The Kansas Jayhawks will only go as far in the NCAA tournament as Andrew Wiggins takes them.
Judging by the 2013-14 campaign, that should come as no surprise.
Since opening tip of the season, the freshman guard has wooed audiences in just about every stadium he has stepped foot in. Over 33 games, Wiggins has averaged 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists on 44.9 percent shooting from the field.
Thanks to his play, Kansas is sitting pretty at 24-9 and as the No. 2 seed in the South Region of the tournament.
Many initially feared that the indefinite absence of center Joel Embiid would hinder the team’s chances in March. However, Wiggins is doing his best to prove otherwise.
As the folks at SportsCenter pointed out (h/t Full Court Prez), the Thornhill, Ontario, native only raises his game to another level without Embiid on the court:
Still, it’s hard to argue that the Jayhawks are better minus Embiid’s contributions on the court—11.2 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game and 2.6 blocks per game.
A second-round matchup with Eastern Kentucky shouldn’t pose any problems for the team on Friday. The Colonels may rank No. 28 in scoring (79.0 PPG), but they also only rank No. 197 in points allowed (70.6 PPG) and have conceded 77.3 points over their last three games.
However, a potential third-round clash with either New Mexico or Stanford could prove difficult without Embiid.
Both teams rely on frontcourt scoring and like to get the ball down low. Senior forward Cameron Bairstow (20.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG) carries the Lobos, while senior forward Dwight Powell (14.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.2 APG) does as much for the Cardinal.
And if Kansas survives those two matchups, it will certainly have its work cut out for it with Syracuse, Ohio State, UCLA and Florida all lurking in the South Region.
Fortunately, Wiggins has saved his best basketball for March:
|Wiggins' Performance by Month|
|B/R's C.J. Moore|
Furthermore, since Feb. 4, he has scored 14 points or more in 11 of 12 games. That includes 41- and 30-point efforts in the last three contests.
Although the NCAA tournament is a whole different beast, Jayhawks head coach Bill Self wants Wiggins to take on the same mindset, per Sports Illustrated’s Brian Hamilton:
It’s the same thing we’ve been talking to him about for the vast majority of the year. Try to impact more possessions and be more aggressive and that kind of stuff. He’s young. He should be a high school senior. On a brighter stage, to see how he reacts will be interesting. But all evidence points to that he is poised and ready to be aggressive and play at a high level.
With Wiggins on the floor, Kansas is a better team.
He has the ability to impact the game in different ways. With long strides and an incredible vertical leap, Wiggins can take the ball from beyond the three-point line and throw it down in a matter of steps.
Given his talent and athleticism, Wiggins is surely destined for the NBA next season. But if he could have his way, his collegiate career would last another six games.
You couldn’t write a better ending to Wiggins’ time with the Jayhawks than that.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats, rankings and other information are courtesy of ESPN.com.