The pressure couldn't be any greater on Bill Self and Kansas to make the Final Four now that the Nos. 10, 11 and 12 seeds in the region have joined the Jayhawks in San Antonio.
Last week's Southwest regional primer detailed the relative softness of Kansas' initial draw. After this weekend's results, renowned stat guru Nate Silver tweeted Sunday night that Kansas now is expected to win the region a whopping 69 percent of the time and make the national title game 48 percent of the time now that Pitt has been knocked out of the Southeast.
No single game in a knockout event is a given, but those are overwhelming odds for a team that must still win two games to advance to Houston. It more or less sets the Jayhawks' win expectation against any of Richmond, VCU or Florida State at somewhere between 80 and 90 percent.
One thing that may temper the nerves of the Phog faithful: This is very similar to the path Kansas took during its title season in 2008, when the Jayhawks beat the 16, 8, 12 and 10 on the way to the Final Four. Of course, winning the title required a last-possession stop of Davidson in the regional final and a huge, late collapse by Memphis in the national championship game, so nothing will be as easy as it seems.
THE UNDERDOG: Florida State (!??)
"Anyone else" is a reasonable answer in this upset-riddled quadrant, but forced to pick, it's Florida State, despite the Seminoles being the only one of the three outsiders from a BCS league. FSU has throttled Texas A&M and Notre Dame despite getting practically nothing from star Chris Singleton, who is back in name only after a broken foot forced him to miss the last five games of the regular season and the 'Noles' only ACC tournament game. Their defensive prowess and overall athleticism are imposing for just about any team in the land, but VCU's pressing/trapping scheme may be very problematic for Leonard Hamilton's extremely turnover-prone team. Kansas in a regional final obviously would be a huge roadblock. From a tempo and ball-security standpoint, Richmond may not be the best matchup, either.
BURNING QUESTION: Will either Richmond-based school have its coach a few weeks from now?
Success in the NCAAs is how coaches make their mark, and both Chris Mooney (Richmond) and Shaka Smart (VCU) have to be looking very inviting for a number of high-profile schools with current openings. For starters, N.C. State and Georgia Tech are in the same region and reside conveniently in the nation's most storied basketball conference. It may be more a matter of when (and how much) than if for both guys.
GAMEBREAKER: Kevin Anderson, Richmond
He might not have the national cachet a player of his quality deserves, but the Spiders' lead guard can really play. He's a fairly efficient scorer for the heavy load he carries, he takes and makes big shots and he also plays a part in Richmond's extremely low turnover rate (16.4 percent, 11th in D-I, per kenpom.com). The Spiders come about their offensive efficiency the old-fashioned way: They make a lot of shots from the field (to make up for a lack of offensive rebounding and trips to the line). If Richmond is going to pull a big upset over Kansas in the Sweet 16, Anderson will need to have a huge game.
INTRIGUING MATCHUP: No. 11 VCU vs. No. 10 Florida State
As mentioned earlier, the Seminoles are super-sloppy with the ball, turning it over on a staggering 23.1 percent of their possessions (314th in Division I). Notre Dame found out what happens when an undersized team doesn't turn FSU over, but the way VCU plays could lead to an avalanche of FSU miscues. On the possessions the Seminoles don't kick away, they could be productive, especially given their proclivity on the offensive glass and the Rams' inability to keep foes off said backboard. On the other side of the ball, VCU's pretty efficient offense and very solid three-point shooting will be tested by one of the nation's most suffocating defenses. The game could be decided on how many of FSU's turnovers lead to easy points for the Rams.
HOME COOKING: Kansas
Jayhawks' faithful will represent an overwhelming proportion of the fans in San Antonio. They're easily the most local team, they expected to be here and they have one of the best fan bases in the nation.
NUMBER TO PONDER: 82
That is what VCU was ranked in Pomeroy's ratings on Selection Sunday, when they were, by far, the lowest-rated at-large inclusion by his calculations. A large part of that was the Rams' indifferent defense throughout the season, but they completely shackled USC and Georgetown in their first two NCAA wins. The win over Purdue on Sunday was more typical for them, with an explosive offense more than making up for a somewhat leaky D. They'll probably have to revert to Plan A against the Seminoles, as points should be at a premium.
THE PICK: Kansas
No reason to stray from the obvious. Any result other than the Jayhawks heading to Houston would be a significant upset.
More NCAA Tournament Region Breakdowns:• East Region: Can anybody knock off Ohio State?• Southeast Region: Wisconsin has guard, grit to advance• West Region: Duke will survive brutal competition