Kansas Basketball: Why the Jayhawks, Not Duke Blue Devils, Will Be Team To Beat

Kip ReisererCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2011

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 12:  Markieff Morris #21 of the Kansas Jayhawks slautes the crowd during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones on February 12, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Without a doubt, the Duke Blue Devils are in the running for the college basketball national championship nearly every year. This year is no different.

But when it comes to the NCAA Tournament this season, the focus needs to shift off Duke and onto another basketball powerhouse.


Bill Self has produced one of the most dynamic teams in the country and has obtained all of the qualities to lead a national championship squad.

The qualities are truly there with this Jayhawk team.

Sure, the Blue Devils returned a number of players from last year's national championship squad, but don't overlook Kansas' experience.

Senior guards Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar were a part of the 2007-2008 national championship team. While Morningstar was a redshirt, the pressure of playing in the national spotlight was still there. These two seniors have been in the situation before and could be mentors to the younger players if they were to make it to Houston.

It goes without saying that Kansas is immensely talented.  

The Morris twins have proved multiple times they can compete with any big men in the nation. The twins are incredibly strong inside and aren't easily blocked out. On any given day, either one could pull down double-digit rebounds.

On the scoring spectrum, the Morris twins can get it done in the paint as well as from distance. While Self would prefer most of their points are scored in the paint, the Morris twins have drained 42 three-pointers, shooting 38 percent from distance.

How many pairs of big men in the country can do that?

Not only does it provide offensive production, but putting the Morris twins on the wing can draw out opposing centers and clear the lane as well.

A good rule to abide by is to never trade youth for experience. While a young guy like Seth Curry brings an explosive offensive weapon for Duke, a quieter producer like Brady Morningstar can go even further.

Earlier last month, Morningstar went 38 straight minutes without a turnover. Against Missouri, he dished-out seven assists with zero turnovers. If you're looking for an efficient team player, look no further than Brady Morningstar.

Self has to tell the senior to shoot the ball because he's always looking for a more open teammate. Over the past five games he has listened, shooting 10-of-17 from downtown.

What about depth? Yep, Kansas has that, too.

KU's bench is incredibly talented, and Self has been able to work multiple players off the bench. It's not uncommon to see Self sub in four players at a time.

KU's bench players include guys like Thomas Robinson (8.5 PPG), Mario Little (6.2 PPG), Travis Releford (4.5 PPG), Elijah Johnson (3.9 PPG) and sometimes freshman stud Josh Selby (10.8 PPG).

KU has gone almost a third of the season without the talents of Josh Selby. The games Selby has sat out it seems as if Kansas never had him in the first place. Not too many teams are deep enough to not skip a beat when one of its top recruits is on the bench.

The best thing that Bill Self can do with the bench is start different combinations of players. Not only does it exhaust the opposing starters, but it changes defensive schemes as well.

Not that Duke doesn't have great depth, because a program like that always will, but Kansas has actually gotten its bench active in almost every game this season.

Last year, Kansas fans never wanted to see Sherron Collins out of the game. Why? Because there was no alternative to what he brought to the table.

Collins wasn't exactly a dime a dozen, but this season KU can bench a guard and have a successful substitute.

Depth is most important in the NCAA Tournament because you never know who is going to get into foul trouble or get injured.

If Thomas Robinson is healthy and Tyshawn Taylor is back, KU should have an acceptable substitute for every member of its starting five.

Not to mention that Kansas has beaten some good teams already this year. One that seems to be forgotten is the Arizona Wildcats, who have played very well in the Pac-10 this season.

Just like Mike Krzyzewski, Kansas has a coach that knows how to win and has won a national championship.

While Coach K might be one of the greatest coaches in history, Bill Self has had a few winning seasons himself. He knows how to win and knows how to utilize his team to the best of its potential. Most importantly, he knows what it takes to win.

We say it every year that we think we know who will be cutting down the nets in early April. A majority of the time we are all wrong.

Two of the teams who will surely be in contention with that ultimate goal will be Kansas and Duke.

But before the national media gets a hold of your brain and tells you that Duke has the best chance in the land, just remember that Kansas will be ready come March Madness time.

The Jayhawks have the potential to win the Big 12 outright and possibly win the Big 12 tournament. For Kansas, it's full steam ahead.

You can bet they will be the team to beat come NCAA tournament time. Guaranteed.


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