Kansas’ shocking loss to TCU isn’t as bad as it seems

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball’s Championship Week is always full of wild games and surprising upsets, but on Thursday we got a result no rational fan could have ever seen coming. Kansas — the nation’s No. 1 team, which entered the afternoon as a double-digit favorite — was shocked in its Big 12 tournament opener, losing to No. 8 seed TCU, 85-82. The deciding points came on three free throws from Horned Frogs freshman Desmond Bane after he was fouled attempting a three-pointer with under three seconds left.

The shocking result sends Kansas back to Lawrence to await Selection Sunday, but here’s the truth: It actually means very little for Kansas. As FOX Sports bracketologist Stewart Mandel pointed out following the loss, while the Jayhawks might no longer be in line for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, they will still almost certainly be one of the four teams given a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.

That’s because even with Thursday’s loss, they’ve still got unquestionably one of the best resumes in all of the sport.

Kansas won the Big 12 title for the 13th straight year. That’s a heck of an accomplishment and even more impressive this year, where upwards of seven teams (especially after TCU’s win) could be in line to make the Big Dance. The Jayhawks still won the conference by a full four games.

This is also a team that beat SEC champion Kentucky at Rupp Arena and took down Duke on a neutral court in non-conference play. In league play, Kansas swept fellow Big 12 powers Baylor and Oklahoma State, and won on the home court of Iowa State as well. Overall, they have seven RPI Top 50 wins.

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And for Kansas to lose that No. 1 overall seed, someone has to step up and grab it. Villanova and North Carolina seem pretty locked in on two of those spots, and it seems almost certain that either the Pac-12 champ or Gonzaga will get the No. 1 out West (the other will likely get the No. 2 seed in that region).

So really, who is left to take another No. 1? The only possibility would seem to be Kentucky, and they have a head-to-head loss to Kansas at home. Behind them, there was the possibility that Louisville played their way into the conversation this weekend at the ACC Tournament, but they lost in the quarters Thursday to Duke.

Finally, even Kansas’ preferred region — the Midwest, where the regional finals are in Kansas City — probably isn’t in jeopardy. Villanova would go to the East Region, with its finals in New York. North Carolina would still likely prefer the South Region, hosted in Memphis, about 300 miles closer to campus than Kansas City. Gonzaga or the Pac-12 champion would clearly be the right fit for the West Region, in San Jose. The Jayhawks should still end up where they want to be.

If this game has any major NCAA Tournament implications at all, it might be for TCU. Jamie Dixon’s club wasn’t in the tournament picture at all entering the day, according to Mandel and many others, but that could change. Thursday’s win alone likely doesn’t do it for the Horned Frogs, but they’re now just two wins against lower-ranked opponents from an automatic bid.

As for Kansas? As much as the loss hurt Thursday, it really doesn’t mean all that much in the big picture.