After a season that had many ups and a couple of downs, Kansas finds itself in familiar territory, heading into the NCAA Tournament as a number one seed.
In fact, the Jayhawks (29-5) are the two overall seed, earning the top spot in South region, with the first two games being played close to home at Kansas City’s Sprint Center, beginning Friday against 16th seeded Western Kentucky (20-15) at approximately 9:00.
"Obviously, it's a tough bracket, I would think the so-called experts would probably say this is arguably as tough a bracket as there is of the four," Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But, we're excited about it and certainly happy to be a 1 seed and know now the goal is not to be a 1 seed; the goal is to play like a 1 seed."
Indeed, Kansas will compete in one of the toughest brackets of the entire tournament field. The bracket also won’t be short on storylines.
Should Kansas take care of business against the Hilltoppers, they could once again find themselves facing North Carolina and former coach Roy Williams. The Tar Heels, an eight seed, will face ninth seeded Villanova. A Kansas/Carolina would definitely be one of the highest touted second games in recent tournament memory.
"I'm sure Kansas City will have a little interest in that one," Self, playfully quipped.
Kansas has defeated North Carolina, twice since Williams left KU. The Jayhawks beat the Tar Heels in the 2008 National Semifinal, en route to the National Championship and they took them down in last year’s Midwest Regional Final en route to the Final Four.
Kansas’ journey to a number one seed wasn’t really a surprise to anyone, given the body of work and don’t expect any apologies from the team as they prepare for the “third season” as Self calls it.
"It's an honor to be a number one seed regardless of how you got it," senior guard Elijah Johnson said.
The rest of the bracket is solid and salty with Georgetown, Florida, Michigan and VCU being the second through fifth seeds, respectively. UCLA and San Diego State are the six and seven seeds, while Oklahoma, Minnesota, Akron and South Dakota State make up seeds 10-13.
A Kansas/VCU matchup in the Sweet 16 would present a rematch between the Jayhawks and Rams, who upset top ranked KU in the Regional Final in 2011 during their remarkable run to the Final Four.
The Rams would have to get by Michigan, who features some of the best guards in the country and has spent time in the top five during the season, even reaching the top spot at one point during the year.
Regardless, this year’s bracket promises to not be short on storylines and potential epic matchups. Should Kansas return to the Final Four, they will leave no doubt that are worthy of bringing home the school’s sixth national title and it will provide the team’s heralded senior class with the opportunity to ride off into the sunset atop the college basketball world.
“For me personally, I know that I’m going to go out there and play my heart out,” senior center Jeff Withey said.
“I don’t want to go home sad. These guys don’t want to end their season prematurely, so we’re going to go out and we’re going to do what we do. We’re going to play and we’re going to play hard and we know that we know that we could have one more game, or we could have six more games. So, we’re going to go out there and fight and we’re going to make the most out of this.”