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They're in!

No nerves this time; Selection Sunday all about celebrating comfortably for the 8th-seeded Kansas women

3 min read
Kansas guards S'Mya Nichols (12) and Wyvette Mayberry (0) share a laugh during a home win over Iowa State earlier this season. [Chance Parker photo]

All season, whether they wanted to do it or not, the Kansas women’s basketball team found itself measuring up its goals and performances and growth against last year’s run to the WNIT title.

But that all stopped on Sunday.

After being asked for months about the WNIT and what they gained from winning it, the Jayhawks finally were able to fully look forward on Sunday night, when they learned that they had earned a No. 8 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and would play No. 9 Michigan later this week.

The date and time for KU’s first-round matchup, along with a television designation, will be announced later.

“Last year was devastating because all indications were that we were gonna get in,” KU coach Brandon Schneider said after seeing the 2024 bracket. “This year, I think we were much more comfortable and it was more of just an anticipation of who might our opponent be and where might we be going to play the game.”

That confidence and comfort, he said, made it even easier to sit back and soak up the joy that came from seeing their name pop up on the screen in the region that features USC as the No. 1 seed and two KU non-conference opponents — UConn and Virginia Tech — seeded third and fourth.

“Our seniors picked where they wanted to watch the selection show and what they wanted to have to eat and, hopefully, it was an opportunity to just kind of celebrate the season up to this point.”

UConn and Va. Tech, along with KU’s ever-present gauntlet in the Big 12 Conference and a handful of other Power 5 non-conference foes, left Kansas with a non-conference strength of schedule of No. 19 and an overall stretch of schedule of No. 10, per the NET rankings.

That was by design and that helped Schneider and the Jayhawks feel even better about not only getting in this year, but also about getting a more favorable seed.

"... It was an opportunity to just kind of celebrate the season up to this point.” — KU women's basketball coach Brandon Schneider on Selection Sunday

This marks KU’s second trip to the NCAA Tournament in the past three seasons.

In 2022, the Jayhawks defeated Georgia Tech in the 8-9 game in Round 1 before losing to top-seeded Stanford in Round 2.

“Obviously, two years ago we went out to California, just a little bit different destination,” Schneider recalled with a nod toward the familiarity of this path. “I’m excited to get the seed that we did; I’m excited to be in the tournament. Just excited for the opportunity to play in the tournament.”

While facing Michigan (20-13) will be challenging enough, Kansas (19-12) also must navigate the challenge of finding its rhythm again after a two-week break between the end of the Big 12 tournament and their first NCAA Tournament game.

“It’s gonna be interesting,” Schneider said, noting that his team was playing its best basketball of the season prior to the current layoff. “We’ve done a lot of skill work, a lot of shooting and a lot of just trying not to get anybody hurt (in recent days), and those who are a little banged up (can) use this time to hopefully get them back to as close to 100% as possible.”

This year’s appearance will mark the program’s 15th trip to the NCAA Tournament. Kansas first qualified for the tournament in 1987 and 1988 and then made nine consecutive appearances from 1992-2000. After that, it was back-to-back Sweet 16 runs in 2012 and 2013 and then the return to the tourney a decade later in 2022.

Michigan, meanwhile, has been to six consecutive NCAA Tournaments, which includes an Elite Eight appearance in 2022 and a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2021.

Kansas’ first round matchup with Michigan will be the third ever meeting between the two schools and the first since 2010. The Jayhawks won the first meeting in 2009, 77-66 in Lawrence, and Michigan won in Ann Arbor in 2010, 75-67.

The winner of the Kansas-Michigan matchup will take on the winner of top-seeded USC against No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the second round.

After the first weekend of games, the 16 teams that are still alive will move on to play in regionals in Albany, New York, and Portland, Oregon, from March 29 through April 1.

The 2024 Final Four will be played on April 5 and 7 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio.

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