KU’s 95-79 Final Four loss is one of the strangest games in recent memory. So how should fans feel about the loss and this year’s team?
Going into the game against fellow one-seed Villanova, it seemed that most were cautiously optimistic. Many felt that Kansas matched up well with Villanova.
KU’s one major advantage was Udoka Azubuike. It seemed like Azubuike would be able to dominate down low because the Wildcats wouldn’t be able to match his size and strength in the paint. That script played out perfectly on KU’s first possession, as Azubuike posted up and scored after a nimble post move. For those first few seconds, many were probably feeling good about moving on to the national title game.
However, from that point on, Villanova took the game over and showed college basketball fans that three is most certainly more than two. The biggest strength against Villanova turned into the Jayhawks’ most glaring flaw, and Azubuike struggled to guard the opposing team’s mobile big men as they routinely stepped beyond the three-point line for open shots.
The Kansas defense was quickly overwhelmed and the Wildcats went on to make 18 threes, breaking the Final Four record for most three-pointers made in a game. The result was a resounding win for Villanova and a mixed reaction from fans.
Some pointed the finger at Bill Self, saying that he didn’t make the proper in-game adjustments to keep the game in reach. A popular idea was to have Azubuike play less and Silvio De Sousa log more minutes. However, that takes away KU’s only advantage on offense.
Others wanted the Jayhawks to shoot more threes. That strategy definitely would’ve helped, but it also results in the Jayhawks just playing Villanova’s game. On a night where the Wildcats were unconscious from three, it would’ve been futile to try to match them shot-for-shot.
Pushing aside the naysayers, most fans seemed content with the outcome. While they weren’t happy with how the game went, it seemed like KU simply ran into a Villanova team that couldn’t be stopped. KU was outgunned and overmatched, a rarity for the Jayhawks.
That feeling was a result of this unlikely team making a deep tournament run, as it was a popular pick for a first-weekend upset. KU seemed to be a relatively weak one-seed in a college basketball year filled with parity, so when the Jayhawks ended up in the Final Four, everything else was gravy.
I was at the game in San Antonio (not to brag) and can say that this is the exact feeling I had. Frustration set in early on as Villanova made threes. That frustration quickly changed to astonishment, as it seemed like the Wildcats just couldn’t miss and that KU just didn’t have a chance.
Leaving the game, I felt sad that the season was over, but I also felt proud that such an unlikely team had made it to the Final Four. Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk secured their claim as Kansas legends along the way, and Malik Newman put together one of the best postseason runs in program history.
This team was frustrating at many times throughout the year, but in the end they became another great KU squad, no matter how their last game of the season ended.