Kansas grabbed a No. 1 seed for the fifth time in the last six seasons, setting the stage for a possible South-region gauntlet.
That gauntlet potentially features an emotionally-charged rematch with Roy Williams' Tar Heels, Michigan and their pristine backcourt, a revenge game against VCU, along with the likes of Florida, Georgetown and Big 12 conference foe Oklahoma.
Similar to last season, few "experts" are picking the Jayhawks to reach the Final Four, let alone cut down the nets in Atlanta.
Jay Bilas of ESPN predicted Kansas will defeat North Carolina before falling to VCU for the second time in three seasons:
The Jayhawks are not a great passing team, and the speed with which VCU plays will be debilitating to the Jayhawks. Because of its defense -- and a mind-boggling ability to force turnovers on 28.6 of its opponent's possessions -- VCU will advance.
Bilas' ESPN colleague Digger Phelps also predicts a stumble as KU falls to Georgetown in the Elite Eight. Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams both have the Jayhawks slotted into their respective Final Fours, with Williams picking them to lose to 2012 Final Four opponent Ohio State in the national title game.
Charlie Creme, also of ESPN, offered KU's best case scenario:
Best-case scenario: National champions
With seniors Withey, Johnson and Releford, Kansas is as experienced as any top-flight program can be these days. All three tasted the disappointment of losing last year in the championship game. It may be up to them, with a little help from the immensely talented McLemore, to direct which path this March takes. No one would be surprised if it ended with a final six-game winning streak.
Creme then plotted out their worst-case scenario, one that has Bill Self's team finally losing to former coach Roy Williams and North Carolina:
Worst-case scenario: Round of 32 exit
Of course, all three seniors were also on the team as freshman in 2010 when No. 1 Kansas went down to No. 9 seed Northern Iowa -- although none played in the game. Certainly any team that is capable of losing to TCU is capable of a similar disappointment.
Lastly for the ESPN "experts", college hoops writer Myron Medcalf gives us a brief preview of the South region and his prediction for Kansas as they look for a repeat trip to the Final Four:
Their path to Atlanta is not that imposing. But I have bad news for Kansas fans: Don’t book those trips for the Final Four because the Jayhawks will not be there. I have the Jayhawks losing to a Georgetown team that will wear them down in the Elite Eight. But they could fall earlier to either VCU or Michigan. Florida might be the most complete team in the South Region, and they could give Kansas a fight, too. KU is hot right now. But at some point in the Big Dance, the Jayhawks will need their star, Ben McLemore, to shine in a big moment. And I’m not sure the redshirt freshman is ready for that.
As for CBS, Seth Davis does not agree with fellow analysts Doug Gottlieb and Greg Anthony in giving the nod to Kansas to emerge from the South. Davis still cautions Elijah Johnson on the full-court pressure of the VCU Rams:
Shaka Smart's team can still reak havoc on opponents. They love to press you end to end.
In a rare moment of confidence in Johnson and freshman Ben McLemore to lead Kansas, Davis offers his opinion on KU's crucial duo:
Ben McLemore is capable of carrying his team to the Final Four. Their one question mark is at point guard with Elijah Johnson. He's been up and down but when he's on, Kansas is nearly impossible to beat. I think he will be on and will take Kansas to Atlanta.
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