Wednesday March 19th, 2014

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks Andrew Wiggins will have to carry a heavier load for Kansas with Joel Embiid out with a back injury. (Greg Nelson/SI)

As part of its preview of the 2014 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. For more teams, click here.

Record: 24-9, 14-4 in Big 12

RPI/SOS: 3/1

Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 118.4 (6th) / 97.1 (45th)

Seed: No. 2 in South

Impact player: Andrew Wiggins, freshman guard: 17.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, .350 3-pt FG

The Case For:

Despite having to replace all five starters from last year's No. 1-seeded team and facing the nation's toughest schedule, Bill Self guided his young Jayhawks to a 10th straight Big 12 regular season title and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. They beat Duke, Georgetown and New Mexico before conference play began and then – despite playing in a 10-team league that sent seven teams to the Big Dance – wrapped up the conference title with three games remaining.

Freshman superstar Andrew Wiggins was more inconsistent than expected this season but he has averaged 31 points in his three most recent games. Perry Ellis has been overshadowed by Wiggins and freshman center Joel Embiid but is second on the team in scoring (13.6) and rebounding (6.5). Point guard Naadir Tharpe has been much-maligned in his career, but the junior, who is the oldest player in the starting lineup, has traits that will be handy in the pressure-packed environment of the NCAA tournament: an A/To ratio of better than 2.5/1 and 82.1 percent shooting at the free throw line. Tharpe directs an offense that shoots just a touch under 50 percent from the field for the season, ranking sixth in the country.

The Case Against:

Say it with me now: Joel Embiid's back. The star freshman center will miss the opening weekend of the Big Dance with a stress fracture that also kept him out of the Big 12 tournament. Without Embiid to anchor the defense, KU surrendered 53 percent shooting in a regular-season ending loss to West Virginia and 54 percent in a loss to Iowa State in the conference tournament semifinals. Similar defensive shortcomings could prevent Kansas from reaching the Sweet 16 and render Embiid's health a moot point.

The Jayhawks don't get much from their bench, as none of their three top reserves averages even six points a game. They will go as far as their young stars can take them. Given that they won't be in Kansas anymore, that's an intriguing question. Kansas, as usual, was extremely tough at Allen Fieldhouse but a different team elsewhere, going just 8-8 in road/neutral games this season. One of those losses came at Florida back in December, and the Gators loom as the top seed in the South.

SI prediction: Beat Eastern Kentucky in second round, beat New Mexico in third round, beat Dayton in Sweet 16, lose to Florida in Elite 8 View complete bracket predictions from SI.com's panel of experts

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