We made it, guys. Welcome to March. In honor of the best (and worst) time of the year, what better way to celebrate than to take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the best and worst moments of past seasons?
Kansas has had many memorable games in March. Some losses have stuck with fans, leaving them wondering what could have been. Other games have left Jayhawk fans feeling elated after a huge win to advance in the tournament. With games that are sure to excite Kansas fans everywhere approaching in this year’s NCAA tournament, let’s take a look back at the 10 most memorable tournament games for the Jayhawks in recent memory.
#10. Kansas vs. Syracuse, 2003: Championship Game
This game isn’t exactly recent, but my allegiances to Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison are stronger than my will to follow the guidelines I just gave in the opening of this article. Also, being a National Title game and considering how close the Jayhawks came to pulling out a win, I think an exception can be made for this game.
After all, many Jayhawk fans still curse Gerry McNamara’s name to this day.
Carmelo Anthony gets a ton of credit for giving Syracuse its only National Championship, but the real hero (or, in our case, anti-hero) was Gerry McNamara. He hit six shots, all threes, for 18 points, making him the biggest contributor to the Orangemen and their winning effort.
Free throw woes also plagued the Jayhawks, as they went 12-30 from the charity stripe. Even then, the Jayhawks almost came out with a win. Kirk Hinrich’s three point attempt with 18 seconds left looked perfect… until it hit the back rim, bounced to the front rim, and rattled out. The Kansas greats Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich made it to two Final Fours, but ended their college careers without winning the Big Dance.
#9. Kansas vs. Kentucky, 2012: Championship Game
Another National Championship loss on the list, this time to the Anthony Davis-led Kentucky Wildcats. The magnificent run the Jayhawks went on in 2012 culminated in a fantastic game that saw Kansas ultimately fall just short. This is a game in which the defensive skills of Jeff Withey were on display, as he held Davis to just 6 points and 1-10 from the field. The Jayhawks came pretty close to stealing a win, cutting a 14-point halftime deficit all the way down to six late in the game, but ultimately it was not meant to be.
This game capped off an amazing March run, and was a great send-off for Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor.
#8. Kansas vs. Michigan, 2013: Sweet Sixteen
Holy Devastating Collapse, Batman!
I remember having to play a high school baseball game for most of this game, but I wasn’t too concerned while I was updating the score between innings. As soon as the game was over, I hurried to a television. It was a huge mistake.
When the Jayhawks were up 14 with seven minutes to go, I was smiling and jumping up and down. I was loving every second of the game. An Elite Eight berth appeared all but certain.
Then came the roller coaster of emotions that Jayhawk fans have come to know so well.
The Michigan Wolverines fought their way back into the game, culminating in a Trey Burke three from 30 feet out to tie the game with 4 seconds left. After that, the momentum was all on Michigan’s side, and the Jayhawks’ season ended after a monumental collapse. Kansas had chances to win in overtime, but ultimately fell short in a thrillingly exasperating 87-85 loss.
#7. Kansas vs. Purdue, 2012: Round of 32
This was the type of game that will one day be the reason I die of a heart attack from watching a KU game. The team that would eventually become the runner up in the National Championship game almost didn’t make it out of the first weekend. Starting out by missing 15 of their first 17 shots, the Jayhawks didn’t look too good. Purdue jumped to a 13-2 lead. It led the Jayhawks by six at halftime. Robbie Hummel was burying deep threes.
Kansas had to claw its way back into the game slowly, withstanding every time the Purdue Boilermakers made a run to extend their lead. The game came down to the final minute, with Purdue clinging to a one-point lead. A costly turnover gave Kansas a go-ahead layup with 23 seconds remaining, which was the first Jayhawk lead of the day. On the next possession, Purdue missed a three, and Tyshawn Taylor dunked the ball in transition to seal one of the year’s most exciting games.
#6. Kansas vs. VCU, 2011: Elite Eight
This Jayhawks team was loaded. The Morris twins, Thomas Robinson, Josh Selby, Tyrel Reed, Tyshawn Taylor, and Brady Morningstar highlighted this great Kansas team. By the time the Elite Eight round arrived, all #1 and #2 seeds had been eliminated, and the Jayhawks were the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament.
This individual game seemed to be almost a lock. VCU was on a great run, but this Jayhawks team appeared to be too good. They were going to end the Cinderella story. You may have even heard the story about how one of the Morris twins told a VCU player in the tunnel before the game, “Your run ends here.”
Instead, arguably one of the best Kansas teams to not win a National Championship was stopped just short of the final weekend.
The Jayhawks didn’t seem to have it in them that night, as they went 2-21 from three. The Rams opened up an 18 point lead in the game and never looked back. Kansas even took a 6-0 lead, but just 10 minutes later, it found itself in a stunning 37-17 hole. After trailing by 14 at halftime, the Jayhawks ultimately made a run to get the game within two with about 13 minutes remaining. However, that would be as close as KU would get. The final buzzer sounded and what seemed like a great shot at a 4th NCAA Championship for KU went up in smoke. The final was a 71-61 win for the 11th-seeded VCU Rams.
#5. Kansas vs. Ohio State, 2012: Final Four
Another game in the amazing run this 2012 team made. This was my favorite game of the year. It was also one of the most entertaining matchups of the tournament.
Kansas trailed for a 36 minutes of this game. It came back from a 13 point deficit to take a three point lead with eight seconds left. Jeff Withey and his amazing defense came up huge, finishing with 7 blocked shots. He also held Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, a First-Team All American, to 11 points on 5-19 shooting. The entire contest was a microcosm of the Jayhawks’ season: electrifying comebacks with valiant effort from start to finish, without a single dull moment to spare.
#4. Kansas vs. Davidson, 2008: Elite Eight
Stephen freakin’ Curry.
The future NBA All Star led his Davidson Wildcats to upset after upset in their run to the doorstep of the Final Four. In the process, Davidson almost knocked off the eventual National Champion. Curry finished with 25 points, and he scored nearly half of the Wildcats’ points.
The Jayhawks had their lead cut to two at 59-57 when Curry hit a NBA-range three. The Jayhawks didn’t score on the ensuing possession, so it came to the final shot for Davidson. This time, Curry was surrounded by Jayhawk players who wouldn’t give him the chance to hit another miracle shot. He was forced to pass the ball to his teammate, who bricked the potential game winner off the backboard.
How that Davidson kid who took the final shot must have felt is something I hope to never find out.
#3. Kansas vs. North Carolina, 2008: Final Four
The Jayhawks came out looking to dominate, and dominate they did. Kansas went on a 40-12 run to start off the game and never looked back. This game was utter domination, with Brandon Rush having as many points (12) as the entire Tar Heels team at one point in the game. North Carolina made a run to get it all the way back within four in the second half, but it was all Jayhawks in the last 10 minutes of the game. Kansas defeating the #1 overall seed in the tournament by 18 points was stunning, hilarious, and enjoyable all at once.
The pure domination of another blue blood program on the biggest stage in college basketball is enough to be a top 3 game. The only games that could top this? Well…
#2. Kansas vs. Northern Iowa, 2010: Round of 32
A devastating loss in the second round by a team that had a legit shot at a National Championship fits that criteria.
You know who might be the only person Kansas fans hate more than Gerry McNamara?
This Kansas team was truly great. A lineup of Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, the Morris twins, Tyrel Reed, and Brady Morningstar was good for the #1 ranking in the country for most of the year and the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Kansas destroyed the #16 Lehigh 90-74 in the first round, and it looked sure to steamroll through the 9 seed Northern Iowa also. Instead, the Panthers gained the biggest win in their 105-year program history by accomplishing things that seemed implausible. Their seven-foot center hadn’t hit a three all season long, so he of course nails two bombs in the first half.
The Jayhawks took a 2-0 lead and then trailed the entire game. At the end, Kansas mounted a furious comeback, cutting a 12 point lead in the second half down to just one with 54 seconds left. That’s when the ball was passed up court to Farokhmanesh, who turned down a 2-on-1 fast break opportunity to take a three point shot.
You could almost hear the sound of thousands of Jayhawk fans’ hearts breaking simultaneously.
The dagger went in as the Northern Iowa Panthers upset arguably one of the best Kansas teams ever in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
#1. Kansas vs. Memphis, 2008: Championship Game
There was no other choice for this spot. Not only did this game win Kansas a National Title, but it also created a legend in Mario Chalmers swishing one of the greatest shots in NCAA tournament history.
The words of Jim Nantz echo in the minds of Jayhawk fans everywhere when they think of the shot. “Kansas has made only two threes on the night. They must make one here to extend the game! Collins driving, almost lost the handle. Chalmers for the tie… Got it! With two seconds, unbelievable!” It made for one of the best games in NCAA tournament history, and it eventually gave Kansas their 3rd NCAA Championship.
Were some games ranked too high? Too low? What games were snubbed, and what games should have been left off? Be sure to join in on the discussion and let us know what you think in the comments and on Twitter @_DK22 and @RockChalkBlog!