Another crushing NCAA exit for Kansas, Self
In Bill Self’s eight seasons at Kansas, the Jayhawks have had
all sorts of disappointing finishes – back-to-back first-round
departures and last year’s second-round failure when they were the
No. 1 overall seed.
This one might be the worst yet.
Staring down what would’ve been the easiest path to a national
championship in NCAA tournament history, their status as favorites
boosted further by being the lone No. 1 seed left in the field,
Kansas blew it again.
The Jayhawks got behind early and hardly threatened the rest of
the way in a 71-61 loss to 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the
finals of the Southwest regional on Sunday.
”We’re crushed,” Self said. ”We tried real hard and just came
up empty against a team that was better than us today.”
A victory would’ve sent Kansas into a Final Four matchup against
eighth-seeded Butler, then no better than a No. 3 seed in the
finals. Had the Jayhawks won it all, they would’ve shattered the
record for the highest sum of seeds faced by the champion.
But instead of strolling into Houston next weekend as the heavy
favorites, Kansas became the third No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 11,
joining Connecticut in 2006 and Kentucky in 1986.
”Seeds are so overrated,” Self said. ”It’s about matchups.
Their players could play for us any day.”
It’s easy to figure out what went wrong. The Jayhawks made only
35.5 percent of their shots and 9.5 percent of 3-point tries, both
season lows. They hit 15 of 28 free throws (53.6 percent), narrowly
better than their season-low.
Their last lead was 10-9. They trailed by a season-high 14 at
halftime. The deficit grew to 16 a few seconds later, then Kansas
made its lone rally, getting within two points then fading
Unlike the 2008 team that walked out of the Alamodome as
national champions, the 2011 Jayhawks walked to the locker room
blank-faced, hands on hips, occasionally peeking at the wild
celebration around them. Marcus Morris tried holding off the tears,
but had to pull his jersey over his face by the time he reached the
edge of the court.
”We let them beat us,” Markieff Morris said. ”We missed a lot
of shots we normally make. We missed a lot of free throws that we
Kansas reached the regional finals on an 11-game winning streak.
In the tournament, the Jayhawks hadn’t trailed by more than two
points, and won by at least 14, in victories over teams seeded
16th, ninth and 12th.
As much as they claimed they would respect VCU as much as a Duke
or North Carolina, the Big 12 champions still knew they were facing
the fourth-place finisher from the Colonial Athletic Association.
The lack of respect may have oozed out during a pregame meeting of
team captains, when – according to VCU’s Joey Rodriguez and two of
his teammates – one of the Morris twins said, ”The run ends
The lack of respect was evident again after the game. Said
Markieff Morris: ”Probably the best game they played ever,
probably the best game ever as a school.”
The final minutes were a perfect example of what went wrong for
Marcus Morris missed a short shot, got his own rebound, then
missed again, only to see his brother grab the rebound. Just as
quickly, VCU’s Jamie Skeen snatched the ball from his hands.
Next time down, Tyrel Reed shot an airball on a baseline jumper.
Then Marcus Morris threw up a 3-pointer that was way too hard;
going for the rebound, he punched the ball out of bounds.
By the time Tyshawn Taylor made a layup with 24 seconds left,
the Jayhawks were down eight.
As the final seconds ticked off, thousands of Jayhawks fans
stood in stunned silence, arms crossed, while the small group of
VCU supporters chanted ”Hey, Hey, Goodbye.”
What’s next for the Jayhawks?
Much depends on whether the Morris twins return for their senior
year. Kansas already has to replace two senior starters in the
backcourt, Reed and Brady Morningstar.
”We didn’t accomplish what we set out to accomplish, so it’s
hard for me to say it’s a special year,” Self said. ”It won’t
sting from lack of trying or lack of effort. It will sting because
these opportunities – I wish they came yearly, but they don’t come
yearly. And you’ve got to make the most of opportunities when you
get them and we didn’t do that.”