NCAA basketball tournament time always spurs some excitement in Lawrence and throughout the Jayhawk Nation, and that excitement is heightened in a year, like this one, when both the men’s and women’s teams find themselves advancing to the Sweet 16.
The men’s team will play its next game tonight against Michigan. Theirs is one of the few sections of the bracket that ran according to predictions, pitting the No. 1 and 4 seeds.
Because they were the No. 1 seed in their region, the men’s advance was less of a surprise than the success of the 12th-seeded Jayhawk women, who beat the No. 4 and 5 seeds in their region, Colorado and South Carolina, to move into the round of 16. On Sunday, the women will face their region’s No. 1 seed, Notre Dame, which advanced in two easy victories against lower seeds.
This is the second year in a row that the Jayhawk women have made an unexpectedly strong showing in the NCAA tournament. It’s a special treat for fans and a great way for some notable seniors — Angel Goodrich, Caroline Davis and Monica Engelman — to close out their college careers.
There’s more than the usual amount of senior leadership on the men’s team as well, with four seniors — Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Kevin Young and Jeff Withey — among the starting five. At a time when the best players rarely use all four years of their college eligibility, it’s been fun to watch these seniors hone their skills at KU.
Kansas fans are well aware that there are no guarantees in the one-and-done NCAA tournaments. A substandard performance or an inspired opponent can make any game the last one of the season and the seniors’ careers. Both Kansas teams already have had a good run, but watching them go further would be even more fun. We hope both teams have great performances in their games this weekend and perhaps the opportunity to play again a week from now.