Why Kansas makes it to the Final Four:
In short, because they are the best all around team in the Tournament. They have one of the weaker overall brackets, especially with perennial Tournament underperformer Villanova as the #2 seed. A #16 hasn’t beaten a #1 ever so I don’t think that the Jayhawks will break that tradition. Colorado nor UConn offer much of a test in the second round which should make a Sweet 16 run all but a certainty. A Maryland/Cal matchup in the Sweet 16 would be one of the best potential matchups on this side of the bracket. To see Jaylen Brown and company go up against a veteran Kansas team would be fun to see. Kansas is obviously the deeper team and would be favored, but those young and talented teams can be tough outs, see 2014 Kentucky. I think Maryland would be the bigger challenge as they have the guards and bigs to hang with the Jayhawks. Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. can matchup with Perry Ellis and Cheick Diallo and I’d take Melo Trimble over both of Kansas’ guards. The outside shooting of Rasheed Suliamon and Jake Layman would be the difference and Kansas has the length to make it difficult on them. In the Elite 8, Arizona (my pick), Miami or Villanova would await the Jayhawks and none of those teams are consistent enough or deep enough to take down Bill Self’s team. Just too much Wayne Selden and Devonte Graham. Kansas doesn’t have a great track record in the Tournament and they get upset too many times for my taste, but I believe this year will be different and they are the lone #1 seed to make it to Houston in my bracket.
Why Kansas won’t make it to the Final Four:
As I stated above, I don’t see this team losing before the Final Four. Barring an injury to Ellis or Selden, this team looks like the real deal. They only lost four times on the season and two of those losses were two #2 seed Michigan State and #2 seed Oklahoma. They are battle tested and in a bracket where there are some talented teams, but also young and inconsistent teams. Their potential Sweed 16 matchup against likely either Cal or Maryland will be one to keep an eye on. As I’ve stated above, both of those teams have the talent to hang with the Jayhawks as does Arizona if they get to the Elite 8. Kansas is a completely different team when Perry Ellis is on the floor. If a team with some size like Maryland can get him into some early foul trouble then that would be huge. If Maryland gets past Cal in the Round of 32 then Kansas might be in for a tough matchup against a team that was rated over Kansas by many entering the season, and one of the more underrated teams in the tournament.
Best Non-#1 Seed: Miami
I haven’t talked about Miami much when it comes to stopping Kansas, but I actually like their team. Shelden McClellon has really become a prolific scorer since his transfer from Texas. He and Angel Rodriguez, another Big 12 transfer by way of Kansas State, form a solid 1-2 punch on the perimeter. For as raw of a player as Tonye Jekiri was during his first couple of seasons in Miami, he has become a solid contributor on both sides of the floor. He won’t "wow" you with any particular part of his game but he is a big body that is physical on the block, has a post move or two and can rebound with the best of them. I don’t have them advancing past the Round of 32 simply because I don’t really like their matchup against what I believe will be Arizona, but if the Wildcats happen to get upset in the first round then Miami would slide right in there as my Elite 8 pick. Jim Larranaga has done a wonderful job in his first few years in that program and has this Hurricane team at the top of the ACC annually now.
Sweet 16 Sleeper: Wichita State
I was worried that the Vandy big men would be too much for the Shockers but they seemed to make light work of the Commodores and thus continue their run as one of the best mid-major teams around. This will be both Ron Baker and Fred VanFleet‘s last hoorah and both will graduate as two of the better players in program history in terms of stats and wins, including wins in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona has been wildly inconsistent and is prone to poor showings. They don’t have the usual talent that we are accustomed to seeing and while I still think they are being underrated, and rightfully so by the way they’ve played, the Wildcats are still a force to be reckoned with when they are on their game. Baker and VanFleet, for as good of players as they are, shouldn’t be able to hang with the Wildcats, but we all know that the Tournament is a guard’s domain and I’d argue that they are one of the better combos in this field. Not to mention the fact that they have a pretty good Head Man roaming the bench area.
Final 4 Sleeper: Arizona
If you haven’t figured out already by what I’ve said above, I really like the Wildcats in this bracket. I think they were a bit underseeded when you look at their resume. Alonzo Trier is teh real deal and one of the best wing prospects in this side of the bracket. Gabe York has really come into his own this season after a few so-so seasons and Kaleb Tarczewski is a load up front. Add in Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson and you’ve got the makings of a solid team, which is exactly what Arizona is. Miami in the second round might be tough for them but I think they win the battle up front in that one and neutralize Rodriguez. Villanova is a team I just can’t trust at all so I think they could be a legit Elite 8 team and then who knows when the two powerhouses (Kansas) go toe to toe for a trip to Houston.
Top Potential Matchup: Kansas vs. California
This is my dream matchup for this quarter of the bracket. I’m hoping there are no upsets so that we can see the experienced and deep Kansas squad against a young, spry and athletic California team. Watching Jaylen Brown go up against Wayne Selden will be a treat for all basketball fans. Diallo vs. Rabb would be too bad either. There is a load of NBA talent on both rosters and at least 7 players that you will see at the next level in over the course of the next few years. No other matchup could have that type of NBA talent.
Top Coach: Bill Self
His resume speaks for itself. If not, then the fact that Kansas has been a #1 or a #2 seed for 7 straight years should give you a better idea. Sean Miller is the only coach that could even be considered over Self at this point and he just hasn’t done it for as long as Self has and he doesn’t have a Championship either.
Top 5 Pro Prospects:
1. Jaylen Brown – California
Athletic two guard who can get and create his own shot with the best of them. Likely going to be a Top 5 pick in the draft this summer and is one of the best prospects in this draft.
2. Ivan Rabb – California
Another talented freshman at Cal, Rabb is a skilled and talented big man that does it all. He’s got good post moves, is an above average athlete who runs the floor. A little skinny for the next level but he will fill out as he’s only 19.
3. Melo Trimble – Maryland
Point guard who can get anywhere on the floor and is great at creating his own shot. Good size for the point guard position and one of the better floor generals you will see in the Tournament.
4. Alonzo Trier – Arizona
Explosive two guard with handles, the ability to shot from deep and finish at the rim with the best of them. Had a great freshman season with the Wildcats and will be the X factor in how far this team goes.
5. Diamond Stone – Maryland
A traditional skilled big man with an NBA read body. Not a great athlete but is skilled around the basket and on the low block. Has a tendency to get into some foul trouble so staying on the floor can be an issue at times.
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