The Kansas Jayhawks are off to Fort Worth, Texas and the Midwest Regional of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and for the 15th time in program history they’re one of the top seeds for March Madness.
KU will open the tournament in the DFW metroplex against the winner of Texas Southern and Texas A&M-Corpus Cristi, who will square off in the First Four on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.
The site of this year’s Midwest Regional is Chicago, and the Jayhawks will earn a trip north should they win their opening-round contest, and defeat the winner of eighth-seeded San Diego State and ninth-seeded Creighton in the second round.
Fresh off a Big 12 Championship tournament win, Kansas is heading into the Big Dance with confidence.
“We’re definitely at a great area right now in our game,” sophomore forward Jalen Wilson said. “We’ve got a deep team, and we’ve got the pieces to do it.”
For Kansas coach Bill Self, he said that while every game is tough once you get to the tournament, he thought things unfolded well for the Jayhawks on Selection Sunday.
“I never love our draw, and I probably don’t this year either, but I don’t hate it,” Self said. It’s going to be hard regardless.”
Self added that it’s nice for KU to potentially play in two cities the first two weekends that are rich alumni support and you can access with direct flights, but those benefits don’t outweigh who the Jayhawks may face.
“About as good of a Sunday afternoon as we could have, but that doesn’t include who we’re playing yet,” Self said.
This is the ninth time in the last 15 years that the Jayhawks have earned a No. 1 seed. Self said that the seeds don’t matter after you get them, while Wilson added that KU is used to having a target on its back.
“We’re used to getting everyone’s best shot anyways,” Wilson said.
Most teams in the field can prepare for their first-round matchup, but Kansas doesn’t have that luxury yet with the play-in game yet to be decided.
Self said that while it gives KU a little more time to look ahead to the second round, it’s challenging to not know what you’re facing more than a couple days in advance.
“I’d rather know who we’re going to play,” Self said, “it presents more of a challenge from a prep standpoint, so we’re going to have a full day tomorrow and a full day Tuesday when we don’t even know who we’re playing yet.”
This year’s tournament is the first “normal” one since 2019, when the Jayhawks were eliminated in the second round by Auburn. The 2020 tournament, when KU was favored to win it all, was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and last year’s event was held exclusively at sites around Indiana because of the pandemic. Kansas was also eliminated in the second round of last year’s event.
Self said that players who only spent one year at Kansas last season, those who transferred out after the year was over, didn’t get to experience what it’s truly like to play for KU.
“I’m just looking forward to our Kansas team having an opportunity to play like the team we put on the court all season long,” Self said.
Wilson, who got a medical redshirt during the 2020 season and who returned from Covid-19 at the onset of last year’s tournament, said he’s looking forward to finally playing in a traditional NCAA tournament, and one that will open in his home state.
“This being the first real one for me, to be so close to home, it feels great,” Wilson said.
Regardless of who the Jayhawks play, Kansas will open this year’s NCAA tournament on Thursday. Tip-off time has not been announced yet.