Kansas earns No. 1 seed in NCAA stacked West Region
Kansas didn’t get a No. 1 seed in the Midwest, costing the Jayhawks a chance to potentially play the regional round just down the road in Kansas City.
The Jayhawks are still a No. 1 seed, however, and will have their coach back for their repeat bid as national champions.
Bypassed for Houston in the Midwest Region, Kansas is the top seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament and learned coach Bill Self is expected to be on the sidelines when the Jayhawks face Howard in Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday. Self missed the Big 12 tournament after complaining of chest tightness and undergoing an audition procedure, but was released from hospital on Sunday.
“He’s one of the greatest coaches of all time, so that’s a big bonus for us,” Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr. said. “He’s been in March Madness for a long time. He knows what he’s doing and we just have to support him.
Kansas (27-7) won its first two Big 12 Tournament games without Self before losing 76-56 to No. 7 Texas in the title game.
The Jayhawks looked like they were going to slide to a No. 2 seed when top-ranked Houston secured No. 1 in the Midwest, but the NCAA selection committee still made it the No. 1 in a western region that ends in Las Vegas in March. 23-25.
“I’m just shocked we didn’t get the No. 1 seed, but that happens sometimes,” Kansas forward KJ Adams said. “They mark how they feel and we’re just going to do what we need to do to get to where we need to be.”
Kansas, seeded third in the pool, faces a tough road in its bid to become college basketball’s first repeat champion since Florida in 2006-07.
The stacked west region includes No. 2 UCLA, No. 9 Gonzaga, No. 11 UConn, No. 16 Saint Mary’s and No. 22 TCU.
Pass by Howard, who is in his first NCAA tournament since 1992, and the Jayhawks will face a tough second-round test against Arkansas or Illinois.
The Illini and Razorbacks limped through the end of the regular season, but have talented rosters and will be tough on any team.
UCLA (29-5) won the No. 2 seed in the West but will be without one of its best players.
Junior guard Jaylen Clark, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, suffered a leg injury against Arizona on March 4, wearing down what was once one of the best backcourts in the country.
The Bruins still have Pac-12 Player of the Year Jaime Jaquez and veteran point guard Tyger Campbell. They are also managed by Mick Cronin, who took UCLA to the 2021 Final Four in its second season and to the Sweet 16 last season.
UCLA opens against UNC Asheville (27-7) Thursday in Sacramento, Calif.
PITINO AGAINST THE GREAT EAST
Iona coach Rick Pitino has been linked with several high-profile vacancies, including some in the Great East.
The Gaels, HI’s 13th seed, will play in the first round, against the No. 4 seed, UConn.
Pitino led the Gaels to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons after closing the season with 14 straight wins and a Metro Atlantic Conference Tournament championship.
The Huskies, led by Dan Hurley, are in the NCAA Tournament for three consecutive seasons for the first time since expanding to five in a row from 2002-06.
Gonzaga (28-5) and Saint Mary’s (26-7) will have a chance to renew their rivalry in the NCAA Tournament, but that won’t come until the Sweet 16.
The Zags open against Grand Canyon on Friday in Denver and the Gaels take on Virginia Commonwealth in Albany, New York.
Gonzaga has won two of three meetings with Saint Mary’s this season, including 77-51 in the WCC tournament title match.
ROAD TO HOUSTON
Kansas’ road to the national championship may be the toughest among the No. 1 seeds.
Out of the first two rounds, the Jayhawks could find themselves facing Saint Mary’s or UConn in Las Vegas. After that, it could be UCLA, Gonzaga or TCU with a trip to the Final Four in Houston on the line.
“The region is very strong,” Kansas assistant and interim head coach Norm Roberts said. “There are so many good teams.
The West Region kicks off Wednesday with a first-four game between Arizona State and Nevada in Dayton, Ohio, with the winner facing TCU. Arizona State’s Warren Washington and Desmond Cambridge Jr. played in Nevada last season.
The first round also includes Northwestern, in its second NCAA tournament in 85 years, against Boise State.
AP Basketball Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this report.
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