Bill Self won a title at Kansas two years ago. He’s also been to two Elite 8′s in seven years as head coach of the Jayhawks. The flip side: He’s choked away three early NCAA tournament games to mid-majors, with last night’s loss to Northern Iowa being the most shocking.
Kansas was the preseason No. 1 team in the country and was stunned by a team from the Patriot League that had never won an NCAA tournament game in the program’s 110-year history. The Jawhawks were 13.5 point favorites. That first round loss ended the careers of Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, and Aaron Miles.
Kansas had a young team, but still won the Big 12 tournament. Bradley had an NBA player (Patrick O’Bryant, 1st round pick who has been a bust) but more importantly made 11 three-pointers. The Jawhawks were 7-point favorites.
There is no way around it – this probably ranks as the most disappointing loss in the program’s history*, and certainly one of the most stunning in NCAA tournament history. Yes, Northern Iowa had an RPI of 17, but the Panthers also lost to 9-21 Evansville late in the season, and 8-23 DePaul this November. Northern Iowa had won one NCAA tournament game in the last 19 years. It has no future pros on the roster, but a center who got a much-publicized DUI earlier last month. Kansas was the tournament’s top seed, the overwhelming pick to win the title, and 11-point favorites. The Jayhawks won the best conference in the country (according to the RPI) by three games.
Question for Bill Self (same one we’d have asked Jay Wright of Villanova): You have the deeper bench, the superior athletes, the quicker guards. Why didn’t you press earlier?
Poor Sherron Collins. He was one of three lead guards who had a great season, but struggled Saturday (Scottie Reynolds and Jimmer Fredette were the others).
It’ll be interesting to see where Kansas goes from here. Collins graduates, and Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry will flirt with the pros. Will Marcus Morris? Tyshawn Taylor regressed. The depth has made recruiting difficult – Self doesn’t have a top 100 recruit locked up for next year. Still, Baylor will probably lose two of its top three players, Texas will lose two of its best four players, and Oklahoma State will lose its two best players. Put Kansas down for another 23 regular season wins and a top five seed come March 2011. Just hope Kansas doesn’t have an MVC opponent in the first or second round.
* Arizona over Kansas in 1997 is in the program’s the Top 10, but that Wildcats’ team had three pros, won the title, and we fondly remember picking them in our bracket. The Syracuse loss in the Elite 8 was highly unexpected as well. That is perhaps the greatest non-title Syracuse victory we’ve witnessed.