Kansas loses heartbreaker in atypical fashion
By Andrew Curtis
The expectations at Kansas are simple. Win the Big 12 regular season title, win the Big 12 tournament, get to the Final Four and win a national championship. Anything short of accomplishing any of these goals, especially the last two, is a failure.
Kansas played as great as they have all year throughout the course of the Sweet 16 matchup against the Michigan Wolverines. They looked poised to make a run to the Final Four for the second consecutive season.
But down the stretch, the Jayhawks made some bone-headed decisions, and Michigan got hot when they needed to. Make no mistake about it, Trey Burke is one of the best players in America and he showed why against Kansas.
In my opinion, the better team didn’t win this game. The better team doesn’t always win in sports. That’s just the way it goes.
Bill Self and his players, the four seniors who played in their final game in particular, will remember this game for the rest of their lives. They will look back on this game and think of what could have been, but they will also have learned valuable lessons they can carry forward.
A lot of people are blaming Elijah Johnson for the loss. Yes, he made some poor choices and didn’t perform up to his capabilities, but you can’t put it on all one man’s shoulders.
This was a team that won together a lot more than it lost together during the season, and they ended their season fittingly playing hard as a team. These guys love each other.
The main objective of this tournament was not accomplished. A lot of programs would be satisfied with a conference regular season title, a conference title and a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. Not Kansas, especially with the way the final game was lost.
A lot of things could have happened to change the outcome. Kansas could have run more clock on every possession, Ben McLemore could have decided to perform in the clutch after delivering all game prior to that and Kansas could have continued to use their distinct size advantage.
None of those things happened, and that’s just the way it goes. This team did a lot on the court. There will be far more good memories than bad ones. However, the reputation of this Kansas team will be that they choked. It’s unfortunate that it’s their legacy.
The sky is the limit at Kansas. Big 12 titles are an ordinary feat for this program. The expectations are always high.
That’s what makes next season that much more exciting. Yes, the Jayhawks appear to be losing all five of their starters, but with a loaded recruiting class along with a few talented players returning like Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe and Jamari Traylor, Kansas will be back.
Both Bill Self and the fans demand excellence, and that’s why the basketball program at the University of Kansas thrives year after year. Next year will be a test for the coaching staff, but I have no doubt in my mind that they will win a 10th straight Big 12 title.
After that, though, is where it gets tricky. Jayhawk Nation is already dreaming of a trip to the Final Four at the same place where their 2013 season ended in horrifying fashion, Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
With all hands on deck, anything is possible for next year’s team. Whether that team will finish with a good year or a great one is still yet to be determined.