The regular season has come and gone for the No. 1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks. The team is preparing for the Sweet 16 in Kansas City, but we’re not ready to turn the page on a thrilling regular season just yet. As expected with a 28-3 record, it provided us with some great moments, and hopefully over the next month we’ll be subjected to even better moments. In the meantime though, Rock Chalk Blog is here to rank the 10 best moments from the 2016-17 regular season.
10. Frank Mason gets off on the right foot.
The Jayhawks may have lost their first game of the year when they fell to the Indiana Hoosiers in overtime 103-99, but guard Frank Mason started his senior season off on the right foot. Mason went for what was then a career high 30 points, nine assists and seven rebounds on 8-20 shooting. He set the tone for what would be a spectacular year.
9. Josh Jackson has his coming out party vs. Duke
After thoroughly disappointing in his career debut against Indiana, Jackson made sure not to replicate that in his second game ever against No. 1 Duke. Though he only played 18 minutes because of foul trouble, Jackson poured in 15 points on 7-9 shooting and showed us just how good he would be. Also, KU scored a huge win to avoid an 0-2 start.
8. Josh Jackson saves KU in Lubbock
Frank Mason was still ailing from the flu and Devonte’ Graham was ruled rather ineffective, so the responsibility fell on the freshman Jackson to carry the load on the road at Texas Tech. Jackson went for a career high 31 points on 12-15 from the floor and 11 rebounds. He also drew a foul that set him up to sink the game-winning free throws. Jackson also threw down a few viscous dunks in this one as well.
7. Jayhawks silence Manhattan
Ah yes, the dreaded trip to the “Octagon of Doom,” or as KU fans like to put it, “Allen Fieldhouse West”. KU has dominated Kansas State in Manhattan over the years, but the Wildcats have won just enough lately (four times in the last 34 seasons) to give their fans some hope of keeping every matchup competitive. Traditional chants of “F*** KU!” rained down from the student section all game, and the hostility was fierce after the way KU beat K-State in Lawrence five weeks prior. But it wasn’t enough in the end. Frank Mason and Josh Jackson carried the way, as they had scored 21 and 18 points respectively. This game also provided us with an everlasting image of Mason shushing the K-State faithful.
6. Kansas downs Baylor in Waco
After being preseason picked fifth in the Big 12, the Baylor Bears came out of nowhere in the non-conference slate and rose to the No. 1 team in the land. They dropped a few before their showdown with KU in Waco on February 18th, but they were still ranked high enough to make this a top-five matchup. The Bears and Jayhawks played a classic as they went back and forth all game long. Baylor looked to finally have the Jayhawks beat, taking a 65-59 lead with 3:30 left, but KU closed the game on an 8-0 run. This was capitalized by the game-winning free throws by forward Landen Lucas. That came after Lucas hauled in an offensive rebound to keep KU’s possession alive. Frank Mason finished the game with 23 points on 7-12 shooting and eight assists. He sparked a second half comeback by the Jayhawks, who solidified a 13th straight Big 12 title with this victory.
5. Senior Night at Allen Fieldhouse
Senior night at Kansas is always special, but this year’s seemed just a little bit better than most. Frank Mason, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self all played their last game in Allen Fieldhouse on February 27th when Kansas took on the Oklahoma Sooners. KU did not play well for much of the game; it trailed by as many as 12 with 9:54 remaining in the second half. That’s when a vintage Allen Fieldhouse comeback occurred. Mason came alive though as he helped KU end the game on a 31-9 run, leading the Jayhawks to a 73-63 win. He poured in a game-high 23 points, with 15 of them coming in the second half. Mason finished his Allen Fieldhouse career with a record of 59-2, Lucas and Self finished 80-3.
4. Kansas walks away from Rupp Arena a winner
KU was in the middle of a brutal run with games at West Virginia, at Kentucky, vs. Baylor, vs. Iowa State and at Kansas State – all in a row. The Jayhawks were coming off an ugly loss in Morgantown, and not too many (other than KU fans) were giving the Jayhawks much of a chance to walk into Rupp Arena and steal a victory from the fourth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
Kansas trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, but as they did all season long, they roared back. The Jayhawks and ‘Cats would play a back and forth game all through the second half, but KU went on a 10-0 late that was sparked by a Frank Mason three-pointer. Kentucky would get as close as five points with a minute left, but freshman Josh Jackson made the play of the game when get grabbed an offensive board and put it back for the easy bucket. It was the dagger in the heart for the Wildcats. Jackson finished with 20 points on 9-17 shooting and 10 rebounds. Mason had 21 on 9-18. It was just Kentucky’s sixth loss at Rupp in the John Calipari era.
3. Kansas wins 13th straight Big 12 title
Ya know, when you win 13 consecutive conference titles, you start taking it for granted. As crazy as it sounds, it may even go a little overlooked. I say that because, admittedly, I almost forgot to include this moment on the list.
It was a pretty nip-and-tuck battle for first place in the Big 12 this season between Kansas, West Virginia and Baylor, but in mid-February the Jayhawks elevated their play while their two main competitors faltered. KU wrapped up its 13th consecutive title on February 22nd when it took down the TCU Horned Frogs in Allen Fieldhouse. Frank Mason hit four three-pointers, all while pouring in 20 points. Sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr. had a breakout performance as he had 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in just 22 minutes of action.
The Jayhawks would end up winning the league by four games. The Big 12 is rated the No. 1 league on KenPom, and No. 2 in RPI. For the Jayhawks to win a league like this by that many games is truly remarkable.
2. Mason sinks the Blue Devils in Madison Square Garden
Every year, Kansas competes in the Champions Classic with Duke, Kentucky and Michigan. This year, the event was held in the “World’s Most Famous Arena” – Madison Square Garden. They say the greats save their best performances for MSG. Just look at Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James – all have had some of their most legendary performances there. Frank Mason wanted to add his name to that list when the Jayhawks took on No. 1 Duke back in mid-November.
The Jayhawks were coming off a frustrating loss to Indiana just three days before in Hawaii. Not many were giving KU much a chance due to the long travel. Things started out sluggish, as Kansas scored just 29 points in the first half. But the Jayhawks turned it on in the second half, as they started the half on a 19-6 run. KU would see its lead build to as many as 14, but as most good Duke teams do, they had a response of their own. The Blue Devils would eventually tie it in the last minute of the game, which set Mason up for his heroics. Enjoy…
1. Kansas erases a 14-point deficit in the final 2:45 to topple the Mountaineers
I don’t feel any words will do that comeback any justice. Enjoy the video.