The NCAA tournament bracket had its greatest shocker yesterday. However, the bracket is traditionally unkind to Kansas this time of year, as Jayhawks nation knows well. Other than their 2008 NCAA title, their recent tournament history has been littered with upset losses, and surprising mishaps against mid-major teams. But with the way things were forming this March, yesterday’s loss to VCU may be the biggest disappointment of all.
As the only No. 1 seed left, and with the Southwest region cluttered by Cinderellas, the Jayhawks had become the overwhelming favorite to win it all. They wouldn’t have faced a team higher than an eighth seed until the national title game, and they were the only team left to have less than seven losses this season.
With VCU next up, Kansas seemed secure enough to make the Final Four. It just seemed too outlandish that a team from the ‘First Four’, who no one wanted in the field to begin with, would advance to play Butler in a national semifinal. But as soon as the Jayhawks jumped to a 6-0 lead, it all collapsed for them.
By giving up nine three-pointers in the first half, and only making two the entire game, the Jayhawks were at an immediate disadvantage. Their free throw shooting was also subpar, while there was little production from anyone other than the Morris twins at first.
However, everything looked to finally go their way when the second half started, as Kansas rolled off a 12-0 run. At that point, it appeared inevitable that the Jayhawks would blow out the Rams, and restore order to the NCAA tournament. But like so many other Kansas teams in the Bill Self era, they couldn’t overtake a heavy underdog in the end, as their 71-61 loss shattered the bracket for good.
This is a program that’s fell just short nearly every year under Self. They lost a Final Four berth in overtime in 2004, were upset by Bucknell and Bradley in 2005 and 2006, lost another regional final in 2007, got caught by Michigan State in the 2009 Sweet 16, and were shocked by Northern Iowa last year. If not for their last second comeback against Memphis in 2008, Self and the Jayhawks would have been on the hot seat long ago.
Therefore, given past history, and the parallels between VCU and George Mason in 2006, this may not have been a total shock. Kansas was the last gasp of the top seeds in this tournament, and would have been the huge favorite in Houston. Instead, the Final Four bracket is so wide open that a Butler or VCU championship isn’t outlandish anymore.
NCAA.com- “Men’s Basketball”
CBS Sports- “VCU keeps going, ousts Kansas to reach Final Four”
ESPN- “NCAA Basketball Tournament History: Kansas Jayhawks”
Yahoo Sports- “Is VCU the worst of Kansas’ crushing NCAA tourney losses?”