Kansas Jayhawks Set for March Run

Mike SmithContributor IFebruary 24, 2009

This was supposed to be a rebuilding season in Lawrence, right?

I mean, how could any team of freshmen and sophomores (with a couple upperclassmen sprinkled in) ever live up to the incredible performance of last year's National Championship team?

Let's be honest here, even the staunchest of die-hard Jayhawk fans would have been hard-pressed to tell you this team would be in the hunt for back-to-back titles. If you listened to the pundits, you would have thought the Jayhawks might be lucky to make the NIT this year.

There is one person, it would seem, that all those "professional analysts" forgot to consider as part of their early and midseason prediction equations.

His name is Bill Self. I'm going to say it right now: I am convinced that there is not a finer coach in NCAA men's basketball.

He has taken a team, tempered by his KU head coaching successors expectations, and coached them into position to make another run to the Final Four.

It is that excellent coaching that has made the Jayhawks a team that will simply out-hustle almost any group of players you can put on the floor.

It is his coaching that has transformed players like Tyshawn Taylor from high school offensive specialists into viable threats on the defensive side of the floor. He's no Mario Chalmers, but the improvement is undeniable.

Are there weaknesses on this team?

Yes, absolutely. There have been times this season that youth and inexperience has reared its ugly head like a mother-in-law that forgot her Midol (not mine of course), and more than once we've seen Sherron Collins simply run out of gas trying to will his team to a win.

But still, if you have watched this team this season, you have seen flashes of incredible talent—more than enough to take this team to the Big 12 championship and deep into the NCAA tournament.

The question is whether KU will be able to put it all together, and keep it together, through the grueling pace of the NCAA tournament. If they can, then KU fans have an opportunity to watch something truly special unfold.

Who knows, they may even have a reason to parade through the streets of Lawrence two years in a row.