In lieu of the usual preview, which we've already written twice already this season, it's Q&A time with misterbrain of our sister site Rock Chalk Talk. Everyone played nice and everything!
KSUEMAW!: Early on in Big 12 play it appeared KU was headed for a "down" season where they'd only share the Big 12 title. I went so far as to convince Mattisbear of Our Daily Bears to agree with me on our podcast that KU's streak would end this year. Obviously that didn't happen. With KU winning the conference again, what is their ceiling heading into the NCAA tournament? Do you feel this team is playing NCAA Championship-level basketball?
misterbrain: I would have to say that this team is definitely playing well enough to win the title, but having the last two tournament campaigns derailed by the unavailability of a key player at the worst possible time, we are keenly aware of just how fragile even the best teams can be if they lose a team leader. The one-and-done nature of the postseason magnifies that tremendously, and so there always seems to be an incredible amount of anxious excitement for this time of year.
But it's hard to blame anyone for wondering if Kansas was finally going to fail in extending the streak, with the Big 12 being as brutal as it was this year and the Jayhawks going on extended slumps early in the conference season. But the team finally found their leader in Perry Ellis, who has started to assert himself more on the court.
KSUEMAW!: The Jayhawks have already beaten the Wildcats twice this season, so how seriously do you think the Jayhawk players will take this game?
misterbrain: I think a lot of that depends on how important winning the conference tournament is to the team's goals. In prior years, we wanted to show that we could still play solidly and find a new team identity after losing Joel Embiid (2014) and Cliff Alexander (2015). There is no concern about having lost someone, only a sense of continuing the stretch of good play they are enjoying. I think we might see a slow start to this game, but Bill Self will at least fire them up at the half.
KSUEMAW!: Besides K-State (I kid), which team gives KU the toughest test during the Big 12 tournament?
misterbrain: I'd have to go with Baylor. They upset the Jayhawks twice in 2009 and 2012, as a 9 and 4 seed respectively, advancing to the final each time, only to lose to the Missouri Tigers. So not only did they stop our chance to advance, but they couldn't finish the job and let the worst possible team take that title. Iowa State would be another team to point to, as they have won the last two meetings in the tournament against the Jayhawks to take the last two titles. Georges Niang has a chance to join Paul Pierce (1997-1998) and Hollis Price (2002-2003) as the only players to win tournament MVP in back to back years if the Cyclones can somehow win it again.
KSUEMAW!: With KU projected to be a number 1 seed in the Tournament, which first round site would you prefer for the Jayhawks: Des Moines or Oklahoma City?
misterbrain: Personally, Oklahoma City is closer for me, so selfishly I'd probably want them to be there. However, I'm not actually going to be able to make it anyway, so that doesn't really factor in. From what I understand, Jayhawk fans travel well to both of those cities, so that isn't really a concern. Unfortunately Omaha, NE isn't a pod site this year, since that was where the Jayhawks started in both of their last two runs to the Final Four. However, for purely illogical reasons, I'll go with Des Moines since it is also north of Lawrence. SCIENCE!
KSUEMAW!: Prediction time. How badly does KU have to sleepwalk through the game for Kansas State to pull the upset?
misterbrain: Kansas would have to work hard to give this one away. While the Wildcats have potential, they are also prone to fits of sleepwalking of their own. It would be nice in a way to see them kick into high gear and make a run during the conference tournament, leaving no doubt that they belong in the NIT.
Unfortunately for KSU fans, I just don't see it happening. As great as it would probably be for the conference to have multiple bid-stealers alive and trying to push towards a conference tournament title, the Jayhawks are hitting their stride and playing their best ball of the season. While Kansas is probably already locked in as a number 1 seed in the tournament, Self has never liked losing to anyone at any point. The criticism that he doesn't care about the conference tournament seems to pick at him, at least a little, and he will have these guys ready to go. I'm going with Kansas 95, Kansas State 71.
KSUEMAW!: Bonus - Last year we went on a tournament potluck picnic, and it was so great that I decided to do it again. What food item would you bring to represent your school or the region where it is located?
misterbrain: I decided to pull inspiration for this from the winner of our 2015 Lawrence Restaurant Bracket. In looking over their menu, I was inspired by the Roost Mac and Cheese. Unfortunately, I've never been able to try it myself, but I'm going to imagine that it is at least as tasty as a the nice baked homemade mac and cheese I grew up on.
KSUEMAW! also answered questions for misterbrain over at RCT, so pop on over there and check it out when you've a moment.