Chicago Blame Bradley. Or Bucknell.
Fact is, Niagara basketball coach Joe Mihalich knew his team needed the "perfect storm" of good fortune to beat Kansas University on Friday. And judging by the scoreboard - a 107-67 Niagara loss in the NCAA Tournament first-round game in the United Center - it instead was a crystal-clear night with no cloud in sight.
For the Jayhawks.
"It didn't help us that they got bumped the last couple of years. They were pretty determined not to let that happen again," Mihalich said of KU's first-round exits the last two seasons. "For a 16 to beat a 1, it's going to be a team that's seeded No. 1 who doesn't think it's ever going to happen. Kansas knew it could happen."
Even when Niagara hung around in the first 10 minutes, having tied the game at 14 and trailing only 22-18 with 8:46 left in the first half, Mihalich knew KU's awesome explosion was about to surface.
He could feel the tremors.
"We had no room for error," Mihalich said. "And every little mistake we made, they capitalized on them."
The one strength Niagara may have been able to bank on was nowhere to be found, making Friday's game a mess for the Purple Eagles. Using an undersized, quick lineup that has four or five guys capable of hitting three-pointers, the Purple Eagles (23-12) came out firing against Kansas. Clif Brown nailed two three-pointers in the first five minutes, following each trey with a big scream.
But after his second trey tied the game at 10, the Purple Eagles were done from downtown. They clanked their final 15 three-point attempts - a miserable display of what was considered a strength.
"We were just off," said Tyrone Lewis, who missed all three of his tries. "Kansas plays great defense, and we couldn't hit the three-ball. It was just one of those nights."
Problem was, Niagara couldn't afford one of those nights. The Purple Eagles seemed stunned that such a team exists in college basketball like Kansas (31-4). The Purple Eagles played just one big-conference school all season (St. John's) and just one regular-season game against NCAA Tournament teams all year - a victory over Holy Cross in December.
"It's a different level. It just is," Mihalich said of Kansas. "I'm not going to say I told you so, but I watched a lot of film. I mean : do they have a weakness? I didn't see it."
"There's a good chance," Mihalich added, "that we just lost to the national champions."