NCAA Tournament expectations for this year’s Kansas basketball team

Cincinnati v Kansas
Cincinnati v Kansas / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages

It’s been an unusual season for Kansas basketball to say the least.

The Jayhawks started the year as the preseason No. 1 team in the country, largely due to the offseason addition of Hunter Dickinson and the return of Kevin McCullar Jr. And while both have had All-American-caliber seasons, the duo has not been able to overcome the other issues plaguing this year’s team.

KU is currently ranked No. 239 in three-point percentage among Division I schools. Defensively against the three, the Jayhawks rank No. 150.

As a result, KU has lost by 20 or more points in back-to-back games – the first time that has happened in more than a century. In those games, the Jayhawks went a combined 6-for-21 from behind the arc.

“It’s like they’re shooting at the fair, you know, where the balls can’t actually fit through the goals,” head coach Bill Self said following the team’s loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday.

The team’s shooting and defensive woes, combined with the fact that both McCullar and Dickinson are not fully healthy and had to sit out the Big 12 Tournament, are a big reason for concern for the Jayhawks’ chances at making any kind of run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Kansas is likely to be a No. 4 seed when the bracket gets released this weekend, No. 5 seed at worst. The No. 4 vs. No. 13 matchups and the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchups are some of the toughest year in and year out.

With the way Kansas has been playing lately, in addition to Dickinson and McCullar not being 100% and coming off of two weeks without any real game time, the Jayhawks are going to have their work cut out for them no matter who their opponent ends up being.

If the team can manage to magically put it all together with McCullar looking like the All-American he was earlier in the year, Johnny Furphy breaking out of his slump, and Nick Timberlake being able to knock down open threes, the Jayhawks might have a chance to reach the Sweet 16.

A Sweet 16 appearance would have to be considered a success at this point given the injuries and roster issues that have transpired throughout the year.

Typically, anything short of a Final Four appearance would be a disappointment for KU. That’s the standard that they are usually held to based on their seeding and performance in a given season – and rightfully so.

However, this has not been a typical season, and this is not your typical KU team. They’re flawed and they have less margin for error than arguably any team Bill Self has coached at Kansas.

This KU squad has not lived up to their preseason No. 1 ranking, but if they can avoid a first- or second-round upset and make it out of the first weekend, that should be considered a win for the team that currently sits in front of us.

The Jayhawks will learn their seeding, opponent, and destination when the 2024 NCAA tournament bracket gets revealed on Sunday, March 17, at 5 p.m. CT.