DES MOINES, IA. (KSNT) – The young KU men’s basketball team that worried fans has secured a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament.

“Faces change. Expectations don’t,” KU assistant Norm Roberts said throughout the week. The phrase has been used countless times after Bill Self’s hospitalization, but it remains true for KU year after year.

The Jayhawks lost almost 70% of their production after the 2022 national championship. The handful of returning players had to step into big leadership roles, while the freshmen had to grow up quickly. Even more now that it’s win-or-go-home.

“We already told them all, ‘Y’all not freshmen no more,'” guard Kevin McCullar said. “Everybody’s played enough games, enough minutes. Especially Gradey [Dick]. He’s played a majority of the minutes for the freshmen. He’s hit big shots for us. The main thing I think about Gradey is, I don’t think he cares about what other people think about him. He’s just going to be himself.”

Dick has played in some big games before, including the McDonald’s All-American game. Those were all in his high school career, though.

“Obviously, this is a lot more special for me because it’s a new journey for me going into my college season,” Dick said. “I’ve always wanted to play in March Madness. To be actually here and be in those shoes I’ve watched for so many years ahead of this is just super special.”

Both of KU’s bench bigs, Zuby Ejiofor and Ernest Udeh Jr., are freshman. They sit behind the Big 12’s Most Improved Player, KJ Adams. Adams didn’t play much in the 2022 postseason run, but quickly grew into a team leader.

The Jayhawks begin their NCAA tournament run Thursday against Howard.