The Jayhawks are set to take on the Texas Longhorns tonight at 8 p.m. in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. – their home away from home. The Jayhawks are 23-8 on the year and finished 12-6 in conference play, while the Longhorns come in at 16-15 and 8-10 in conference play.
Senior guard Kerwin Roach II, Texas’ leading scorer on the year, returns for the Longhorns as they look to solidify their spot in the NCAA tournament. Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently has them slated as one of the last four in as a 12-seed. Kansas is currently projected as a 4-seed.
Normally, the Big 12 tournament is a luxury for the Jayhawks.
They’ve been Big 12 champions for 14 years straight up until this year and because of the difficult schedule they typically play, they have been awarded a 1 or a 2-seed every year for the past 10 years except once in 2009 (3-seed).
Those seedings were never really in doubt no matter what they did in the Big 12 tournament. Maybe it moved them from the fourth 1-seed to the third or something similar but that’s about it. Their region, first round site, etc. were solidified.
This year is different. If the Jayhawks end up as a 4-seed it will be their lowest seeding since 2006 when the 4-seeded Jayhawks lost in the first round to Bradley. If they lose to Texas tonight, they could likely fall to a 5-seed – which would be there lowest seeding since 2000 when they were an 8-seed.
The Jayhawks lead the conference with 11 all-time Big 12 tournament wins since the Big 12 was formed in 1996-97, and they need to add another one in order to improve their chances next week when it really matters in the NCAA Tournament. Another conference tournament crown would likely elevate the Jayhawks to a 3-seed depending on how it all shakes out.
In the last 10 years, a 13-seed has beaten a 4-seed eight times, while a 14-seed has beaten a 3-seed only six times. It’s not a huge gap, but it does clearly help to be a 3-seed instead of a 4.
Also, being a 3-seed means KU will likely be able to play closer to home like in Tulsa, Okla. or Des Moines, Iowa during the first weekend of the tournament. It would also increase their chances of possibly being placed in the Midwest region – where the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 will be played at the Sprint Center.
If you look at KU’s record on the road this year (3-8) versus their record at home (17-0) then you’ll understand how important playing in front of their fans is to this particular team.
KU will need to run the table this week at the Big 12 tournament in order to give themselves the best chance at advancing in the NCAA tournament next weekend. We’ll find out if the Jayhawks are up to the task when they take on the Longhorns tonight on ESPN2.
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