Another season has ended for the Kansas Jayhawks, and as usual, it ended in a loss. However, KU fans have very little to complain about when it comes to basketball.
Kansas fans complaining about their program after a year in which KU won 27 games, its 11th straight Big 12 title, and garners a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament is like somebody complaining about the color of their Lamborghini. Apart from season-wide accomplishments, KU had several moments to be proud of, and fans should look back on them with excitement.
Here are the top ten moments from the Jayhawks 2014-15 campaign:
#10. Greene goes nuts in D.C.
In a battle of prominent programs between Kansas and Georgetown, KU found a way to win an ugly road game in the nation’s capital. Brannen Greene led the way, scoring a career-high 19 points on 5-5 from three-point land. While Greene may be one of the more polarizing figures in recent years, he is undoubtedly fun to watch when he gets it going from deep. He had a stretch from December through early February where he shot nearly 70% from three-point range, and against the Hoyas, Greene couldn’t be stopped.
#9. KU comes back against the Gators
This was one of the most anticipated games when the schedule was released, but it lost some of its hype when Florida stumbled to a 3-4 start to the season. However, the game itself did not disappoint in terms of excitement. Florida jumped out to a 39-24 halftime lead and things looked grim inside Allen Fieldhouse. The lead stretched to 18 before the Jayhawks began to chip away, and an eventual 17-0 charge would lift KU to a 71-65 victory. Wayne Selden lead the way with 21 points, blowing out of an early-season slump. Just one game prior, he put forth a 0-10 shooting performance against Michigan State. He got into a zone and carried KU to the second-biggest comeback in Allen Fieldhouse history.
#8. The emergence of Frank Mason
While it’s not a specific moment in the KU season, Jayhawks fans saw the rise of their next point guard as Frank Mason grew throughout the year. The sophomore nearly doubled his production in every statistical category from his freshman campaign, and he was a model of consistency all year long. He started a 21-game 10 points/2 assists streak in late-November against Rhode Island, and continued it all the way into mid-February. No Jayhawk under Bill Self had ever maintained such a streak. Going beyond contributions on the stat sheet, Mason become a leader on the court and a symbol of toughness. He played more than 100 minutes more than any other Jayhawk, and his emergence leaves KU fans optimistic about his future with the team.
#7. Perry Ellis’ one handed alley-oop against TCU
KU’s leading scorer has been consistently criticized in his career for his lack of visible emotion. After this one-handed jam and-one, Perry flashed a rare smile. While it may be a minor expression for most players, for Ellis, it was the equivalent of doing an Irish jig at center court.
#6. KU defeats Iowa State at home
The Kansas-Iowa State rivalry has been heating up with ISU’s rise to national prominence in the last few years, and the team’s recent meetings fueled the fire. After an 86-81 defeat on Gameday in Ames, this game had a traditional revenge-game beatdown feel to it the moment the game tipped. Kansas came into this matchup having lost two consecutive games against the Cyclones, but the Jayhawks made sure that the streak stopped there. Wayne Selden had an excellent game, scoring 20 points and going 5-7 from three. This game put a huge dent in Iowa State’s conference title hopes; had it won, it would have been tied with the Jayhawks atop the Big 12. Instead, the Cyclones were knocked to two games back, and they never caught up the rest of the season.
#5. Kansas goes nuts from three against Oklahoma
The Sooners came into Allen Fieldhouse on January 19th and was immediately hit with a KU blitzkrieg from deep. The Jayhawks started 8-8 from downtown to put the Sooners into a 51-32 halftime deficit. Lawrence was rocking as Kansas was burying a top-20 opponent early on. However, Oklahoma opened the second half on a shocking 37-14 run, and the Jayhawks suddenly couldn’t buy a three-pointer. KU turned to its best three-point shooter to make a play, and Brannen Greene drilled a bomb off of a missed free throw that put the Jayhawks ahead for good.
#4. Cliff’s Dwight Howard-esque dunk against OSU
I’ll admit that this game was a complete surprise to me. I thought that after Marcus Smart declared for the NBA and Markel Brown graduated, much of the animosity aimed at OSU would dissipate. Wrong. In a typical chippy matchup between the two squads, Cliff Alexander threw down one of the most impressive jams I’ve ever seen at Kansas. It was perfect. He bullied Le’Bryan Nash, who has replaced Smart as most-hated Cowboy by earning a technical foul for shoving a Kansas player. He also posterized 7-footer Anthony Allen. To cap it off, he flexed and allegedly said some not-so-PG comments to the OSU bench, and picked up a technical as a result. The Morris twins would have been proud.
#3. KU downs Texas in Austin
Since Myles Turner announced he was attending UT in the spring of 2014, the Longhorns became the prohibitive favorites to knock off the Jayhawks from atop the Big XII. The intensity had been building all year. Texas stumbled in the first stages of conference play, but they still posed a dangerous matchup situation for the Jayhawks, who didn’t start a player over 6’9″. The Jayhawks gave perhaps their best start-to-finish performance of the season. Playing hard and smart, the game was epitomized by Jamari Traylor’s hustle play. KU would put together one of their best offensive games all year, turning it over only 3 times en route to a 75-62 win.
#2. KU beating Michigan State in the Orlando Classic final
At the time, this felt like a pretty mundane win. Michigan State was clearly in a down year; it wasn’t a typical Tom Izzo team. It was struggling in all phases of the game. If you had asked me a week ago, before MSU made the Final Four, I probably would not have included this game in the top 10 moments. However, Izzo rarely disappoints in March as we found out this year, and retroactively, this was a great win.
#1. KU clinching outright against West Virginia
11 straight Big 12 titles. Think about that. Over a decade of winning the conference year after year. There are many ways to put the streak in context, but my personal favorite is “the last time KU was not the Big 12 champion, there was no YouTube.”
The game itself was a microcosm of KU’s season. Play terrible in the first half and furiously storm back to make the game competitive. In this case, Kansas was able to force OT and get the win despite trailing by eight with less than two minutes left. Frank Mason once again came up big, scoring 19 points and snagging 7 rebounds. For the second time in the season, the Jayhawks made an 18-point comeback to steal a home win.
To continue to part two, which chronicles the worst 10 moments from this season, click here.