As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 26-8 (13-5 Big 12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 110.8 (37th)/90.5 (7th)
Seed: Midwest No. 2
Impact Player: Kelly Oubre Jr., freshman, guard. 9.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 112.2 offensive rating
The Case For: While you might've been alarmed when Kentucky whacked the Jayhawks by 32 on Nov. 18, this Jayhawks team has grown and matured as the season progressed. They earned wins against three tournament teams in the non-conference schedule (vs. Michigan State, at Georgetown, Utah), in addition to win they racked up against the seven NCAA tournament teams in the Big 12. Sophomore guard Frank Mason III has turned into a reliable second scoring option to Perry Ellis, averaging more 12 points per game.
There is also the experience factor. Head coach Bill Self hasn't missed a NCAA tournament since 1998—his first season at Tulsa. There are only a handful of coaches in the field that can lay claim to the type of March experience that Self can.
The Case Against: There's not an overwhelming amount of talent on the roster—or at least, not as much as there has been in past seasons. So, the ability to have one or two players simply take over a tight game late and pull it out isn't there this season. We've seen them get overpowered by long, rangy athletic teams this season (Kentucky, Temple) and toppled by lesser teams in tight games (Oklahoma State, Kansas State).
Plus, there's the issue of not having freshman forward Cliff Alexander (NCAA investigation) to slot into the lineup, and leading scorer Perry Ellis is nursing a knee injury. That's not exactly a confidence-boosting combination. You also have to wonder whether the grueling battles of the Big 12 season—Kansas lost the highest number of conference games under Bill Self this year—have taken a toll.
SI prediction: Beat New Mexico State in the Round of 64, lose to Wichita State in the Round of 32