*This is the second edition in a four-part series this week where we will have four writers arguing the national championship credentials for the only NCAA teams left in March Madness: Ohio State, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisville. Yesterday, we brought you Ohio State. Today, it’s Kansas.*
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For the second time in the last five seasons, Bill Self and his Kansas Jayhawks will be heading to the Final Four, looking to repeat their National Championship run of 2008. Self led the Jayhawks to a 27-6 record (16-2 in the Big 12) before falling to Baylor in the conference tournament and earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Midwest Region. Coming off a big win against the bracket’s top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight, Rock Chalk is heading to New Orleans to face off against Ohio State this Saturday.
The contest is a rematch of a game played in Kansas back in December, with the Jayhawks besting a Jared Sullinger-less Buckeyes squad, 78-67. Led by forward Thomas Robinson and point guard Tyshawn Taylor, the Jayhawks are hoping to run through Ohio State yet again for another shot at the college basketball crown. Here’s what to expect heading into this weekend’s festivities.
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Why Kansas will win it all…
Simple: Thomas Robinson. The first unanimous AP All-American selection since 2009 is a semi-tamed beast out on the hardwood, working the low-post and running the floor like a man possessed for 30-plus minutes a game. He averages 17.7 points and 11.8 boards, shooting over 50 percent from the floor and even draining seven of his 14 attempts from beyond the arc this season. He seems to run on pure adrenaline and emotion most of the time, earning a handful of buckets and rebounds each game on sheer determination alone. At one point during the Elite Eight matchup with UNC, I couldn’t tell whether he was trying to score on Tyler Zeller or force him to curl up in the fetal position, stricken with fear. Robinson is the straw that stirs the drink for the Jayhawks, the team’s most (and at times, only) consistent player over the course of the year. As long as Kansas keeps feeding the ball to the 6-10 junior, they will have a chance to cut the nets down.
Why Kansas won’t win it all…
Lack of depth. The Jayhawks have only seven guys that average double-digit minutes, only three that score in double figures, only two that score consistently and only one that Jayhawk and college basketball fans seem to fully trust (more on this in a bit). If Robinson, Taylor, Elijah Johnson or Jeff Withey get into foul trouble or Robinson and Taylor have an off night, it could get ugly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams like Ohio State and (potentially) Kentucky use their depth and size to attack guys like Robinson and Withey on the inside and make Bill Self go deeper into his bench than he is accustomed to. Robinson has only fouled out twice this season, but he will likely need to be on the floor for at least 35 minutes a game in the Final Four if Kansas wants to keep dancing.