The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Kansas faces more pressure than any favorite this weekend

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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TyshawnTaylor

Before last weekend, Kansas was already the odds-on favorite to emerge from a thin Southwest Regional field and land its second Final Four berth under coach Bill Self.

Now, the top-seeded Jayhawks arrive in San Antonio for Friday's Sweet 16 showdown against an unexpected foe in 12-seed Richmond. The winner takes on whoever advances from another unlikely matchup between No. 11 VCU and No. 10 Florida State.

You can argue all you want that Richmond, VCU and FSU all played better last weekend than their seeds would lead you to expect. But all that the bracket crumbling around Kansas has done is ramp up the pressure on the Jayhawks to get to Houston.

Each of the other three regions have three of the top four seeds remaining entering the Sweet 16 round.

The last time KU made it to the Final Four — 2008 — the bracket had seemingly "opened up" in a similar fashion. That team's two second weekend opponents in Detroit were No. 12 Villanova and No. 10 Davidson. It took care of Villanova in ugly-yet-strong fasion, but two days later had to survive a late scare from the Steph Curry-led Wildcats to get the Elite Eight monkey off of Self's back.

It's a strong possibility that someone in San Antonio will push KU to the limit in similar fashion. {YSP:MORE}

• Despite a lack of front-court depth capable of matching the Jayhawks', Richmond has a post player in Justin Harper who can hold his own with the Morris twins. The Spiders' one advantage, though, is that they'll have the hottest guard on the floor Friday night in senior Kevin Anderson. He scored 25 points in the upset of No. 5 Vanderbilt, then was as steady as ever against Morehead State. It's worth noting that Richmond has won nine in a row, by an average margin of 11.6 points.

• As a member of the inaugural First Four, VCU became the first program in NCAA tournament history to win three tourney games en route to the Sweet 16. Defensively, Kansas hasn't been as strong this year as in recent seasons, and the Rams just shot 56.9 percent and scored 94 points against Purdue — one of the nation's tougher defensive squads. Right now, their scoring punch is deep, and memories of an up-and-down run through CAA play have seemingly faded.

• Florida State has the type of defensive, grind-it-down approach that might be able to slow KU down. Heck, the Seminoles held Notre Dame to 57 points on Sunday and Duke to just 61 in a win earlier this season. In two games since getting junior Chris Singleton — their best defender — back from a foot injury, they limited two opponents to a combined 107 points, 31 percent shooting (35 of 113) and 29.1 percent 3-point accuracy (16 of 55). That's scary, no matter who the opponent is.

Talent-wise, Kansas holds a pretty stiff edge on each of the other three teams in San Antonio, but if this year's NCAA tournament has taught us anything, it's that talent doesn't necessarily win out.

They also have the edge in experience on this stage, as two of KU's backcourt starters — Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed — were on that '08 title team.

But seeds are what people look at this time of year, and if Kansas doesn't survive from this region in its current state, it will be looked at as a significantly bigger upset than it would have been coming into the tournament.

No pressure, fellas.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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