The 2023 NCAA men’s tournament has already been a bruising experience for top seeds.
Kansas played without its head coach and was eliminated in the round of 32 by Arkansas and Eric Musselman (who promptly celebrated by taking off his shirt).
Houston was down 10 at the half against Auburn (in Birmingham!) before the Cougars rallied for the win.
And Purdue … well, you know all about Purdue.
What is happening here? Is this a change in the game, random chance, seeding error or a little of all of the above? Or are we all overreacting to a couple of days of basketball? ESPN’s men’s college basketball experts Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello and John Gasaway have been watching closely and thinking deeply. They have some theories. — John Gasaway
What went wrong with Kansas?
Jeff Borzello: Devo Davis, basically. One Big 12 head coach told me before the tournament that Kansas’ lack of size made it susceptible at the basket due to its inability to protect the rim. On paper, Arkansas felt unlikely to test that because the Razorbacks don’t have a go-to post player. But Arkansas took advantage in other ways. Davis and his teammates were absolutely relentless while attacking the rim in the second half, driving off the bounce and finishing in traffic — especially after Kansas’ K.J. Adams Jr. and Ernest Udeh Jr. were saddled with foul trouble. The Razorbacks also grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and had 15 second-chance points.
Another quote from the aforementioned Big 12 coach struck me on Saturday night: “Gradey [Dick] and Jalen [Wilson] have to make shots. One of them making them isn’t enough.” Wilson went to work, but Dick had seven points on 3-for-9 shooting. Davis was simply elite at both ends of the floor.
Myron Medcalf: Well, I tend to think it’s more about what went right with an Arkansas team that hasn’t played like this in a consistent stretch all season. The Razorbacks — who never had any questions about their athletic capabilities — are defending, controlling the offensive glass and making key plays down the stretch in the most crucial chapter of the season. But Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. fouled out late, and Gradey Dick finally looked like a freshman, which put even more pressure on Jalen Wilson to do it all late; and the Jayhawks also didn’t have their head coach.
Norm Roberts did a good job getting this Kansas team to the second round. In those crucial moments, however, Hall of Famer Bill Self wasn’t on the sideline to steady his players…
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