Somehow, I am not surprised in the least. The two-seeded Kansas Jayhawks came up short Sunday afternoon, falling to the 10-seeded Stanford Cardinal, 60-57. What surprising was how this result was reached, however.
Usually, it is the defense that fails the Jayhawks but on Sunday, it was an absolutely brutal offensive performance. Kansas made just 19 of 58 shot attempts for 32.8, including a huge number of blown attempts from within 3 feet of the rim.
Kansas still had a chance to win despite getting basically nothing out of Andrew Wiggins, Naadir Tharpe, and Wayne Selden, Jr. These three combined to score 11 points on just 4 of 19 shooting, for 21%. They had 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, 2 blocks, 7 turnovers, and 12 fouls.
It is hard to win any game, let alone a NCAA Tournament game, when 60% of your starting line up fail to show up mentally.
This game was an utter failure on the offensive end as Kansas struggled to put the ball in the basket all day against a very long and aggressive zone defense by Stanford. Earlier in the season, the Jayhawks in general, and Andrew Wiggins in particular, had trouble against this type of zone.
Only two Jayhawks finished in double figures, and they were an unlikely pair to lead the team. Tarik Black was really the only offense for Kansas most of the second half. He finished with 18, 13 of which came after the intermission. Conner Frankamp scored 12, including the three biggest baskets for the Jayhawks on the day – one at the buzzer to end the half, and two in the final minute to give the team a chance. All were three-pointers.
It is hard to call a 25-win season a failure, but this game was the year in a microcosm. It was an extremely athletic team, with a lot of NBA potential (one of my least favorite sports words). At times, this athleticism just didn’t translate onto the court, as they didn’t look like very good basketball players often enough.
The injury to Joel Embiid was a tough break, and his presence probably would have made a difference against the Cardinal. It is a shame that we will probably never get to see him play again in a Kansas uniform. I can’t say I feel the same about Wiggins, for all his incredible talent.
It isn’t surprising this team lost so early in the tournament, just as it wouldn’t have been shocking to see them go all the way. This team is so talented but they just couldn’t overcome their weaknesses in the end.
This team, and Wiggins specifically, were incredibly over hyped early, at it would have been near impossible to live up to those expectations. Still, I feel disappointed with such a short run in the 2014 Tournament
Kudos to Stanford. They played hard and did just enough things well to keep the Jayhawks at bay. If you don’t believe experience doesn’t count in the NCAA Tournament, this Stanford team is proof that it can be the difference in a close game.
There will be more wrap up to this disappointing basketball season in the upcoming days.