Out of all the number-one seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, perhaps the most well-balanced squad comes to us from Lawrence, Kansas.
That shouldn’t be surprising, considering the Jayhawks are the defending champions and are fully stocked for another deep postseason run in 2023. The team enters March Madness as the top seed in the South Regional and sporting an impressive 27-7 record. That’s pretty strong considering they did so as part of the stacked Big 12 Conference.
Unfortunately, the team is likely to enter tourney play without their leader and father figure, Bill Self. The head coach has been off the sidelines since undergoing a heart catheterization and had two stents placed for the treatment of blocked arteries.
Self is in Des Moines with the team, but it’s unclear what his status will be until game time. Nevertheless, he’s prepared his Jayhawks well, and they’ve played terrific basketball, even in his absence.
This team has all the pieces to take home back-to-back titles. If KU can pull it off again, they will only add to the legacy of one of college basketball’s greatest dynasties.
Here are three reasons why the Kansas Jayhawks could capture the 2023 NCAA National Championship
#1 – As previously mentioned, they already have a championship-caliber resume
Of course, college basketball is ever-changing and repeats are rare. Rosters are turned over quickly, especially when it comes to future pro stars who typically only stick in school for about a year or two.
This roster lost three starters and three contributors from that talented title team, but that winning vibe is what has propelled them over the course of two highly-successful seasons.
Win or lose, Kansas is currently enjoying one of the best stretches in the school’s history. The Jayhawks finished the 2021-22 season with a 34-6 overall record, which was the highest single-season win total for Kansas Basketball since 2010-11.
This brings us to THIS year’s tourney, where Bill Self’s boys are in a great bracket that sets them up for what is likely the easiest walk to the Final Four. They aren’t ‘blowout’ better than every other team in the West Region, but they are certainly deeper and more decorated.
#2 – The Stars Shine Bright in The Sunflower State
Kansas may be fly-over territory to some, but it’s a hardwood haven for hoop heads. That’s because of the awesome athletes that tend to take the court in the Midwest’s Mecca of Basketball.
The championship squad returned Jalen Wilson, who averaged and was named a first-team All-American this season. The 6’8″ star averaged 20.3 points per game this year, and he will be counted on to lead KU. While there are certainly other guys who will step up, this team is driven by this fantastic forward.
Freshman guard Gradey Dick (14.1 ppg) is a three-point shooting machine, hitting 79 of 198 attempts from beyond the arc. That’s a 40% accuracy rate on those long-distance daggers. Look for the youngster to come of age in this postseason. And expect him to hit at least one huge, clutch shot at some point. He’s tailor-made for that type of March moment.
Dajuan Harris Jr leads the team’s offensive attack, and the point guard averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 assists per game. He’s got some willing running mates, led by Kevin McCullar (10.7 ppg) and KJ Adams Jr (10.4). Bobby Pettiford Jr, Cam Martin, Zach Clemence, and former Drake transfer Josef Yesefu bring experience and depth to the roster, as well.
So once again? There’s no shortage of star power at KU. and if those stars can align in the right way, we may be looking at a Jayhawk repeat.
#3 – Barring something unforeseen, Bill Self will be back to give this team a whole, new energy
You can’t keep a legend down, and most reports say that Coach Self should be back on the sidelines soon. It’s been speculated that he may even be able to be back for his team’s first-round showdown against 16th-seeded Howard University Bison.
Make no mistake, assistant coach Norm Roberts has done a fantastic job guiding the team in Self’s absence. But almost any club with an established leader will tell: It’s not the same when the big man isn’t around.
But he will be, soon. And his players look poised to make some more postseason noise. Self has already won two NCAA Championships during his tenure in Lawrence. Following a year of adversity, it might be fitting that he captures lucky number three in 2023.
OUTLOOK: The Jayhawks have a really good chance of taking home more hardware in 2023, but we’ll know a lot more about this team when Bill Self is not only back, but back to full strength. However, the Jayhawks did well in his absence, and they’ve proven they can overcome more adversity than they had to endure last season.
With their experience and talent, they can beat anyone in the country. The duo of Wilson and Dick will lead the way. However, with four out of the five starters averaging double figures in scoring, and Dajuan Harris dishing dimes, this team can put up points at a prolific pace. KU is considered to be ranked fourth out of the NCAA Tournament’s four top seeds. That’s pretty disrespectful considering that, until someone beats them, they are still the defending champions. With their talent, experience, and depth, there’s no reason to believe that they aren’t capable of cutting down the nets again in April.
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