It’s here. March Madness. A few short months ago, this was the moment basketball fans dreamt of — and Kansas fans expected. The Kansas men’s basketball team managed to win the Big 12 conference, win the Big 12 Championship, and secure a one-seed in the NCAA tournament. The last thing on the team’s checklist? Bring home the NCAA title.
Kansas tips off its tournament run Wednesday afternoon in Des Moines, IA. Here’s a look at Kansas match-ups (and potential match ups) within the first and second round of the tournament.
16-seed Austin Peay (18-17): To beat Kansas, Austin Peay needs to play its best game. The Governors will likely look to Chris Horton to lead them in the fight — he averages about 19 points per game. In the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, Horton recorded 37 points and 21 rebounds. The Governors will need play this phenomenally to stun the Jayhawks. Austin Peay’s six-game win streak could likely be over by tomorrow evening. Maybe the team’s emotional cause — coach Dave Loos’ granddaughter is battling cancer — can will them to victory? Maybe.
8-seed Colorado (22-11): After missing the NCAA tourney and the NIT tourney, the Buffaloes are back. Josh Scott, Colorado’s top-player, was crippled by injury last season. This year, he averaged 30 minutes and scored 16 points and 8 rebounds per game. (It’s worth noting that Colorado is one of the best teams in the nation at rebounding.) While the Buffaloes have managed to make a comeback this season, it’s not likely they’ll have much success in the tournament. Colorado is 10-15 in the NCAA tourney with their best appearances dating back to the 1950s. (This is much different than the well-known UConn Huskies.) The Buffs big wins: Arizona, Oregon and Cal. Next: UConn?
9-seed Connecticut (24-10): A Hail Mary saved the Huskies from the NIT. It took four overtimes to beat Cincinnati in the AAC tournament, but UConn did it. The Huskies are a staple of the NCAA tourney; they have 33 tournament appearances and four tournament wins. (I used to want to attend UConn because of the success of its basketball program. Kansas worked out OK, too.) UConn also has something to prove: it missed the tournament last year, too. The pressure is on the Huskies: They’re a team that’s expected to make a good run in the tournament — not just earn a tournament berth. Two inconsistent, equally matched teams… I think UConn has the edge — and the better chance to give Kansas trouble.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit nervous for tomorrow’s Kansas game vs Austin Peay. But that’s mostly because I’ll be at work and unable to watch. My only hope is that Kansas treats Austin Peay like any other opponent — that Kansas comes prepared to fight, not expecting to win the game. That’s when things go wrong. If the Jayhawks play like they did in the Big 12 Conference tournament, the Governors will have no chance to advance.
8 Colorado vs 9 Connecticut @ 12:30 p.m. Wed., TNT
1 Kansas vs 16 Austin Peay @ 3 p.m. Wed., TNT
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