Here’s what I wrote about KU after their second game of the season back in November:
I think this team will be quite good before all is said and done. They’ll get through those rough patches and have a high seed in March. And then it will all come down to who they play…That doesn’t mean they can’t play deep into March or provide a bunch of special memories. But it does mean that despite the various prognosticators who are putting them in the Final Four, I see this as a year where getting to Atlanta is just out of reach.
And now here we are in the last week of March. KU is the first school to ever win 31 games in four straight seasons.1 They won Big 12 regular season and tournament championships. They are a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, preparing for the Sweet 16. Pretty great year, right?
They have a tremendous challenge to get through this weekend. It’s not totally out of reach, but I still think Atlanta will be just beyond the grasp of this year’s squad.
I didn’t see Friday night’s game against Western Kentucky, although I did follow it on the road from my phone. I think it’s a good thing I wasn’t able to watch. The first 20 minutes of Sunday’s North Carolina game had me yelling, spewing curses, and sending panicked texts to my fellow Jayhawks.
Fortunately they turned it around. Which they kind of had to do. Carolina is talented, but they’re not anywhere near as good a team as even this flawed KU team is. Not that less talented teams don’t beat better teams every single March. But this KU team was too good in too many ways to lose to a team like the Tarheels. As another KU fan said on Twitter, they couldn’t lose a game to Roy Williams that Roy would have lost when he was at KU.
That second 20 minutes was fantastic. They remembered who they were, who their coach was, and who was coaching the other team. They imposed their will on Carolina. They relaxed and hit shots. They took control of every aspect of the game. For a team that seemed utterly lost in the first half, they pretty much settled the game before the 10 minute mark.
I was worried all day, though. I heard that Ol’ Roy got a mostly friendly greeting from the KU crowd Thursday and Friday. I wondered if he would finally relax and his young guys would feed on that and come out and roll over KU. While they were up big early, they were never really rolling. And when KU got their act together in the second half, you could see the tension tearing Roy up. Like many I was amazed when he began clearing his bench with over a minute left. The margin wasn’t that big. Just ask Iowa State fans. But he threw in the towel, utterly defeated. You would think he would be over it by now, but he just can’t move on. It’s kind of amazing.
Anyway, here KU is, getting ready to play a Michigan team that was ranked #1 in the country not too long ago. I think it’s a tough matchup for the Jayhawks. But maybe it’s one that will get all their parts focused.
Everyone keeps saying that KU needs Ben McLemore to bust out to advance. I’m going to go in another direction. While it would be great if B-Mac scored 20+ efficient points Friday, I think Elijah Johnson is the key. Jeff Withey and Travis Releford are going to do what they do. But if good Elijah shows up, KU is very tough to beat. If bad Elijah is kicking the ball around and clanking shots, they have no chance. I’m hoping going against Trey Burke will have Elijah focused and fired up. But he’s even harder to measure than Tyshawn Taylor ever was, so I have no idea.
In November I said I would be satisfied if KU made it to the second week of the tournament. Two weeks ago I said I was completely satisfied with what they had accomplished and had zero expectations for what they would do in the tournament.
They’ve managed to make both November me and March me happy.
Michigan might run them out of the gym.2 I don’t care. The Jayhawks are still playing and the 2012-13 season has been a total success.
So, Rock Chalk, bitches.
I did not see much of the tournament’s first three days between vacationing and traveling. But there was some great stuff Sunday night. The Florida Gulf Coast show was absolutely amazing. How the hell does that happen? The funny thing is I listened to the first half of their game with Georgetown while driving Friday night and it took me awhile to figure out I was listening to the FGCU broadcast on a Ft. Myers station. Like most folks, I had no idea that’s where the school was. We were out of range by halftime so I missed all that fun. But their Dunk City show against San Diego State was excellent.
There were also terrific finishes in Kansas City (LaSalle – Ole Miss) and Austin (Miami – Illinois).
I did not fill out any brackets this year. In fact, I did my best to avoid any discussion of the tournament last week. I was in Florida to relax3 not worry about basketball. My pre-tournament Final Four would have been Louisville, Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan. Honest! Ohio State has an awfully nice path. And Florida’s pre-Elite Eight run looks ridiculous. Of course, KU didn’t have to beat anyone two years ago thanks to upsets and got blasted by VCU in the Elite Eight. So easy paths aren’t always so easy.