in the NBA.
Kansas’ streak of earning a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament will certainly come to an end this Sunday. KU has been ping-ponging back and forth between the 1 and the 2-line since 2009, when it lost as a 3-seed to eventual runner-up, Michigan State.
The last time it was anything less than that was 2006, when 13-seed Bradley (which is dancing this season for the first time since then) pulled off the first round upset. The infamous loss to Bucknell came the year before: a 13 over a 4, if you were wondering. Joe Lunardi currently has KU on the 4-line in his latest bracket projection.
You may not watch as much college basketball as you wish you could and be wondering what happened to the Jayhawks this year. They were the preseason #1 and looked like it until Udoka Azubuike went out.
Bill Self went from a 3-out, 2-in look to playing 4-out and just Dedric Lawson, who isn’t the physical presence Azubuike is, in the middle. Then, all sorts of guards went down and Kansas was back to a 3-out, 2-in offense but with Lawson and another forward who wasn’t even in the rotation when the team was at full strength.
Self is saying all the right things and he’s right about his team still having the talent and the opportunity to do something good with what has so far been a disappointing season. You get a trophy for winning the Big-12 Tournament and if it did that, Kansas would position itself for a second weekend run in the NCAAs.
Consider me a skeptic, though. Texas has had problems of its own this season but it’s getting its best player, Kerwin Roach, back after he was caught with some green. He’ll play for the first time since February 23 in this game and will really help Texas match up on the perimeter. Down low, Texas has some more size with some more skill in the front court, though Dedric Lawson is far better than any one guy Shaka Smart has.
Plus, Texas is squarely on the bubble: playing Ohio State in a play-in game for the right to take the 12-seed in Lunardi’s latest projection. This team beat Purdue; it beat North Carolina; it won by 20 on Kansas State’s home floor. It’s looked like an Elite Eight team too many times to miss the Dance completely. I have a hard time believing this disappointed Kansas team will be as hungry to make a run in the Big-12 Tournament as Texas is to get an at-large bid.
So I’m giving the Longhorns at least a coin flip chance to win tonight. Both teams may have been at their best in November and December but Roach’s return gives Texas the better chance of rediscovering that that form in the postseason.
Play: Texas +3