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Game Preview - #16 Howard vs. #1 Kansas

#16 Howard (22-12) vs. #1 Kansas (27-7)


Nuts & Bolts

  • Date: March 16, 2023

  • Time: 2:00 p.m. ET

  • Venue: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA

  • How to Watch: TBS

  • Announcers: Brian Anderson, Jim Jackson, Allie LaForce

  • NCAA Tournament Bracket: HERE

  • Matchup History: Kansas leads all-time series 2-0

  • Last Meeting: Kansas def. Howard 89-34 on 12/29/2011

  • Betting Lines: Via DraftKings

  • Spread: Kansas -21

  • Over/Under: 145.5

  • Prediction: Howard 64, Kansas 74

  • Official Kansas Game Notes: HERE

  • Follow Along on Twitter

  • Zach Penrice - DMV Sports: https://twitter.com/Zach_DMVSports

 

#16 Howard Bison

It’s been an absolute dream season for Howard.


The Bison had lost 20 more games in 19 of the 24 seasons prior to the arrival of Head Coach Kenny Blakeney. They made it 20 in 25 by going 4-29 in Blakeney’s first season at HU before canceling the following season due to COVID after just five games.

Howard celebrates a MEAC Tournament title and first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 31 years / Photo: Howard Athletics


And yet, in year four under Blakeney, here are the Bison back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 31 years, coming off its first MEAC regular season title in 36 years.

The Bison returned just five players from last season and added nine new players to the 2022-23 roster, including five freshmen.


Howard was able to build off an impressive second-place finish in the MEAC a year ago and finish this season atop the league and ahead of Norfolk State, who had won the conference regular season and gained the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid each of the past two seasons.


Howard beat the Spartans in the final game of the regular season to clinch the regular season title and beat NSU again just nine days later to secure its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, winning the MEAC Tournament Championship game.


On Selection Sunday, Howard heard its name called as the 16-seed in the West Region. The Bison are set to take on the defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks in Thursday’s opening round matchup in Des Moines.


Funny enough, the last time HU was in the Big Dance, it was against KU and ended in a 100-67 drubbing in what was


also a 16v1 matchup.


In NCAA Tournament history, 16 seeds are 1-147 against 1 seeds. The lone win came in 2018 when UMBC took down Virginia 74-54 in one of the all-time shockers in college basketball.


It is very unlikely that Howard will be the second team ever to pull off the miraculous feat, but I genuinely believe they have a better chance than most.


The way that Blakeney uses substitutions, often bringing on five new players at a time, is very unique. Howard uses a ten man rotation, which is perhaps the most of any team in the tournament. They stay fresh and out of foul trouble and can keep Kansas out of their rhythm by establishing a light press that they’ll likely stay in throughout the game.

The Bison use a heavy rotation of players that could bode well for them in the Tournament / Photo: HBCU Gameday


The thing that could plague Howard is its turnovers. HU has allowed more steals than any team in the country this season. They’ve been able to make up for it by scoring over 75 PPG but Kansas is obviously a different animal.


The Bison will need their best game of the season just to keep it close. If Elijah Hawkins, Jelani Williams, Shy Odom and co. can show up and show out, I don’t see why this game wouldn’t be close in the second half.


Regardless of how it goes down Thursday in Des Moines, Howard can and will relish this moment. It’s the best season in 31 years. Time to bring it on the sports biggest stage against perhaps the sports’ most iconic program.

 

#1 Kansas Jayhawks

  • Head Coach: Bill Self (20th season, 583-131 record at Kansas)

  • Record: 27-7 (13-5, 1st in Big 12)

  • NCAA Tournament Appearances: 51

  • Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2022

  • Last Time Out: Lost to #7 Texas 76-56 in Big 12 Tournament on 3/11

  • Highlights HERE

  • Player to Watch: Jalen Wilson

This is the 33rd consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament for Kansas, which is the longest active streak in college basketball and the longest streak of all time.

KU has played in 51 tournaments, gone to 31 Sweet 16’s, 23 Elite 8’s, 16 Final Four’s and won four national championships, including the 2022 national title.


While Howard missed the NCAA Tournament 30 years in a row, KU played in each of those tournaments. It’s absolutely mind-boggling to try to comprehend the success that Kansas has had throughout its history.


Head Coach Bill Self is in his 20th season in charge. In his prior 18 tournaments (excluding 2020 when there was no tournament), Self’s Jayhawks have lost their opening round game just twice.


Following its national championship win over North Carolina last season, KU began 2022-23 looking to become the first repeat champion since Florida in 2006-2007.


This season, Kansas went 27-7 and won the Big 12 regular season title, boasting wins over Duke, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia 3x, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, and Iowa State 2x. They have one of the most impressive resumes in the nation and a team that could easily make another run to the Final Four.

KU looks to become the first repeat champion since Florida in 2006-2007 / Photo: ESPN


At the moment, however, there is an interesting storyline that involves Bill Self’s health. Self has not been with the team since before the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.


The day of KU’s first game in the tournament against West Virginia, Self went to the hospital after complaining about ‘chest tightness’ and balance concerns. He underwent some tests and stayed at the hospital until Sunday, four days later.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Self was not with the team at its open practice in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena.


Without their head coach, KU was still able to advance to the Big 12 Tournament championship game, defeating West Virginia and Iowa State, before losing to #7 Texas 76-56.


Even if Self isn’t on the bench on Thursday, KU has plenty of star-power on the court to make up for it.


Forward Jalen Wilson is one of the best players in the country and the senior leader of this Kansas team. He’s averaging over 20 PPG to go along with 8.4 RPG.


In the backcourt, the Jayhawks have Grady Dick, who is 6’8 but listed as a guard. He pours in over 14 PPG and shoots nearly 40% from three.


Kansas has size, length and speed and will be a very tough out in the NCAA Tournament, with or without Self on the sideline.


The Jayhawks haven’t lost their opening round game since the 2005-06 season to the Bradley Braves. In that game, Bradley shot over 50% from three and both out-rebounded and out-assisted Kansas.

Bradley is the last team to defeat KU in its opening tournament game, winning 77-73 in 2006 / Photo: Bleacher Report

Howard will need to do all three of those things in order to have a chance on Thursday.


Usually, you can say ‘crazier things have happened,’ in situations like this. However, I’m not entirely sure they have.


It’s been a season of making history for Howard. Let’s see if they can make some more.


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