Before Kansas even dribbled a basketball on Friday afternoon, it was on upset watch. Not because of anything it did or didn't do, but because of who it is associated with. Kansas is a member of the Big 12 conference and because the Big 12 had a really bad first first day of the NCAA tournament Kansas would, too, right?
Not quite. The Jayhawks' 75-56 suffocation of New Mexico State showed that all is not lost in the nation's No. 1-ranked RPI conference. In 40 minutes the BIg 12's regular season champion quashed any thought that it would go the way of Iowa State, Baylor or even Texas, all of which lost on Thursday.
Hey, Big 12: You owe Kansas a thank you note.
Friday afternoon's first game in Omaha wasn't about everyone else in that league, it was about what the Jayhawks, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional, could do. And in the opening half against the 15th-seeded Aggies, it was clear that nothing that happened on the periphery was going to prevent them from advancing.
Kansas never trailed in the game and led by as many as 16 points in the opening 20 minutes before taking a 13-point lead into the locker room. New Mexico State never got closer than 11, shooting terribly on the afternoon (35.7% from the floor), while Kansas shot 54% overall and 69.2% from three-point range.
Bill Self's team won for the ninth straight time in the Round of 64. Now it will be looking to avoid another surprising exit in the Round of 32 as a No. 2 seed. Last year, Kansas was knocked out of the South Regional by Stanford. This year it will face either Indiana or Wichita State.
Guard Frank Mason III had 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting to lead a balanced attack for the 27-8 Jayhawks in which eight players got at least 19 minutes and 10 players scored.
None of those players was freshman forward Cliff Alexander, who is still out because of NCAA questions about his eligibility. There is no timetable for Alexander's return. Fellow big man Perry Ellis, however, did play, getting 23 minutes in his third game back after suffering a late season knee injury that forced him to miss all of two games. Elli, a 6'8" junior, had nine points and two rebounds against the Aggies.
DK Eldridge led New Mexico State with 11 points.