Northern Iowa 69, Kansas 67
I guess lets start by saying this is what gives the NCAA Tournament its beauty. It's funny how much delight this score brings to the fans of the other 346 Division 1 basketball teams, while it's nothing but heartbreak for the one. But, that is life at the top. My biggest worry all year long was going into the tournament as the favorite, given KU's past. Even my half-hearted attempt at a reverse-jinx like motivational tactic fell flat on its face. Oh well, atleast I put in more effort than Xavier Henry. One thing is for sure, I felt afraid to cheer against them late in the season to avoid the overwhelming favoritism, but that is no more. I will not hesitate to cheer for a late season loss to Missouri, Kansas State, or whoever. The Tournament is too important. Those possible six games matter 100 times more than the rest of the season combined, which is both the flaw and the beauty of college basketball.
The Game: It's semi-embarrassing that your team was hailed all season for having so many weapons, and yet when the season was on the line, the man I wanted shooting the ball was lil' Tyrel Reed. Let's be honest, this was a complete team effort in gagging away the season. Cole looked like an above-average ape trying to put two hands on the ball at the same time. Xavier played defense like the video game controller that was controlling him fell out of his hands. I never would've thought Cornbread M-Star's season ended with what seemed to be a harmless free throw on February 8th. Tyshawn took my advice and studied the scoring ineptitude of Russell Robinson, but forgot about the passing, defense, leadership and toughness that was supposed to go along with it. Alright, I'm done cleaning out my doghouse.
You may have noticed I didn't mention the name of one Sherron Collins. So many thoughts on Sherron, I don't know where to start. I think the importance he put on winning all year may have been overstated and unnecessary, which put an increasing amount of pressure on him as the game wore on, when it's very important to remain clear-headed. He also seemed reluctant to drive to the hoop the last three games of the season, possibly stemming from knee injury in the first half against K-State, but if that were the case, we probably would've heard word on it already. Sherron is at his best when attacking the rim relentlessly. For whatever reason, we didn't see that when it mattered most. Is he a bit overrated? I would say yes, but deservedly so. Here are the facts: He made incredible plays when it mattered most that led directly to a National Championship. He is the winningest player in Kansas history, despite whatever Morningstar tells you. He played terrible in his final game. Destiny and reality do not always agree.
So what went wrong? All season I've been comparing them to the 2008 National Championship team. I don't think they matched the hunger, or the want, of that team. Russell Robinson and Darnell Jackson made sure everybody kept their focus and did their job every minute of every game that year. Sherron had it, but I have my doubts if anybody else did. So what builds this want in a team? This type of loss. Losing to Bucknell. Losing to Bradley. Sniffing the Final Four but falling short. What doesn't build want? Overachieving all season and fairing well in the Tournament (2008-09). Being number 1 all year. Recruiting 1-and-dones. Cue rant...
I don't ever want a one-and-done player at Kansas EVER AGAIN! It is a set back for the program. It is a stepping stone for players that have very little to no interest in the college game. They play the Tournament with one eye on their stats and one eye on the signing bonus that is 2 months away. In the case of JR Giddens II, he was so hyped coming into the year, that he never even had anything to prove. Show up, wait a year, get paid. I understand Self going after him for this year with the idea that he is the missing piece to an almost complete team. I hope he learned his lesson. The worst part is that they don't breed championships. Carmelo Anthony is the exception, not the rule. Now, if a player leaves after one year following a deep Tournament run that is fine, but no more players that are assured to leave after one year. Get 'em out!
Back to the game for a bit. Continuing with the comparison of the '08 team, KU faced a similar game in the second round that year against UNLV. They played sluggish and held a slim second half lead, when Self made offensive adjustments to have their guards take their men off the dribble and get to the basket. In other words, they decided to out-athlete the overmatched mid-major. This was not an option this year. That's the difference between a Championship team and a team bounced in the second round. You have to be able to play different styles depending on the matchups, again signifying the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. In hindsight, blame for this could be placed on Bill Self for not regulating freshmen Thomas Robinson and Elijah Robinson into the rotation for increased athleticism. I was never for it during the season, so I do not personally hold him accountable. The makeup of the team just wasn't right for this year and this Tournament. Perfect segue into...
Next year- The possibilities for a team better built for a deep run are there. The possibilities of an upper-class dominated team are there. The possibilities of a hungrier team are there. I expect a team led by the Morrisi (Marcus was the most consistent player throughout the year) along with the return of Mario Little (should be much improved after struggling with injuries all first year coupled with a redshirt season). I expect them to be joined in the starting lineup by Tyshawn (assuming no transfer) and Elijah Johnson. Reserves-TRobinson, Big Whitey, the Releford Redemption Remix, Cornbread, and Big Shot Ty. This doesn't even include any incoming freshmen, which there are bound to be.
So, there it is KU fans. There's no need to freak out. Heartbreak eventually becomes acceptance which eventually builds character. Bill Self will be fine. KU will win the Big 12 again next year. Now lets all pick a team to adopt for the rest of the Tournament. I'm saddling up with Enter Omar Sanham and the Saint Mary's Gaels baby!