When this year’s NCAA Tournament bracket first came out, three of the top teams in college basketball (Arizona, Duke and Kansas) were bunched together in the West bracket. Many experts looked at this and said whichever team came out of that bracket had an excellent chance of winning it all.
That statement still holds true, although I thought the team to come out of that bracket would be the Wildcats. But Kansas proved that it’s good enough to handle top competition, and consistent enough to withstand the toughest bracket in the tournament.
After the Jayhawks won the West, they then proceeded to run over a Marquette team that beat Kentucky, the best team in the country. With the exception of Oklahoma, Syracuse has gotten away with not playing the top teams in the country. In comparison, the Jayhawks played two different teams that held the number one ranking at least once during the regular season.
What separates Kansas from Syracuse, or even Texas had they won, is that the Jayhawks have more than one star they can count on to score a big basket. In Syracuse’s win over Texas, freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony scored over 33 percent of the Orangemen’s points and pulled down almost 40 percent of their rebounds. But, of course, one man cannot outscore a balanced attack.
With Kansas, you have to pick your poison. There are at least three or four players on this team that are capable of taking over any game.
ESPN’s Dick Vitale called Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich the best one-two punch in college basketball this year. What’s scary about that statement (if you’re a Syracuse fan) is that sophomore guard Keith Langford is having a better tournament than both of them. Collison gets notoriety because he’s an All-American and Hinrich because he’s the swingman, but Langford has been the most consistent player for Kansas, averaging 18 points per game during the postseason.
Add all of this up, and throw in an assist machine in point guard Aaron Miles (6.5 in the regular season, six in the tournament) and a defense that is allowing only 67 points per game in the tournament, and you have your 2003 National Champions.
Kevin Fair, 19, is a sophomore newspaper journalism student from Pompano Beach, Fla. He is deputy sports editor for The Famuan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org