Closing stretch of season will make or break Kansas women’s basketball tournament hopes

The Lady Jayhawks pulled off a gritty victory yesterday. Can they continue their push to the NCAA Tournament?
Kansas freshman guard S'Mya Nichols (12) shoots against Kansas State in the first half of the
Kansas freshman guard S'Mya Nichols (12) shoots against Kansas State in the first half of the / Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA

In a closely fought bout between two rival schools, the Kansas women's basketball team was able to overcome No. 10 Kansas State in Allen Fieldhouse, giving the Jayhawks their second top-ten victory of the season. They are now one step closer to clinching the program's second NCAA Tournament berth in 11 years.

Freshman guard S'Mya Nichols scored a game-high 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting en route to a Sunflower Showdown win. Taiyanna Jackson, who holds the all-time record for total blocks in school history, sent back eight shots in a defensive clinic. Super senior guard Holly Kersgieter also contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.

Based on talent alone, Kansas should be a top-15 team in the country. Although it took the group some time to click, they are finally coming together, winning six of the past seven games during the most crucial stretch of the year. Will it be enough to make the selection committee consider putting them in March Madness?

The Jayhawks won the WNIT in 2022-23, but they have made only three NCAA Tournament appearances since the calendar flipped to the 21st century. It would be a massive step forward for the program if they could get a shot to play on the biggest stage next month and, more importantly, pull off an upset or two.

In Charlie Creme's most recent edition of bracketology for ESPN, Kansas was the second team out of her bracket. However, back-to-back victories against UCF and No. 23 Oklahoma to close out the regular season would give the Lady 'Hawks an 11-7 conference record. Even if they split those games, they can make a run in the Big 12 Tournament.

Coming into the campaign voted to finish third in the league, KU was not expected to need to claw back onto the bubble with March approaching. However, head coach Brandon Schneider has underwhelmed expectations this season, and it is his responsibility to have his team close out the year strong.