Despite falling just short of a Final Four appearance, the 2016 Kansas Jayhawks still had a very successful season. They went a very impressive 33-5, including a 16-game winning streak and an undefeated record at home en-route to the NCAA tournament’s overall No. 1 seed.
Here are the top ten moments from the Jayhawks’ 2015-16 campaign:
#10. 90-84 Win over Kentucky
With the result of the last Kansas/Kentucky matchup still fresh in the minds of KU fans, the Jayhawks had to show up ready to play. Kansas was finally able to beat Kentucky after losing the previous three games and showed just how good it could be. This was the start of the 16-game winning streak that lasted until the end of March. Wayne Selden’s legendary performance. The loudest Allen Fieldhouse has been since the 2012 Missouri game. Overtime. It was incredible.
#9. The Emergence of Landen Lucas
Landen Lucas went from being the bane of many Kansas’ fans existence to being a major key for the overall #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Lucas became a major impact player for these Jayhawks and silenced all doubters, showing why he is undoubtedly the starter for next season. His 64% field-goal percentage was the highest for any Jayhawk player ever under Bill Self, minimum 110 shots. He also had at least seven rebounds in 11 of KU’s last 12 contests after reaching that mark in just 12 of his first 78 career games. The West Virginia game on February 9 was when he first put forth a big performance, and there was no stopping him after that.
#8. Finally Getting out of the Round of 32 against UConn
The Jayhawks managed to avoid another first weekend exit with a great performance against a solid Connecticut team that had been on a roll. Winning this game would be no easy task for the Jayhawks, but they managed to avoid an upset and eventually make a run to the Elite Eight. A dominant first half keyed KU’s victory, and Wayne Selden threw down an emphatic dunk to provide the dagger later on. It was the first time since 2013 that the Jayhawks advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
#7. Winning the Gold Medal in the World University Games
This may not be technically part of the “season”, but the World University Games made a huge impact on this Kansas team. This was when we were introduced to new Wayne Selden Jr., and the confidence the Jayhawks showed in this tournament carried over and had a big impact on season. A lot of people claim that this is where this young team “learned to win” by winning eight games in eight days, capped by a double-overtime thriller against Germany to win gold.
#6. Devonte Graham’s Coming Out Party vs. OU
On February 13, Kansas marched into Norman, Oklahoma to face a top-three Sooners team. A lot of fans thought that the Jayhawks needed to pull the upset to continue their streak of Big 12 titles, as a loss would have put them behind both Oklahoma and West Virginia with just seven games left. With KU down by six at the 8:00 mark in the second half, the Jayhawks needed a spark, and Devonte’ Graham provided much more than that.
Graham scored a career-high 27 points, including six threes, to help Kansas beat the Sooners, but that wasn’t even the best part of his game. He played outstanding defense against eventual Buddy Hield, the eventual Naismith Player of the Year. Graham shot lights out from three, hitting one clutch shot after another. He also held Hield to just five field-goals, the lowest for him personally since November. This is the performance where Kansas fans swooned after realizing they have two more years of this guy.
#5. Sweet Sixteen victory over Maryland
The Jayhawks handled a tough Maryland team with multiple future NBA players to advance to their first Elite Eight game since 2012. After an ugly first half, KU played “fantastic” after halftime according to Bill Self, which is high praise. Kansas showed how well balanced its offense was, as four players scored in double digits, including Perry Ellis’ season-high 27 points, on the way to a solid 79-63 win.
#4. Wayne Selden’s Poster Dunk vs. Baylor
— Rock Chalk Blog (@RockChalkBlog) March 12, 2016
Wayne Selden threw down a dunk in KU’s Big 12 tournament semifinal win over Baylor that will be on the Kansas highlight reel for years to come. Uncle Anthony became a sensation. Brent Musburger shouted, “Save the women and children!”
#3. 86-56 Destruction of Texas
A very talented Texas team was ranked #23 and appeared set to play close the Jayhawks at home. Many people thought this would be a challenging game for Kansas, but the Jayhawks quickly ended any thought of that. Starting out on a 15-0 run, Kansas demolished the Longhorns to clinch the outright Big 12 Title. KU handed Texas its worst home loss in 18 years and established itself as the team to beat heading into March.
#2. Triple Overtime Game vs. Oklahoma
This was the best game in college basketball this year, and it may be one of the all-time greats. This was a matchup of the #1 and #2 ranked teams. People wondered if it could live up to the hype, but boy it did, and then some. Fans were left hanging on every shot, and Buddy Hield had one of the best performances in the history of Allen Fieldhouse, scoring 46 points. Still, after three overtimes, it wasn’t enough, as the Jayhawks squeaked out a 109-106 victory. I might have to go watch this game again right now.
#1. Twelfth Straight Big 12 Title
After winning the Big 12 for a 12th straight season, the Jayhawks are just one more championship away from tying UCLA’s record of 13 straight from the 1960’s and 70’s. It goes without saying that this is a huge deal to both Kansas fans and players, but the historical significance of “the streak” is immense. This was the best the Big 12 has ever been, yet the Jayhawks won it outright by two games. Winning the league propelled Bill Self to AP Coach of the Year honors. Of all the years to be proud of a Big 12 title, this is the best one.
It’s been said many times, but the level of regular season success the Jayhawks have been able to sustain is incredible. Chances are, once this streak ends, we won’t see another streak like it for a very, very long time.