Editor’s Note: I began writing the “Is this KU’s year” post in March 2008. Ever since then, I have authored a similar piece in hope that it works the same way it worked in 2008. Find the original post on my old CJ Online Hawkzone page here if you’d like to reminisce.
It seems just about every March you hear someone around these parts say that this could be “KU’s year.” You might even hear some reasoning behind this assertion. In any given year, it might go something like this…
They just have a complete team. They are battle tested. They have all the intangibles. There are no holes on this squad. They have tournament guards. This is the seniors’ last chance. They’re focused on the prize.
Blah blah blah blah blah.
No matter what Andy Katz or Jay Bilas or Seth Davis or your co-worker at the water jug will tell you, this tournament is not decided by a measure of those kinds of htings. If it were, KU would have more than three national championship banners hanging in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse, and, most likely, ’88 would not be among them.
Instead, this tournament is decided by players making plays. It is decided by hunger, sweat, intensity, drive, and guts. Upsets happen this time of year because a team’s will can often overcome a team’s talent. Your school may not have five McDonald’s All-Americans but it can still box out, out-hustle, and out-prepare another group of 18-22 year-olds. Coaches and players like to think that these are the factors that can control in a tournament, and it’s true. If a team embodies these qualities and has the talent to compete, it can dance for a long time.
But then there are those things a coach and team cannot control, but most still overcome to reach a championship. First, there is the bracket and venue. The term “neutral floor” is thrown around so often in college basketball without any real basis. Playing UCLA in its back yard for a chance to go to the Final Four might come to mind. Perhaps playing a Championship game in Kemper Arena also rings a bell. Then there is luck. KU would much rather see Dayton or Western Michigan in Memphis than Syracuse or Ohio State. A Final Four matchup against Saint Joe’s sure beats one against Michigan State, no matter how much America is behind the underdog.
But that’s the great part about this tournament. There are so many unknowns, and there is always room for a Cinderella to make a miracle run. KU knows all too well, both on the giving and receiving ends. The unknowns make CBS executives pony up billions to keep it on their network. The unknowns make the office bracket pools so damn fun. The unknowns give those #10-#16 seeds a reason to ask the “what if?” question.
Can you blame them?
This has been an interesting year in college basketball. A team projected to go 40-0 by many of its fans finds itself on the #8 seed line. Two of Vegas’ three favorites are #4 seeds. Wichita State is a #1 seed for crying out loud. The madness is looming, and your bracket is already wrong.
So back to the original assertion. Is it KU’s year?
I don’t know. But I do know that the Jayhawks will have the best player (or players) on the court in nearly every game. I know the Jayhawks have the talent to beat any team in the field on any given night. And what’s more, it won’t require perfection to do so. It will simply require Kansas controlling those factors it can control and playing its own game.
Just six games of playing well and controlling what it can control. KU does that, and anything can happen.
I guess we’re about to find out.
#kubball, Andrew Wiggins, Basketball, Bill Self, Jayhawks, Kansas, March Madness