From as high as a 3 to as low as a 5 or 6, KU coach Bill Self breaks down where Kansas stands in terms of seeding
As we close in on the one-week mark to Selection Sunday — March 17 — many eyes have begun to shift toward what seed this Kansas basketball team will land in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Sure, that’s no different than any other year, but, most years, it’s whether the Jayhawks will be a No. 1 or a 2 seed that stands as the biggest question, or, when that’s already obvious, where KU will be sent or if they’ll be the No. 1 overall seed.
This year, the range of where KU could land in the NCAA Tournament bracket is as wide as it has been in more than a decade.
From a 3 seed if they get hot and win Saturday vs. Baylor and at least make the title game of the Big 12 tournament, all the way down to a 5 or even a 6 seed if things don’t go well in the next couple of games, both the Jayhawks’ seeding and where they’ll be sent appears to be wide open.
KU coach Bill Self has spent some time — not much, but some — thinking about the different scenarios, and, true to form, Self said the idea of a new challenge excites him no matter where the Jayhawks wind up.
“We should be talking about this next week,” Self began. “Because I’m sure we’ll do this next week, as well. But the reality of it is, wherever they send us is good. If they send us close, (it’s easier for the fans), that’s good. If they don’t, that’s fine, too. Sometimes you’re better off being away from any potential distractions and that kind of stuff. But our people, they do a great job of eliminating the distractions best they can regardless of where we play.”
By close, Self is talking Tulsa, Okla., and Des Moines, Iowa, two easy drives from Lawrence and two places where recent KU runs to the Elite Eight have started, as well.
“It’d be great to be in either place,” Self said. “But if we’re not, welcome to the real world. Because we’ve had it pretty good.”
More than location and far more than their seed, Self will spend the next week or two looking at matchups as the determining factor in how good the Jayhawks’ chances are this postseason.
There is a value to being a 1 or a 2 seed. Few people and programs know that better than Self and Kansas, with KU being a 1 seed in 8 of the last 12 years, a 2 seed in 3 of those 12 years and a 3 seed in the other.
But if a team is not on the 1 or 2 line, which, history shows, have some of the more favorable roads to the Elite Eight and Final Four, then the rest becomes a bit of a crap shoot, with upsets, matchups and tougher teams as the seed number gets smaller dotting the bracket.
“We’re not competing for a 1 or a 2,” Self said. “And that’s always been the interest level with me going into the tournament. So, when you’re kind of in the boat we’re in, with so many other schools right now, I think you just try to finish the season as strong as possible and not so much hope for the best seed but hope for the best matchups.”
KU’s resume is as strong as any out there, with the Jayhawks currently owning the most Quadrant 1 wins — 10, tied with Virginia — and having played more than half of their games (17 of 30, 18 after Saturday’s game vs. Baylor) against Quadrant 1 teams. While that can help with a team’s seeding, it’s no guarantee to do so for this year’s Kansas team because so many of those Quadrant 1 victories came with Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick in the lineup.
“Even though our record is 22-8, we’ve played by far — not even close — the hardest schedule in the country. So they’ve always taken (that) into account,” Self said.
Asked what role he thought the absence of Azubuike and Vick should play in where Kansas is seeded, Self admitted that those early-season wins against the likes of Michigan State, Tennessee, Marquette and Villanova, “may not count as much.”
Self said, however, that they do still have to count for something. And he used the season-opening win over Michigan State at the Champions Classic to build his case.
“Michigan State lost to us, so if you eliminate that as a win for us, do you eliminate that as a loss for them,” Self asked. “You can’t do both. So I think we’ll get credit for it, but I also think they’ll look at, what is your team today and how you have played with your team today. So that’ll certainly affect it, as well.”
Regardless of what KU’s team is today, how they’re playing and who’s on it, Self said all of those tough games against top teams should work to KU’s advantage and should have his team prepared for the tough competition they’ll see in the very near future.
“Even though our record is 22-8, we played by far — not even close — the hardest schedule in the country,” Self said. “So they’ve always taken (that) into account. … I think that will probably help us. But, if we don’t finish strong, that’s off the table. … If we finish strong, I think the best, the best, would probably be a 3. And we could certainly not be a 3 very easily if we don’t finish strong.”