No. 1 Kansas’ (28-4, 16-2 Big 12) Big 12 tournament appearance came to an abrupt end on Thursday afternoon as they fell to the eight seeded TCU Horned Frogs (19-14, 6-12 Big 12), 85-82, in the quarterfinals. As usual whenever KU loses, the sky begins to fall according to the fan base. In the words of a certain all-pro quarterback…”R-E-L-A-X, relax.”
*take out Packers and replace it with Jayhawk*
As Bill Self said in his postgame press conference this is not an “earth ender.” Is it disappointing? Absolutely, but there are still a few things to be positive about.
First, since KU clinched the Big 12 about two weeks ago, fans have been clamoring for Self to get these players some rest. Well, they’ll now have more than enough rest and should be raring to go next week when the real things starts. The important part will be making sure no rust builds up. Not playing in potentially two more games prevents Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, and Landen Lucas from playing another 70+ minutes before the NCAA tournament begins next week.
Secondly (and most importantly), KU still has one of, if not the best player in the nation in Frank Mason. If I know one thing, having good guards plays in March, and Kansas has a great one in Mason. He has brought it in every single game this season. KU fans should still feel some sort of confidence, as long as Mason is in the lineup.
One negative implication from losing to TCU is that it dampers Mason’s chances of climbing higher on the all-time Kansas scoring list. Currently with 1,796 career points, ninth in KU history, Mason missed out on getting one (if not two) more game to add to his scoring total. It’s minimal, and Mason would certainly prefer to win a national championship ring as opposed to becoming KU’s No. 5 scorer instead of No. 7, but it’s two less games of a legendary career that’s coming to a close. That should disappoint all of us as fans.
Lastly, this is no excuse at all, but Kansas was without its second best player and arguably one of the top ten players in the country in Josh Jackson. This year’s Kansas’ team simply is not deep enough to withstand the loss of one of its best players. Jackson would have made a difference in Thursday’s game, no doubt about it. Kansas will get its super freshman back for the NCAA tournament, though there may be some rust, as Jackson’s March Madness debut will come nearly two full weeks after his most recent game.
The most disappointing part about this loss isn’t the implications that come from it. It’s that it ruined a weekend that was set to be planned around Kansas basketball. Admit it, that’s what hurts.
On the other side, give credit to TCU. The Horned Frogs played perhaps their best game of the season. They shot the ball incredibly well. Part of that was KU’s defense being poor, but they still have to make shots. A desperate TCU team that was fighting for its NCAA lives simply out-played the t0p-seeded Jayhawks, and sometimes, you have to tip your cap.
Kansas went 10-1 in Big 12 games decided by seven points or fewer. A big chunk of that is obviously because the Jayhawks have become so good at closing games, but in order to post that kind of mark, some good luck has to be involved as well. It is impossible to win 100% of the close games you play in, so one could say that the Jayhawks were due to drop one of these. And considering how important this team treats regular season conference titles, fans should be happy that when it finally did drop one, that it wasn’t one that impacted the regular season race.
I also feel that at times, we take too much stock in conference tournament performances. If this loss would have happened a week ago, we would not be freaking out over this. This wasn’t a case where Kansas came out flat and got out-played. They actually played a decent game. There was that stretch where KU went cold, but other than that, the Jayhawks didn’t look that bad. If KU would have came out flat and went through the motions, that would be cause for concern, but they didn’t. They still showed fight and heart. They overcame a 12-point deficit to take the lead briefly. It turned into a coin flip game, and it was just surprising to see the Jayhawks come out on the losing end after triumphing in so many similar contests this year.
Kansas will very likely still be the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, meaning if it gets past the first and second weekend, it will be playing in Kansas City for the right to go to the Final Four. There really aren’t any other teams that could sneak up and take that No. 1 seed from the Jayhawks. The only team that had a shot was Baylor, and the Bears matched the Jayhawks with a first-round Big 12 tournament loss. Kansas also has one heckuva of a resume, 28-4 overall and a victor of the Big 12 by four full games, and I don’t see it losing that No. 1 seed.
I could be way off on this, but if Kansas had won the Big 12 tournament, it would have had one huge target on its back going into the tourney. Now, the Jayhawks will be able to lie in the weeds as much as they can. Let the experts doubt KU for a week. Let the Jayhawks create an edge for themselves. Every time this has been done this year, KU has responded in a big way.
The Jayhawks need to use this week to recharge, both mentally and physically. This early exit in the Big 12 tournament should serve as a wake up call.
Now for a few #AskRCB questions…
@RockChalkBlog Also, who is your least favorite college basketball program, and who is your least favorite sports team?
— Ryan Landreth (@ryan_landreth) March 10, 2017
Least favorite college program: Either Iowa State, West Virginia or Louisville.
Least favorite sports team: EASY…the Chicago Cubs.
@RockChalkBlog what do I do with my life the next 2 days?
— This Starts Now (@AmatoSixeral) March 10, 2017
Watch the ACC tournament. Watch the Big Ten tournament. Maybe check out a few innings of a spring training game? But yes, KU losing sucks because it makes this weekend less interesting.
@RockChalkBlog would you rather have KU lose to Kentucky in the national championship or have the chiefs go 0-16?
— Chris Tupin (@Raiderdash12) March 10, 2017
Well since I’m not a Chiefs fan, I’ll say the Chiefs go 0-16. Go draft Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold with the No. 1 pick next year. You’re welcome.