Head coach Kenny Blakeney won a national championship with Duke the last time Howard appeared in the NCAA Tournament, 31 years ago.
That was 1992, when Kansas hammered Howard in the first round, 100-67.
The 16th-seeded Bison (22-12) are back, and Howard draws the same first-round challenge in the 2023 NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon in Des Moines, Iowa: West Region No. 1 seed Kansas (27-7), the Big 12 regular-season champion and 2022 national champ.
“There’s a lot of Howard alums and fans that either haven’t seen or can’t remember what it was like to be a fan of a tournament team, and now they get that,” said sophomore point guard Elijah Hawkins, who averages 5.9 assists per game this season.
Kansas head coach Bill Self was back in his office on Monday. He will return to the bench from an undisclosed medical procedure that prevented him from coaching in the conference tournament last week.
The Jayhawks were trounced by Texas in the championship game Saturday, 76-56, and lost to the Longhorns a week prior in the regular-season finale.
While Howard hasn’t played in the Big Dance since 1992, this is the record 33rd consecutive appearance for Kansas. The Jayhawks received their preferred path to the Final Four in Houston, as laid out by Self in early March, with the opportunity to skip from Iowa to Kansas City.
Howard rotates 10 players, and six average at least 8.8 points per game. The Bison are young, while Kansas counts on the motor of forward Jalen Wilson (20.1 points, 8.4 rebounds per game) and a guard-heavy lineup headlined by Dajuan Harris Jr. (6.2 assists, 2.1 steals per game) and freshman sharpshooter Gradey Dick (14.1 points per game).
The path to Houston won’t be easy. A second-round matchup with either Arkansas or Illinois, who will meet in the No. 8-vs.-No. 9 game Thursday, appears to be just the beginning of a bracket with an extreme level of difficulty. Many pundits already picked No. 4 seed UConn or No. 2 seed UCLA to reach the Final Four out of the West.
Self credits Wilson for Kansas’ success in the regular season, referring to his style as “take it and bring it,” having spent the offseason remaking his jump shot.
Kansas forward Kevin McCullar, who transferred from Texas Tech, is expected to practice this week and play despite an ankle injury.
Kansas is 15-0 all-time against No. 16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
–Field Level Media