Record: 33-4, 15-3 in Big 12 play
How They Got Here: Kansas got to the Elite Eight by thrashing Austin Peay and UConn in their first and second round matchups in Des Moines, Iowa. Then, the Jayhawks handily defeated the Maryland Terrapins 79-63 in their Sweet 16 matchup in Louisville on Thursday night.
Head Coach: Bill Self, one of the best head coaches in the entire country. In his time in Lawrence, Self has amassed 385 victories and 179 in Big 12 play. The Jayhawks have never missed the NCAA Tournament under his direction, and have made it to the second weekend or farther seven times, including this year. KU won the National Championship under Self's direction in 2008, and were the National Runner Up in 2012, falling to the Kentucky Wildcats.
Perhaps the most astonishing number when it comes to Self is this: Since he arrived to KU in 2003, the Jayhawks have won or had at least a share of the Big 12 regular season championship 12 times. And, since the 2003-04 season, the Jayhawks have only suffered EIGHT losses at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. In short, Bill Self has amassed more Big 12 regular season championships than he has suffered losses at home.
The High-Profile Acts
Wayne Selden: For the Jayhawks, we'll start things off with Wayne Selden. Selden is a 6-foot-5, 230-pound, athletic small forward who has developed a penchant for coming up big during his junior season. In years past, the Roxbury, Massachusetts native struggled in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps the most egregious performance the Tilton School alum had was in last year's Round of 32, where put up a goose egg in the points department against in-state rival Wichita State. Prior to this year's season, you could count on both hands how many points Selden had scored in his four career NCAA Tournament games - merely 10.
This year, he has exploded and completely turned the corner. In the three NCAA Tournament games the Jayhawks have played thus far, the junior small forward has amassed 55 points, including 22 against the UConn Huskies in KU's Round of 32 victory. The 55 points he's scored over the course of this NCAA Tournament is up 450% from his totals over the last two Tourney appearances for KU, and +816.67% from last year alone.
Selden also came up large for his team during the regular season. In the Jayhawks' thrilling triple OT win over the Oklahoma Sooners, Selden scored 21 points and shot 9-for-17 from the field. Selden also dropped 24 points and was 5-for-6 in a 102-74 victory over the Baylor Bears back on January 2. The Roxbury, Massachusetts native had perhaps his best performance against Kentucky on January 30, scoring a career-high 33 points against the Wildcats in a 90-84 OT victory.
Suffice it to say, Wayne Selden has been a huge reason why the Jayhawks are making the run that they're on.
Perry Ellis: Since it's not possible to talk about Ellis without referencing how he looks much older than his age, let's get it out of the way. Yes, he looks older than 22. Now that that's out of the way, we can talk about the Jayhawks' second-most (or, more likely, a 1 and 1A type situation) important player. Ellis has scored 20+ points in each of Kansas' three NCAA Tournament victories, with his high mark being 27 against Maryland. In fact, counting those three games, Ellis scored 20 or more points 16 times this season, including nine since the calendar switched to February. Ellis is an efficient shooter, and he knows his role, with 369 of his 433 attempted shots this year being two-pointers. Of those 369, he made 204, good for a percentage of 55.3.
In terms of rebounding, though, it's been a down year for Ellis. 2014-15 saw him finish with a career high 6.9 rebounds per game, but that number is down to 5.9 per game this season. Though, if you look in terms of total rebounds, he grabbed 234 last season to 217 this season, so the drop off isn't quite that bad.
Ellis is also one of the nation's best players at not committing fouls. His 2.2 fouls committed over 40 minutes is 145th of 2219 players in college basketball.
All in all, Ellis is a prototypical senior. He knows exactly what to do in any situation on the court, and is part of what makes Kansas so dangerous.
Frank Mason III: Another junior KU hooper who is a certified attraction is Frank Mason III. Mason, Petersburg, Virginia's finest, has started every game for the Jayhawks in each of the last two seasons after primarily coming off the bench in his freshman year, sitting behind former Jayhawk guard Naadir Tharpe. He stepped into his role as the starting point guard for the Jayhawks and adjusted very well, putting up high efficiency numbers, churning out a high assist rate, and was one of the most proficient players in a loaded Big 12 Conference.
This season, Mason's numbers have dipped slightly but he still no doubt performed as one of the best players in the Big 12. While his point totals haven't been eye popping of late - he has five single digit outputs in his last seven games - he's averaged a cool 4.9 assists per game over this stretch, with exactly four in each of Kansas' three NCAA Tournament games to this point. Mason understands his role with the Jayhawks, and even if his efficiency numbers have taken the slight number that they have, he's still finding ways to be an effective player on the floor.
Defensively, Mason is a stout player as well. Amongst the four KU players who have played over 1,000 minutes this season, Mason has the highest Defensive Rating of all at 98.5 per Sports-Reference.com. He also leads all Jayhawks in Defensive Win Shares - a metric used to estimate the number of wins a player contributes to their team on defense - with a mark of 2.2, just ahead of Devonte' Graham, who's at 2.1. Those two metrics don't tell the entire story of course, but it gives us pretty good evidence that Mason is a very solid player on both ends who will likely give the Villanova guards and ballhandlers fits on Saturday night in Louisville.
Devonte' Graham: All season long, Devonte' Graham has been an X-Factor for this Kansas team. He hasn't been called upon much in the NCAA Tournament to produce points, with just 15 through the first three games and 13 of those coming in one game against UConn in the Round of 32. But, over the course the of season, Graham was one of the better scorers that the Jayhawks had and excelled greatly from an efficiency standpoint. No player during Big 12 Conference play - not even the likes of Oklahoma's Buddy Hield - had a better Effective Field Goal% than Graham, who posted a mark of 61.9. And only Hield had a better True Shooting% than Graham, whose mark finished up at 64.4.
The efficiency and effectiveness is part of what's made Graham so good and so divisive this season. He's taken a huge leap from the numbers he produced last year, and it's not like his usage rate has gone up. In fact, it's gone down! Graham's USG% was at 18.3 percent a season ago, and this time around, it dropped down to 16.7 percent. All he's done is seen an increase in a majority of categories and he's turned the ball over less, too. It's not like Graham hasn't been gambling either. The Brewster Academy alum has taken more field goals per game, and more 3-pointers per game, per 40 minutes, and per 100 possessions, too.
Villanova's dossier of guard is what's makes them so dangerous. Kansas doesn't have slouches either, and Graham will have to be heavily keyed in on Saturday night.
Landen Lucas: Lucas has bounced between being a starter and a sixth man for the Jayhawks so far this season. In nonconference play, he didn't start a single game. However, since January 23rd's game against the Texas Longhorns, the big man has started 18 of Kansas' 19 games.
He's nothing to write home about on the offensive end, averaging just 5.7 points per game this season, though he's been in double figures in two of Kansas' three NCAA Tournament games so far. What Lucas really brings to the table for the Jayhawks is his rebounding ability.
Lucas' 6.6 boards per game leads the Jayhawks. In addition, his advanced rebounding numbers are right up there with the top players in the nation. His OR% (offensive rebounding percentage, or the percent of available offensive rebounds a player grabs while on the court) is 15.6%, 12th in the nation. While his DR% (defensive rebounding percentage) is 24.9, 49th in the nation.
For Villanova to defeat Kansas, Daniel Ochefu and Villanova's other bigs will have to limit Lucas' impact on the boards.