Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. (15), Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) and Kansas guard Gradey Dick (4) roar during a Jayhawks run against Baylor during the second half on Saturday Feb. 18, 2023, at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug
Long before the fifth-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team graced its adoring fans with two very different halves of basketball in a wild 87-71 win over No. 9 Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks learned a thing or two about their postseason positioning .
Early Saturday afternoon, CBS released their current projections for the top 16 seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and the Jayhawks landed on the 1 line.
Behind the strengths of its 12 Quad 1 wins — which jumped to 13 after the win over Baylor — and its position in the Big 12 Conference, KU was projected as the fourth and final No. 1 seed for the upcoming Big Dance.
PHOTO GALLERY: Kansas basketball vs. Baylor
Box scores: Kansas 87, Baylor 71
Alabama, Houston and Purdue were positioned ahead of the Jayhawks, but Saturday’s look was just a preview of how the bracket could fall.
Five of the 16 teams in the big reveal call the Big 12 home, with Baylor and Texas projected as the 2 seeds and Kansas State and Iowa State projected on the 3 line.
Additionally, that 16-team roster included schedules that Kansas would play 10 games with during the 2022-23 regular season, a fact that speaks volumes to the strength of the Jayhawks schedule that factor heavily into their seeding potential.
The suits were separated by region and overall, and Kansas landed in the West Las Vegas region, with Arizona as 2, K-State as 3, and Gonzaga as 4.
The position remains even higher than KU’s seed, also with Kansas City (Midwest), Louisville (South), and New York City (East).
That’s only for the third and fourth round matches, though. The likelihood of KU being sent to Des Moines, Iowa for rounds one and two remains pretty high.
All of this will be revealed in three weeks, with the annual NCAA Tournament Selection Show on March 12, following what looks to be an incredible fight to the finish in the Big 12 Conference contest.
Welcome home, champions
While several players from last season’s national title team were in uniform on Saturday, a handful who no longer have any college rights also returned to Allen Fieldhouse.
Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun returned to watch the game due to their hiatus which coincided with NBA All-Star Weekend. They were joined by 2021-22 teammates Remy Martin, Mitch Lightfoot and Chris Teahan, who were all honored in an in-game ceremony at the halfback during a timeout in Saturday’s action.
Agbaji and Braun received the loudest ovations, both during introductions and as their NBA season highlights played on the video scoreboard during another timeout later in the game.
“Teahan and Mitch, we see them all the time, so it’s not a big deal,” KU head coach Bill Self joked, noting that he hadn’t seen Agbaji since he left. He also praised Martin for arriving just for the game and flying out less than an hour after the end.
“Those guys are loved here,” Self added.
Saturday’s game also saw the return of several other former Jayhawks. The list of Jayhawk greats who watched Saturday’s victory from the stands included: Nick Collison, Cole Aldrich, Brandon Rush, Landen Lucas, Tyshawn Taylor, Sherron Collins, Tyrel Reed, Wayne Simien and Archie Marshall, along with the boys of the Self staff who have played for the program and are there night after night.
Walt Wesley honoured
Former KU great Walt Wesley was also honored during a lull in the action Saturday as part of KU’s Black History Month celebration.
Wesley, who played at KU from 1964 to 1966 under Ted Owens, was celebrated in a short video during the game’s second media timeout.
The video was narrated by current Jayhawk Kevin McCullar Jr. and featured a video message from Wesley at his home.
“Damn. What an honor,” she said. “I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at KU, but my coaches and teammates made me feel like I belonged, and my experiences at KU will be cherished forever.”
Additionally, KU players wore black shooting shirts with Wesley’s name and number 13 on the back.
This and that…
Saturday’s win moved KU to 10-4 in Big 12 play, giving the Jayhawks 10 or more conference wins for the 29th straight season. That streak, which began in 1994-95, is the longest active division streak of its kind… KU now leads the streak all-time with Baylor, 36-9, including a 19-1 record at Allen Fieldhouse . The Jayhawks are now 13-1 at their home site this season… With Kansas improving to 22-5 overall, KU head coach Bill Self has now led the Jayhawks to 22 or more wins in 19 of the his 20 seasons in charge. Self’s teams won 22 or more games 24 times during his 30 seasons as head coach at KU, Illinois, Tulsa and Oral Roberts… KU improved on his record when trailing 2-5 at halftime this season… Saturday’s win was the first since 2015 that KU trailed by double digits and went on to win by double digits… The 17-point deficit overcame was the largest by a team of Kansas since March 3, 2015, when KU trailed West Virginia 40-22 and won in overtime.
Crazy comeback: 5th-ranked Kansas erases 17-point deficit, tops No. 9 Baylor 87-71