KU Jayhawks projected to be a No. 2 seed in ESPN’s early NCAA Tournament bracketology

Gary Bedore/gbedore@kcstar.com

Kansas will be awarded the No. 2 seed in the South Regional of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN.com men’s college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi, who released his latest bracket projections on Tuesday.

Lunardi — he updates his “bracketology” periodically — has defending national champion KU playing No. 15 Youngstown State in a first-round game in Des Moines, Iowa. The winner would meet either No. 7 seed Michigan or No. 10 Florida in the second round.

Lunardi’s previous bracketology released on July 12 also had the Jayhawks slated for a No. 2 seed in the South with first weekend games to be played in Des Moines. Kentucky is Lunardi’s projected No. 1 seed in the 2023 South Regional. It’s a blueblood-heavy regional at this time with KU the No. 2 seed, Duke No. 3 and Indiana No. 4.

Lunardi gives Houston the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional, which feeds into Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center for Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. Gonzaga is No. 1 seed in the West and North Carolina No. 1 in the East.

Other projected No. 2 seeds: Baylor in the Midwest, Tennessee in the East and UCLA the West. The 2023 men’s Final Four will be held at NRG Stadium in Houston.

According to Lunardi, Missouri should be in the mix for a 2023 NCAA berth. He has the Tigers in his “first four out” with Iowa State, Rutgers and Seton Hall. Kansas State and Wichita State also are not included in Lunardi’s 68-team field.

Seven Big 12 teams will be invited to the NCAAs, Lunardi says. TCU will be a 4 seed in the West, Texas Tech a 6 seed in the West, Oklahoma State a 9 seed in the West, Oklahoma a 10 seed in the West and Texas a 3 seed in the East to go with KU and Baylor.

KU holds down No. 6 national ranking

KU is ranked No. 6 in the country in ESPN.com’s preseason Top 25 poll, which was released by analyst Jeff Borzello on July 26. North Carolina will start the season No. 1 followed by Gonzaga, Houston, Kentucky and Duke.

Creighton is No. 7 followed by Baylor, Arkansas, UCLA, Texas, Tennessee, Auburn, Villanova, Indiana, Arizona, TCU, Virginia, Oregon, Alabama, UConn, Dayton, San Diego State, Texas Tech and Illinois.

Of KU, Borzello wrote: “Jalen Wilson might hold the key to Kansas’ 2022-23 season. After bursting onto the scene early in the 2020-21 campaign with 23-point, 10-rebound performances against Kentucky and Creighton, looking like a surefire NBA player, Wilson has dealt with a variety of issues that have held him back from consistently being that player.

“But with the departures of Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, Remy Martin and David McCormack, Bill Self is going to need some proven offensive production. And Wilson has shown over the past two seasons he can step up.

“He wasn’t overly efficient on the offensive end during the 2022 NCAA Tournament, but his motor ran high and he made an impact at both ends of the floor, averaging 12.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in six games. Throw a couple more points per game onto those averages, and the Jayhawks will be very happy.”

Borzello predicts KU’s starting lineup will consist of guards Dajuan Harris, Gradey Dick and Kevin McCullar plus forwards Wilson and Ernest Udeh.