Kragthorpe’s South Region Analysis: ‘Worst’ Kansas team is the class of the South (video)
Jayhawks are class of the South despite coach’s exaggeration.

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Tribune Columnist

Published: March 18, 2013 11:06AM
Updated: March 18, 2013 11:37AM
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Kansas center Jeff Withey (5) chases a loose ball during the second half of the championship NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in the Big 12 men's tournament on Saturday, March 16, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

So the “worst team Kansas has ever put on the floor” is the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s South Region.

That status reflects coach Bill Self’s exaggeration and the Jayhawks’ recovery from the shocking loss at Texas Christian that evoked his frustration.

Kansas clearly is the class of this region, judging by last week’s performances. The Jayhawks dominated the Big 12 tournament, concluding with a 70-54 pounding of rival Kansas State. They won three tournament games by a total of 59 points, quickly turning things around after a 23-point loss at Baylor to end the regular season.

Aside from Kansas’ occasional inexplicable performances, this is a solid team. The Jayhawks shoot 48 percent from the field and hold opponents to 36 percent shooting, and Ben McLemore (16.0) is among four double-figure scorers.

Kansas should not be seriously challenged until meeting Florida in the Elite Eight.

The South’s most intriguing second-round matchup is UCLA vs. Minnesota. UCLA lost No. 2 scorer Jordan Adams to a broken foot at the end of a semifinal victory over Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament, while Minnesota has lost 11 of its last 16 games.

“I guess when you lose one of your best players, it’s always something you’ve got to try to overcome,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said after his team fell to Oregon in the title game. “And we’ll get better at that. We didn’t have any time to prepare.”

The Bruins can regroup this week, while Minnesota also tries to right itself. The Gophers deserved an NCAA bid because of their overall performance and strength of schedule, but they should be glad the selection committee no longer gives extra value to the last 10 games of the season.

Another interesting pairing is Michigan vs. South Dakota State, which features guard Nate Wolters. Michigan, led by point guard Trey Burke, gets to play 50 miles from home.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Lock City

Florida will advance to the Elite Eight. The Gators lost Sunday in the Southeastern Conference tournament title game, but they’re talented.

Why Kansas is No. 1

The Jayhawks are 29-5 and are playing their best basketball lately, winning three games in the Big 12 tournament by a total of 59 points.

Out on a limb

Akron over VCU as a No. 12 seed. The Zips crushed Ohio in the Mid-American Conference tournament final. Last March, Ohio made the Sweet 16.

No faith in

Georgetown. The Hoyas have not lived up to expectations in the NCAA Tournament since playing in the 2007 Final Four. Why is this year any different?