After falling just short in the NCAA Tournament title game last season, Bill Self finds his team primed to make another run except this time led by redshirt freshman guard Ben McLemore. His team must first avoid becoming the only top seed to lose in the first round as the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks meet the No. 16 seed Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Kansas City at 9:50 p.m. ET.
What to watch for:
Kansas has come miles and miles to get to where they are — maybe not in their trip to Kansas City, but metaphorically, yes. After a Feb. 6 loss at TCU, a team that had zero conference wins at the time, it seemed this would be a down season for the Jayhawks. It sat in the middle of a three-game losing streak and had Coach Self looking despondent. But since then, McLemore has looked not only like a senior at point guard but probably the nation’s best freshman. Meanwhile, 7-foot center Jeff Withey has given Kansas another in a long line of terrors in the post.
Western Kentucky makes its fourth trip to The Big Dance in the past six seasons and has made a couple very impressive NCAA Tournament appearances in recent years. But those teams aren’t this one, or nearly as impressive, ranking in the low 100s in many offensive and defensive team efficiency rankings. If T.J Price gets hot from downtown, perhaps this stays close for about 20 minutes.
It might seem condescending to call Western Kentucky a team that is just happy to be here again, but let’s look at the silver linings. Kansas rolls.