How the Jayhawks’ February resurgence compares with nation’s best teams
In the business of college basketball, whether your team has been flexing all season or took a detour on the struggle bus at some point, it better be trending upward when March rolls around, because what transpires in the postseason is what everyone will remember anyway.
That’s why there is more intrigue surrounding Kansas now than at any point during this strange 2020-21 season. The Jayhawks are coming off as good a February as almost any team in the country (especially considering how poorly their January went).
“This team, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve kind of been up and down this year,” KU coach Bill Self joked while addressing the Allen Fieldhouse crowd after his team’s chef’s kiss of a win over previously undefeated Baylor. “I think we’re just now finding our stride. I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we can become.”
The hope inside the KU locker room is that the Jayhawks can launch into the final stretch of the calendar — and the NCAA Tournament, when the first round begins on March 19 — still flying high on the momentum of a 7-2 February and an eye-catching win over Baylor, arguably the best win on any team’s résumé at this juncture.
Looking around at the national landscape, the Jayhawks have to feel better about their current level of play than many teams. Among the consensus top teams in the country, only No. 1 Gonzaga (7-0), the overwhelming favorite to win it all, and Michigan (5-0) got through February unscathed.
To get a better sense of how KU’s past month stacks up with other programs, have a look at how each team that ranked in KenPom.com’s top 20 fared entering March (see full list below).
The Jayhawks are one of a handful of under the radar teams that appear to be surging right on time. In February, Loyola Chicago went 7-1, West Virginia went 6-1 (and easily beat KU on Feb. 6), and both Arkansas and San Diego State posted a perfect 6-0 mark for the month.
To be fair, the Jayhawks can’t yet be in the same discussion as Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Iowa and other Final Four contenders. Their inconsistent season makes it impossible to blindly overlook the issues that led to their stock plummeting in January, when they went 3-5. For observers, those seeds of doubt can not be forgotten.
For the players, though, KU’s resurgence in the win column is just what they needed to elevate their confidence and complement their vastly improved team defense.
“We’re not done,” senior guard Marcus Garrett said during his Senior Night speech, after the Jayhawks beat Baylor, 71-58. “We’re not done at all. We want a long season here.”
The Jayhawks’ successful reboot during February sure makes an extended stay in Indiana later this month seem a lot more realistic.
How KenPom’s top 20 teams fared in February
No. 1 Gonzaga — 7-0
Best wins: at BYU, at Pacific, at San Francisco, Saint Mary’s
No. 2 Michigan — 5-0
Best wins: at Wisconsin, at Ohio State, at Indiana, Rutgers, Iowa
No. 3 Baylor — 2-1
Best win: at Texas
Loss: at Kansas
No. 4 Houston — 5-2
Best win: at South Florida
Losses: at East Carolina, at Wichita State
No. 5 Iowa — 6-3
Best wins: at Michigan State, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State, Michigan State, Rutgers, Penn State
Losses: Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan
No. 6 Illinois — 7-1
Best wins: at Indiana (OT), at Nebraska (OT), at Minnesota, at Wisconsin
Loss: Michigan State
No. 7 Ohio State — 4-3
Best wins: at Iowa, at Maryland, at Penn State, Indiana
Losses: Michigan, at Michigan State, Iowa
No. 8 Alabama — 5-2
Best wins: at South Carolina, at Mississippi State, LSU
Losses: at Missouri, at Arkansas
No. 9 Florida State — 4-1
Best wins: Virginia, at Pittsburgh
Loss: at North Carolina
No. 10 Villanova — 4-3
Best wins: Marquette, Connecticut, St. John’s
Losses: at St. John’s, at Creighton, at Butler
No. 11 Loyola Chicago — 7-1
Best wins: at Missouri State, Drake
Loss: at Drake (OT)
No. 12 Wisconsin — 3-4
Best wins: at Nebraska, at Northwestern, Penn State
Losses: at Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois
No. 13 Virginia — 4-3
Best wins: at North Carolina State, at Georgia Tech, North Carolina
Losses: at Florida State, at Duke, North Carolina State
No. 14 Purdue — 4-2
Best wins: at Nebraska, at Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan State
Losses: at Maryland, at Minnesota
No. 15 Creighton — 4-2
Best wins: at Marquette, at Georgetown, Villanova
Losses: Georgetown, at Xavier
No. 16 Colorado — 6-2
Best wins: at Stanford, at Oregon State, Arizona, USC, UCLA
Losses: at Cal, at Oregon
No. 17 West Virginia — 6-1
Best wins: at Texas Tech, at Texas, at TCU, Kansas
Loss: Oklahoma (2OT)
No. 18 Arkansas — 6-0
Best wins: at Kentucky, at Missouri (OT), Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama, LSU
No. 19 Kansas — 7-2
Best wins: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor
Losses: at West Virginia, at Texas (OT)
No. 20 San Diego State — 6-0
Best wins: Boise State (OT), Boise State