With the conference tournament coming to a close, we can now look toward the “Big Dance.” The NCAA Tournament is considered one of the largest sporting events each year and one that all sports fans look forward to. This is the time when legends are made. March is the time when heroes cut down the nets for their respected squads. In a year where no one team has truly dominated, there are many teams that I believe have the potential to take it all this year. However the one I believe will do it is the:
Led by the great coach Bill Self and fresh off their record tenth straight Big 12 conference title, the Jayhawks look primed to make a deep run in the tournament. This is a relatively young team that also features some experienced players. Their starting lineup consists of Naadir Tharpe (Junior), Wayne Selden (Freshman), Andrew Wiggins (Freshman), Perry Ellis (Sophomore), and Joel Embiid (Freshman). Embiid’s back has been a definite concern for Kansas, but according to a recent statement from Coach Self, he should be ready come time for the big tournament. Wiggins, who is potentially going to be the number one pick in the NBA draft, has proved continuously that he can take over a game at any time. One prime example of this was against West Virginia on March 8th, where he nearly led Kansas to a huge comeback by dropping over 40 on the road in conference play.
The Jayhawks also feature a solid core of reserve players that can be impactful. Freshman Frank Mason brings a completely different dynamic from Tharpe. This is due to the fact that Mason is not afraid to ever take it in the paint. Obviously this has its negatives, but if Tharpe is shooting well, Mason won’t be needed for more than 15 minutes at the most. Other key bench players include Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor. Black is a senior that transferred to the Jayhawks from Memphis. He may end up being in starting lineup, pending what happens with Joel Embiid. Also, as a transfer from a strong basketball school in Memphis, Black has seen minutes in big games and can be considered a strong veteran leader for the young squad. Kansas enters the tournament with the top strength of schedule, which proves they will be prepared to face tough foes. Ultimately, under the helm of Bill Self, you can expect the Kansas Jayhawks from the Big 12 to be one of the strong contenders to cut down the nets for the NCAA tournament.
Other Potential Top-Flight Contenders
While I believe Kansas has the best resume and background to make a run all the way, there are also a few others that can be considered strong favorites. Florida is led by multiple seniors and can easily make it to the Final Four. You can also never count out Coach K with Duke, as they are led by star freshman Jabari Parker. Another question that arises is whether the Shockers from Wichita State will be able to make a deep run again this year, who will not surprise teams like they did last year. A big indicator will also be on how the bracket plays out on Selection Sunday, but you can always count on their being plenty of upsets and Cinderella stories as we enter March Madness.