There are a lot of reasons UConn can't win tonight.
Kansas has won 15 straight heading into this game. The Jayhawks have absolutely wrecked the competition in the Big 12, sweeping Oklahoma (No. 7 KenPom) and Texas Tech (No. 52) while winning home games against West Virginia (No. 10) and Iowa State (No. 18) in a regular season series split.
They beat both Kansas State (No. 52) and Baylor (No. 28) three times and grabbed a second win over WVU in the conference tournament championship game. Kansas also has non-conference wins over Kentucky (No. 6), Vanderbilt (No. 30) and San Diego State (No. 43, on the road).
Battle tested? Check.
This team also has depth and experience across a roster filled with blue-chip recruits. Perry Ellis has proven the value of combining experience with talent- leading the team in scoring and putting up 20 or more points in five of the Jayhawks' past six games.
Ellis, averaging 16.8 points per game while pulling down 5.8 rebounds per contest, could be a problem for UConn's big men two days after they allowed Colorado's Josh Scott to pop off for 23 and 8 in the opening round. They also have to contain 6-foot-10 Landen Lucas (5.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG) while also staying out of foul trouble.
Junior guard Wayne Selden, the Jayhawks' second-leading scorer (13.3 PPG), will likely be Rodney Purvis' responsibility with some help from Daniel Hamilton and Omar Calhoun. Behind Selden are two lead guards in Frank Mason (13.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 4.3 RPG) and Devonte' Graham (11.4 PPG, 3.9 APG) who UConn needs to keep in check on the perimeter.
The roster has everything you look for in a title contender.
But Kansas always falters in March, right?
Maybe, but for all the talk of Kansas' proclivity for early postseason exits, they really don't mean a whole lot when it comes to tonight's game.
The fact that Kansas lost in the second round to Northern Iowa in 2010 or to Bucknell and Bradley in the first round in 2005 and 2006, respectively, has exactly zero bearing on the outcome of this game. Just like how Kemba Walker leading UConn to a title in 2011 won't help them tonight.
However, these Kansas players have experienced second round exits in 2015 and 2014 to lower seeds and the mood certainly could get tense if UConn pulls ahead or makes a run to erase a lead late in the game. Never discount the psychological factors when we're talking about the performance of 18-22-year-olds.
UConn also has the benefit of playing with little to lose playing against a heavy favorite. Perhaps this lightened spirit can lead to some offensive creativity. Regardless, if the Huskies can get going early, specifically if some outside shots fall, they will absolutely have a chance to pull off the unexpected.
Games like these are what make college basketball such a joy to watch. Two great programs will be facing off tonight with the entire nation watching and the season on the line. It really is a beautiful thing.
This is the open thread folks, feel free to toss out any pregame thoughts or predictions and stick around to discuss the game with your fellow fans!