2010 NCAA Tournament Bracket: No. 1 Overall Kansas Has Toughest Road To Hoe

Brandon BohningCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2010

As expected, the top ranked team in the nation seemingly cruised to match their regular season Big 12 title with a Big 12 tournament title. That was on Saturday, and the Jayhawks would have to wait about 22 hours to see where they'd be placed in the NCAA Tournament. 

As the Selection Show came and went, the Kansas team and its humongous fan base may have been left with a somewhat sour taste in their mouth. 

Kansas, as expected, was the number one overall seed, and as expected, placed in the Midwest Region, and as expected, will be playing their first round game in Oklahoma City, just a (relatively) short drive away from Lawrence, Kansas. 

So why the sour taste?

Well, after all 65 teams were placed into the tournament, pundits and fans across the country all agreed that the Midwest Region was by far and away the most difficult of the four regions. 

So is it as tough as they say? 

Well let's take a look at the top six teams in the region. Kansas was the only team to really keep a hold of the #1 ranking for any decent amount of time this season, and probably are the best team in this tournament. 

Ohio State, who possess arguably the National Player of the Year in Evan Turner, was a co-champion in the Big 10 during the regular season and won the Big 10 tournament title this afternoon, is the two seed, and arguably the best two seed in the competition. 

Georgetown occupies the three-slot. They weathered the always-difficult Big East conference during the regular season to a respectable conference record. They produced three great wins in the Big East conference tournament before nearly beating West Virginia in the conference title game. The Hoyas are arguably the most skilled three seed in the tournament. 

Maryland captures the four spot in the Midwest. What did they do? Just won a share of the ACC regular season title. Most could argue they are the best four seed in the tournament. 

The five seed is taken by Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans. This team was supposed to contend for a number one seed based on their position in the preseason polls. They slipped up a bit after Kalin Lucas picked up a midseason injury. However, they were in last year's national title game, and return a lot of those players. You won't have much disagreement if you claim their the best five seed in the tournament. 

The six seed is occupied by Tennessee. There are mixed reviews of the season the Volunteers mustered. One thing is for sure. Bruce Pearl can get his guys to play well in big time games, and they will be a "tough out" should they get past their first opponent, 11-seeded San Diego State. 

The competition in the Midwest Region is easily the stiffest. The region posses just about every one of the nation's best players, it also has a tremendous amount of fabulous coaches. 

So yes, Kansas is the #1 overall seed, but unexpectedly have the hardest road ahead of them if they wish to make it to Indianapolis once the calendar has turned over to April. 

Conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that the best team would face the easiest of the four regions insofar as on-paper competition is concerned. 

While this selection committee's many gaffes are more than apparent, the tough sled the top seed overall has to face has to be the biggest gaffe of them all. 

The reason we love the tournament is because it allows us to play out all of the possible, and even seemingly impossible scenarios over and over in our heads until the tip off of the first games on the first Thursday. 

While no 16-seed has ever beaten a 1-seed, Kansas won't want to take Lehigh lightly. 

Having said that, I don't think the 2008 Champions will have much trouble with the Mountain Hawks, and will prevail to the second round with relative ease. 

The Saturday match up in Oklahoma City would pit Kansas versus the winner of the 8-9 game, UNLV vs. Northern Iowa. 

Whoever comes out of the 8-9 game could give Kansas some trouble, but I think Northern Iowa would prove the toughest. The Panthers have a couple of big guys who love to play in the paint, and the Valley Champions love to shoot the ball from outside. 

I don't think Kansas should have trouble with either UNLV or UNI, but the Panthers, as I said, would provide the tougher test but there should be no reason the Jayhawks don't make it to the Regional Semi-finals in St. Louis. 

Obviously a prediction of Kansas-to-the-Sweet 16 isn't ground breaking. Most Kansas fans are stressing about the other top seeds in the Midwest regional. 

What Jayhawk fans must remember is that they will not play more than one of the following teams: Ohio State, Georgetown, Tennessee, and Oklahoma State-one of their only losses this season. 

If Kansas fans need something to stress about, they should focus their attention to one likely second round game. That is the hypothetical 4-5 match up which would pit Maryland against Michigan State. 

While it is impossible to predict whether or not some of the Kansas players have any anxiety about seeing the tough opponents in their region, it isn't tough to think most Kansas fans are at least somewhat nervous. 

There are several things Kansas fans shouldn't be worried about, even though they may have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to who is indeed in their region. 

The first is that they have every intangible a team needs to win any college basketball game against any opponent. 

Among those are senior leadership-that doesn't just mean from Seniors. Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins, Brady Morningstar, and Tyrel Reed, all know what it's like to win six games in a row in March and April, and they have the distaste of losing a game that should have saw them through to their second straight Final Four appearance. 

Another intangible is great guard play. Sherron Collins is the toughest guard in the country and is in many's estimations, the best all around guard in the country. The catch? He's got deputies a plenty. Tyshawn Taylor join Reed and Morningstar at the position, and all four guards can play at the one spot, or the two. 

Finally, for material purposes only (scoring and defensive efficiency are the two biggest statistical indicators as to success in the tournament, and Kansas is great in both), you must have a solid front court.

Cole Aldrich, although his numbers regressed over this season is the only Center in the college game that can single handedly alter a team's chances every time on the defensive end. 

He is joined by the twins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, both of the big men from Philadelphia can score inside, both are quick, both have a mid-range game, and both can hit open three point chances. 

So Kansas fans shouldn't much at all. There isn't another team among the other 15 in the Midwest region that is so deep. (Did you notice I didn't even mention Xavier Henry?)

One worry for the Kansas team, especially Bill Self, and Kansas fans alike, is which team will show up to each contest over these next couple of games?

Is it the team that sputtered to a win over Texas Tech? Is it the team that forgot to play defense against Oklahoma State? Is it the team that several times failed to keep their proverbial foot on the gas pedal during games, allowing teams who normally wouldn't have a chance to play them close?

Or is it the team that can play well, and all of a sudden go on a 22-0 run before you even knew what happened?

Those questions will start to be answered on Thursday. 

For the number one overall seed to be placed in such a tough situation, with several teams in its regional capable of upsetting them, it certainly makes for a tough road to hoe for the Jayhawks. 

In spite of whatever the challenges this tough reason may present expect the Jayhawks to do well. 

Bill Self is a proven winner, and that will certainly play a huge role going forward in this tournament, especially with the talent of the competition in this region. 

Self is no dummy either, he scheduled tough this year, and there was a three week stretch where KU had to play Saturday-Monday games. 

KU is well prepared for this tournament. 

They are right to be favored by just about everyone, forget about the region, they are by far and away the best team in the nation. If they play to that potential, there is no reason why Kansas shouldn't get through this toughest of regionals, and make another appearance in the Final Four. 


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