With targets on their back as defending champs, Kansas looks to make another run

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 5:36 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCTV) - A year ago, the “blue bloods” in blue jerseys got red hot. And Kansas celebrated its fourth NCAA men’s basketball title.

Which is great! But it also tends to raise the bar considerably.

“When you are at Kansas, you are always getting everybody’s best shot every time you play,” said interim head coach Norm Roberts. “So it’s just added on to us being National Champions.”

“I don’t think anyone really is looking at it as us repeating,” added All-American forward Jalen Wilson. “I think it’s us going to win it again.”

Semantics? Maybe. Regardless, the Jayhawks embark on a quest attempted by many — but completed by few.

ALSO READ: Kansas coach Bill Self remains ‘day to day’ at March Madness

In the last half-century, there have been only three repeat champs: UCLA in 1972-73, Duke in 1991-92, and Florida in 2006-07. In all three of those cases, the “back end” closely resembled the “front end,” in terms of roster makeup, with the lion’s share of production returning for a title defense. That is not the case for Kansas, which had to replace an unenviable 63 percent of its minutes and 74 percent of its point production from last season’s star-studded group.

“Last year it was an older team, and we had a lot of vets,” pointed out junior point guard DaJuan Harris. “So it was easier. So we was more put together but this year.”

“Our motto at our place is ‘faces change, expectations don’t.’ Our guys understand that,” added Roberts. “This is a different team. What we accomplished last year was fantastic. We enjoy it. We’re honored by it but we understand it’s a whole new situation.”

That said, those like Wilson, who did experience the first go-round, are maintaining perspective for the encore.

“This is win or go home. I embrace having fun. This is the best time of year for basketball,” Wilson said. “Even when I was a kid watching, this is the best time of year. To experience everything, see all the basketball, because I’m not only getting to play but able it to watch a lot of good basketball. I don’t feel any pressure at all. I think we’re here to do what we know how to do, play our basketball and have fun.”

ALSO READ: Jalen Wilson named AP First Team All-American