Fans of either team have numerous moments to remember from the game that just concluded in St. Louis. Fans of the Stanford Cardinal also have a matchup with the Dayton Flyers to look forward to, but Kansas Jayhawks fans are left staring at the abyss of season’s end and dwelling on the what-ifs. For those who were confident enough to have KU penciled in alongside the Syracuse Orangemen in the upcoming round, let this be a reminder of the tournament’s unpredictability.
The end began for the Jayhawks with an offensively disastrous first half. An inability to score against the bigger Cardinal lineup left KU with a seven-point deficit and less than nine minutes to play until halftime. The Jayhawks’ scarcity of three-point scoring continued throughout the game, and only Conner Frankamp hit more than a single three-point shot in the last two games combined.
Tarik Black served as the team’s only consistent source of offense, but his fouling out with 5:25 left in the game forced the struggling Andrew Wiggins into the four spot and finalized KU’s fate. Wiggins, who was basically begged by coach Bill Self to step up in moments exactly like this, finished with four points.
Add to that a spree of five team fouls in less than three minutes which gave Black and two other starters three fouls with more than 18 minutes left to play, and the Cardinal had all the ingredients needed for a bracket-busting upset. Stanford earned this win with a stifling zone defense that stumped Kansas throughout the game. After out-sizing their first opponent in the tournament, suddenly KU seemed undersized for perhaps the first and only time this year.
Black deserves credit for his efforts in today’s game, but Frankamp almost broke Stanford hearts abroad single-handedly. His heroics, which included a fast-break three-point shot to take the lead before half and consecutive clutch perimeter shots at the very end to give KU a chance to tie with their final possession, will be remembered fondly by fans in Lawrence for decades.
Despite the excitement and memories provided throughout the season, this team will ultimately be remembered for under-performing. In the limited time of playing together that the current era of college basketball allows, this roster never reached the point where they became more than the sum of their incredibly talented parts. Their remarkable potential will make the sting from this one linger in Lawrence for a long, long time.