Kansas diminished its chances of securing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament Saturday on the road at West Virginia despite the best efforts of fabulous freshman Andrew Wiggins.
No team ever has earned a No. 1 seed with more than seven losses. The 92-86 loss to the Mountaineers was the eighth of the season for the Jayhawks.
The Jayhawks seemed to be sleepwalking through the first half and fell behind by 25 points at one point playing without Wiggins’ fellow freshman star Joel Embiid, who was out with an injury.
Kansas missed Embiid badly, particularly on the defensive end. West Virginia freshman forward Devin Williams had his way in the post in the first half. Williams came in averaging eight points and seven rebounds and finished with 22 points and 13 boards. Guard Eron Harris led the Mountaineers with 28 points.
After Bill Self used his final timeout with 17 minutes remaining, the Jayhawks rallied to cut the lead to five in the final two minutes but couldn’t claw all the way back.
Wiggins was sensational during the second-half surger and finished with a career-best 41 points before fouling out with 16.3 seconds remaining. He made 12-of-18 field goal attempts and 15-of-19 free throw attempts. He also had eight rebounds, five steals and four blocks and looked every bit like the No. 1 overall recruit label he earned last year.
It was West Virginia’s first victory over Kansas and the first win for coach Bob Huggins over Self. Huggins spent two years facing the Jayhawks at least twice a year as coach at Kansas State.
While a team with more than seven losses has never earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Kansas could be the first to do it because of its remarkable strength of schedule. When play began Saturday, the Jayhawks had the No. 1 strength of schedule in the nation and had played 19 top-50 RPI teams this season and 27 in the top 150.
The selection committee will undoubtedly look hard at those numbers next weekend, particularly if the Jayhawks follow their 10th-consecutive regular-season conference title in the Big 12 with a conference tournament title as well.
But it also might be tough for the tournament committee to forget how bad the Jayhawks looked at times on Saturday, especially if it has viable alternatives in teams like Wisconsin and Virginia.
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