Breaking Down the Southwest

Kansas is again earned a top seed in the Southwest, it's the 10th time KU has been one of the tourney's top dogs. It's the fourth time in Bill Self's 8 seasons at KU that the Jayhawks have been in this position. One of those one seeds came during the 2008 title run when all four number one seeds made it to San Antonio.

A season ago KU's bracket was stacked with tough opponents. This Southwest bracket still has plenty of teams that can trip up anyone on a given night but the top to bottom talent pool just isn't equivalent. Translation – KU if it plays up to its capability should make a trip to Houston.

The first opponent in front of the Jayhawks is the Boston University Terriers. Yes, a 16 has never beaten a one. It will happen someday but it likely won't be this year. BU took the automatic bid by defeating Stonybrook in the America East title game leaving Vermont and its regular season title at home.

The Terriers are experienced and led by frontcourt anchorman John Holland who has put up over 2,000 points in his BU career. The Bronx native can score putting up 24 or more in 13 games this season, including 27 in the America East title game. The Terriers are on an 11-game win streak and will need to defend the three-point line better than they have and take care of the ball.

If Kansas does advance past BU it will take on the winner of an "intriguing" 8 vs. 9 matchup. Lon Kruger coached Illinois and so did Self and for whatever reason UNLV seems to consistently be in the 8-9 game in KU's bracket. Back in 2008 it was the Runnin' Rebels KU dispatched of in Round 2 on the way to a title. UNLV would've been the 2nd round opponent last season had it not lost a tight one to Northern Iowa and lo and behold here they are again. Kansas will see a familiar face if UNLV is the round 2 opponent. Former Jayhawk Quintrell Thomas has scored in double-figures in 6 of his last 12 games. Chance Stanback appears to be on a roll after averaging over 20 points a game in the Mountain West tournament. Oscar Bellfield is the team's floor general while Tre'Von Willis leads the scoring from the guard position. UNLV went 0-5 against the two quality opponents in the Mountain West, BYU and San Diego State.

Illinois has sputtered into the NCAA Tournament and is just 6-10 in its last 16 games. Bruce Weber is dealing with the murmurs of a coaching change and could have to deal with a potential matchup with the man he replaced. Self insists 8 years removed from the Illinois job this isn't a big deal but don't tell that to the Illinois fan base especially while the Fighting Illini is struggling. Demetri McCamey has to be at his best for Illinois to go past round 1 but at times, as talented as he is, he has looked disinterested and settled for too many poor shots. The Illini seem to be lacking leadership and it has translated into some disappointing losses.

Notre Dame, on paper, looks to be the toughest matchup for Kansas as a two seed. The Irish can score. Mike Brey has a bunch of guys who simply understand how to play the game. ND has produced some eye-popping perimeter shooting numbers in games this season (see the 3-point blitz against Nova) and could easily have been a one-seed. Ben Hansbrough is one of the country's toughest and most-talented guards. But it isn't a one-man show at all. Tyrone Nash scores in the low post. Carleton Scott is extremely versatile and can do it inside or out. Lefty Scott Martin can also step out and shoot it. But if Notre Dame advances deep in the tourney it will be on the three-point shooting of Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis. He and the Big East Player of the Year form one of the nation's best and most deadly backcourts.

If Louisville can get by Morehead State and the next game Rick Pitino's team could pose an interesting challenge to KU in the Sweet Sixteen. Morehead State won't go quietly though. Kenneth Faried is capable of owning the paint on both ends of the floor and Louisville hasn't exactly had a force on the interior. Terrence Jennings has a tendency to disappear at times for Pitino and is inconsistent. If he has a bad game and Louisville's perimeter shooting is off, Morehead State could pull off the upset which would likely not upset anyone in Lawrence. The bad news for the Eagles is there tendency to turn it over. Louisville has jet quick Peyton Siva, rock solid Preston Knowles and perimeter marksman Kyle Kuric. This is a talented bunch. I want to pick the upset but I just can't.

Purdue has played a long time without Robbie Hummel but its hard not to envision what the Boilermakers would be like with Hummel in the lineup. There is yet another conference player of the year in this bracket in JaJuan Johnson who joins Hansbrough and Marcus Morris in that department. I can't imagine the versatile Johnson not dominating this game against an overmatched St. Peter's squad. St. Peter's won the MAAC and is appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995 but I don't expect them to stay long. Purdue has lost its last two but I can't see E'Taun Moore and company allowing the Boilermakers to bow out in the first round. This is too tough a bunch of kids.

Vanderbilt and Richmond are likely everybody's upset special in this bracket. Not sure why but Vandy seems to be on that list nearly every year. The Spiders still own one of the tourney's all-time upsets when they took out Syracuse as a 15 seed. This Richmond team is capable of winning this one too though the magnitude wouldn't be close to that early 90's upset. Different Richmond team, same old story; the Spiders can defend and they can shoot it proving it during their run through the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Vandy's big man Jeffrey Taylor is no slouch on the defensive end either. John Jenkins can shoot it outside for the Commodores. Kevin Stallings defensive focus will likely be on trying to stop Richmond's Justin Harper.

Texas A&M certainly doesn't need an introduction to Kansas fans. A&M slugged one out with KU in Lawrence and the Aggies are still a stout defensive team. They are facing another team with defensive prowess in Florida State. Problem is the Seminoles struggle to score at times and they will likely be without Chris Singleton. Singleton can defend, rebound, and score and he's been missed since he was sidelined with a fractured foot on February 12th. On the other side Khris Middleton, David Loubeau, and Nathan Walkup will pose a formidable challenge. Neither team is really short on physicality.

On the perimeter Dash Harris has moxie and for FSU Derwin Kitchen has been asked to pick up most of the scoring slack in Singleton's absence. I wouldn't be surprised if this one didn't get out of the 60's with two of the tourney's better defensive teams going head-to-head.

KU has more firepower than any team in this region but a potential Sweet Sixteen matchup against Louisville could be interesting and an Elite 8 game against a solid Notre Dame would be interesting. Anything less than a Final Four would be a letdown though because no one has the tandem inside that KU has in the Morris twins.

If Tyshawn Taylor continues to be on his game KU will be on its way to Houston. Top Stories