Advertisement

Advertisement

The Day After: An early exit from the NCAA Tournament

Kansas players Brannen Greene, left, Perry Ellis, Conner Frankamp, Andrew Wiggins and Frank Mason come out for their final possession after a timeout on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas players Brannen Greene, left, Perry Ellis, Conner Frankamp, Andrew Wiggins and Frank Mason come out for their final possession after a timeout on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

It seems fitting that in the hours following KU's 60-57, season-ending loss to Stanford in the round of 32 at the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis, that snow is falling in Lawrence on a rather gray day.

After all, the end of the college basketball season — no matter when it comes — almost always brings a serious stretch of mourning to Kansas fans.

Given the inconsistent nature of this year's team and the fact that they were trying to survive and advance without their most important player — freshman center Joel Embiid — it's not all that surprising that the Jayhawks did not advance to this weekend's games in Memphis. What is surprising, though, is the way they bowed out. I'm still scratching my head and trying to figure out how the Jayhawks lost to Stanford and why they could not use their athleticism, quickness and a faster pace to run past the Cardinal into the Sweet 16.

I'm sure I'm not alone.

With that said, here's the final Day After blog of the 2013-14 season. As you surely know by now, just because basketball season has ended does not mean our coverage of the team will with it. Thanks to Gary Bedore's 24/7/365 dedication along with steady insight and stories from Tom Keegan, Benton Smith and me, you'll be able to find plenty of KU basketball news right here on KUsports.com as you wait for another season to arrive.

Now, onto one more look back at what brought an abrupt end to a wild season.

Quick takeaway:

To me, the most glaring reason the Jayhawks fell to Stanford in the round of 32 was not the Cardinal's size or their experience or even the fact that the Jayhawks missed so many shots at and around the rim. To me, it was the product of the one thing that plagued the Jayhawks — at least at times — all season long. This team was full of nice, team-first guys who wanted others to succeed and did not necessarily have the cut-throat mentality to go out and kick somebody's butt. That's not a knock. I enjoyed this team a lot. It is, however, something that can hurt you in the NCAA Tournament, when other teams are gunning for you with every ounce of their fiber and you need that one guy to step up and carry you through a rough day. Tarik Black certainly tried to be that guy in his final game, and, had he not fouled out, I believe KU would have won. But he did. And Stanford made a few more plays. I'm sure that this was one of those games that KU's players would rather have lost by double digits. Because when you lose by just three after playing and shooting so poorly, it can take a long time to get over that whole, “if only I would've done this or that here or there” mindset. Give credit to Stanford for getting the job done, but that's a team that KU beats seven or eight times out of 10 if they played an extended series and I'm sure that, as much as anything, is what makes this one sting.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – It won't erase the pain of the loss, but you can't help but feel good about the way Tarik Black went out. Black played one of his best games and nearly single-handedly willed the Jayhawks into the Sweet 16. He was strong inside, smooth at the free throw line and tough on defense. As it turned out, the one thing that haunted him all season was his undoing, as the senior transfer fouled out with five and a half minutes to play in the game. Black's time at Kansas, though short, will likely be remembered fondly. Can you imagine what this team would have been without him?

Kansas forward Tarik Black delivers on a dunk over the Stanford defense during the second half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas forward Tarik Black delivers on a dunk over the Stanford defense during the second half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

2 – KU's full-court press was fantastic and it nearly stole the Jayhawks this game. Forget for a second about why KU coach Bill Self doesn't press more or didn't start doing it earlier in the season. He did it in this game, it was the right move and it nearly saved the day. Jamari Traylor, Frank Mason and Andrew Wiggins were sensational in the press and it sure sped up the game whenever Kansas used it. Self has his reasons for not using it more often, but if I'm coaching all of that athleticism, depth and talent, I'd definitely make it more of a staple of what I do. Again, though, he pulled it out when Kansas needed it and it almost worked brilliantly. It's important to remember, too, that part of the reason Stanford struggled with it was because they probably had not really seen it and could not prepare for it.

3 – How about a tip of the cap to Conner Frankamp, who played another solid game and gave the Jayhawks a chance. Forget the three-point stroke or the steady job he does with the ball in his hands. For my money, the young man's mental toughness is one of his best attributes. He goes from averaging around 6 minutes a game to being one of the key players relied upon to save the season on the biggest stage in the world and looks like a champ doing it. That finish should be huge for his confidence and development heading into his sophomore season.

Kansas guard Conner Frankamp puts a three over Stanford guard Chasson Randle during the first half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas guard Conner Frankamp puts a three over Stanford guard Chasson Randle during the first half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to sigh:

1 – It's definitely tough to watch Andrew Wiggins go out the way he did, but I think it's wildly unfair if the young man is remembered for his flop in his final game. Wiggins, as you know, scored just four points on 1-of-6 shooting and committed four turnovers in what figures to be his final game as a Jayhawk. It certainly was not the kind of game we've seen from him of late and nothing close to what was expected of him when he signed with KU last May. Just the other night he was pretty quiet overall and still led all scorers with 19 points. Not only were his shots not falling, Wiggins wasn't really looking to take them. He had trouble off the bounce, could not find room to finish over Stanford's front line and looked a little frantic when he had the ball. Tough night and a tough-luck ending for a guy who had a fantastic season and was one of the more pleasant young men to be around.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts a shot between Stanford defenders Stefan Nastic, left, and Dwight Powell during the first half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts a shot between Stanford defenders Stefan Nastic, left, and Dwight Powell during the first half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

2 – With all that size out there, you can't help but wonder what Joel Embiid could have done offensively had he been able to play in this one. While Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor struggled to go up and over Stanford's trees and shot just 4-of-18 combined because of it, it's worth imagining how many of those shots would have gone to Embiid had he been able to play. At least half would be my guess. And instead of the 6-foot-8 Ellis or Traylor trying to go into and over guys, the 7-foot Embiid may have been able to go above and drop shots down behind them. We'll never know, of course, because the back injury that kept him out of action from March 2 on made Embiid a non-factor down the stretch.

Kansas center Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden watch the closing seconds of the Jayhawks 60-57 loss to Stanford, Sunday March 23, 2014, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas center Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden watch the closing seconds of the Jayhawks 60-57 loss to Stanford, Sunday March 23, 2014, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Mike Yoder

3 – The round of 32 loss to Stanford marked the fourth time in 11 seasons under Self that KU has lost during the first weekend of the tournament. While he's reached at least the Elite Eight in five of those seven other seasons (and the Sweet 16 in the two others), most fans still have a hard time digesting the early exits. There are very few people out there who would not admit that the KU fan based has been spoiled by an incredible amount of consistency and success and that's probably what makes losses like this so tough for them to take. It's definitely worth noting, though, that this isn't just some kind of KU thing here. All of the other major programs have had their ups and downs, such is the nature of the NCAA Tournament, which may very well be the toughest event to win in all of sports. Heading into this year's tournament, only KU and Florida had been in three straight Sweet 16's. And Self has 26 NCAA Tournament wins in his 11 seasons at Kansas, just eight fewer than Roy Williams had in four more seasons.

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches from the floor  during the second half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches from the floor during the second half on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

One thought for the road:

KU's season-ending loss to 10th-seeded Stanford:

• Ended Kansas’ season at 25-10, giving KU its first double-digit loss season since going 24-10 in 1999-00.

• Made Kansas 11-9 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (5-6 in true road games, 5-3 on neutral floors).

• Changed the Kansas-Stanford series to 8-3 in favor of Kansas.

• Made the Jayhawks 96-42 all-time in NCAA Tournament games and 8-2 in NCAA Tournament games played in St. Louis.

• Marked KU’s first loss to a No. 10 seed (4-1) and moved its record to 19-6 as a No. 2 seed.

• Made head coach Bill Self’s record to 325-69 while at Kansas and 532-174 overall. Self is now 36-15 all-time in the NCAA Tournament (26-10 at Kansas).

• Moved Kansas to 2,126-822 all-time. With Kansas and North Carolina now out of the NCAA Tournament, only Kentucky remains as a top three program that can still add to its win total this season. Kentucky leads with 2,137 all-time wins. KU is second. North Carolina is still third with 2,114 while Duke (2,027) and Syracuse (1,902) round out the top five.

Next up:

The countdown to Late Night 2014 is on... (according to a KU spokesperson, no official date has been set yet)

Scores of fans line up down Naismith Drive before the fieldhouse doors opened for Late Night in the Phog, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013.

Scores of fans line up down Naismith Drive before the fieldhouse doors opened for Late Night in the Phog, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. by Nick Krug

;

Comments

Phil Leister 6 months ago

No mention of PG play? We just need a solid PG. Naadir in midseason form would have won the game.

1

Dillon Hayes 6 months ago

Frankamp can lead us next year. Bank on it.

0

Dale Stringer 6 months ago

Why don't we try going after Dante Exum, or have we? A 6'6" 5-Star (Rivals) PG from Australia. We could certainly use the height there.

0

Titus Canby 6 months ago

I'm not sure I agree with you Matt. I can't blame this on guys not trying to take the game over, or Wiggins having bad game, or Embiid being out. I blame the loss on our inability to play team ball with intensity - on both offense and defense. On offense, we should have been able to get Wiggins open looks. On defense, we should have been able to keep the ball out of the paint. Take a look at the '08 team. They played incredible team ball on both ends of the court.

1

Linda Johnson 6 months ago

Let's not forget the turnovers that the Jayhawks are known for.

0

Suzi Marshall 6 months ago

Exum will be in the NBA draft.

I love Wiggins as much as anyone and have some angst when thinking of our last # 1 recruit's last game vs. VCU. Very similar and clearly showed Selby was not ready for the NBA. I think the Stanford game clearly showed Wiggins is not ready for the NBA. I don't expect similar results in the League because Wiggins is so incredibly gifted. He could use another year at Kansas to work on his shot, handle, finishes at the rim, and defensive anticipation, i.e. steals.

1

Chris Bohling 6 months ago

I disagree, because what really flummoxed Wiggins this season was the zone. Against man-to-man defenses he would usually just blow by his defender and score. His worst games were all against zone defenses. The zone isn't allowed in the NBA specifically to give players like Wiggins an offensive advantage and produce more highlight-reel plays, so I think he'll do fine.

0

John Myers 6 months ago

I think one of the things that I liked - but that also annoyed me - about this team, was the fight that they would show towards the end of games. We'd come out dull, flat, sloppy, whatever, play crappy, get down and then with 10 minutes left, we'd amp it up and play some really solid ball. Why we couldn't do that from the opening tip, I don't know. Almost thought maybe we should have asked to be able to spot our opponents 10 points at the beginning of the game so we'd have some fire.

3

Roger Tobias 6 months ago

Longing for the good old days of 2008:

"All I want out of KU Football for the foreseeable future is: underpromise and overdeliver. If only the team were as good as the athletic marketing department."

I posted this quote last December 5. Sadly, I think the same can be said for basketball. We all bought the hype of the Big 12 "toughest conference." If there were 3 or 4 teams in the Sweet-16, I might still agree. But there aren't.. And two teams we beat twice, each, are there.

Wiggins needs another year to get stronger. I have wondered if he just has small hands with all those T/O's on spins and drives. He can't make them any bigger, but he could get more forearm strength. I fear he is being set up for a huge fall in the NBA, where any average defender will be better than what he faced this year.

And about the lack of fight, coaches will say they can coach technique but they can't coach effort. I am beginning to wonder if it matters as much to the stars when they know their future is secure.

1

Jeremy Wilhelm 6 months ago

Seems like you're trying to have it both ways on the conference strength thing. KU beating them twice actually makes KU look strong, not the other way around IMO.

0

John Randall 5 months, 3 weeks ago

The "toughest conference" reference was not about KU strength,but about the number of teams able to beat anyone in the country on a given night. If you read for understanding, instead of for a chance to undercut someone else's comments, you wouldn't expose your own ignorance so badly.

0

Timothy Grillot 6 months ago

You might remember that the 08 team flopped big time I think in 06. What is sad about this team is one or several will not be back that could be back. The early exit in 06 and almost making the final 4 in 07 really strengthened the 08 team. I am frustrated just like everyone else with Wiggins' last performance. Probably what makes it worse is he is leaving. If Wiggins is the only one leaving and with the loss of Tarik we will be fine. It was nice that Tarik finally got a chance to show his stuff. The team will be really, really good once againl If Embiid goes we will still be good but not unstoppable. Glad we have HCBS as our coach! Looking forward to next year! Rock chalk!

0

Dirk Medema 6 months ago

And '08 would never have happened if Brandon hadn't injured his knee early in the summer so that he was able to pull out of the draft, have surgery, and rehab back into shape.

It is nice that we have 2 elite recruits filling in behind Andrew & Tarik, but sure would be nice to watch Wiggs get stronger. It will also be nice to add Hunter into the mix, and have the others all a year older, stronger, and wiser.

0

Otavio Silva 6 months ago

I want this, I want that... Jayhawks fans are indeed spoiled.

One of the greatest - if not the one, college basketball programs in the country, does not need temper tantrums from fans to provide input to current and/or future decisions on how to manage the team.

We, the fans, will be fine. KU will re-load and make to another big dance, while picking conference and maybe tournament titles on the way. Keep calm, Rock Chalk Jayhawks. Go KU!!

2

Armen Kurdian 6 months ago

I think we are frustrated by level of play and effort, and how inconsistent the team can be. We recognize that this team was woefully inexperienced, but loaded with talent. This is a team that beat ISU twice, and beat Duke, lost some close ones to some powerhouses. And yes, we'll get upset once or twice by WVU or another team. But it drives us crazy to see great talent not mature the way it should. Look at what 4 years did for Jeff Withey, or three years for T-Rob. Xavier Henry, Selby, McLemore, Wiggins, one and done does not make you an NBA superstar like Kevin Durant. Upsets happen. They just shouldnt' happen so often.

1

John Randall 5 months, 3 weeks ago

We really do have to make allowance for the fact that a good many of the spoiled fans are the same age and experience as this year's team.

0

Bryan Mohr 6 months ago

I realize it wasn't Self missing all those 5 foot shots on Sunday, and turning the ball over, but I thought it was appropriate to see Self defeated by a zone defense to end this season.

Self was mysteriously unwilling to use a zone defense this season, and that resulted in a lot of foul trouble. Stanford made zero (0) 3's. Why not switch to a zone with Black in foul trouble and Stanford getting to the free-throw line? They were getting 2-pointers and free throws because this year's team is not good at man-to-man defense AND the officiating change emphasizing no touching on dribble penetration.

I think Self is a great recruiter and a great coach, but I think even the great ones should be willing to adjust style and philosophy when the bread-and-butter isn't working with those players.

0

Jerry Martin 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Bryan,

Exactly right! i am blown away how poor KU's attack against the zone was this year, and especially in this game. They saw zone early and got beat. Only in the last 7-8 minutes did they start attacking through the high post and did it with Traylor. Absolutely should have put Wiggins in there. I know 10 high school coaches that would have done so, and that have better offensive attacks vs. zones. Frustrates the heck out of me. As far as not using a zone on defense, on rare occasion he will play zone and even a junk defense like triangle - 2. They are good changes even if for only a few minutes. Coaches like Self and Coach K are notorious for being man only teams, win or lose. Especially Coach K. I understand that each coach wants to play a certain way and recruits for that. But this is about winning. Again, many good high school coaches would make such adjustments, even for a short time, to change the dynamic of the possession. It may work longer than you expect. Maybe your opponent has a horrific shooting night and you keep' em out of the lane. I just don't get. I love coach Self, he's a winner and has gotten us a title, but he was out coached in the Stanford game. Even at the end, last 2-4 minutes, Stanford went man to man Wiggins didn't get touches. He doesn't have to shoot it but the offense should have went through him. Two times late in the game they ran isolated specials and Wiggins both times was standing straight legged watching outside the 3pt. line. No moving, screening, anything. Which it looked like he wasn't to be involved in play. Wow! You have an All American and don't at least go through him or use as a decoy. Just stand there and watch. They should have a half dozen specials just for him.

0

Greg Lux 5 months, 3 weeks ago

We lost because of a number of reasons ( Embiid aside ). We were not a good 3 point shooting team so every defense packed it in and just waited the rebound our misses. We didn't have a good STARTING point guard that could get players involved offensively against a zone the backdoor is almost always open a good point guard drives into the lane and forces help, this opens up the backdoor for and easy toss for a dunk. We often played weak man to man defense that was not so bad with Embiid to guard the rim but without him we were to weak to keep the other team from scoring. Lastly we were so young and we looked a little lost at times. Older teams who have played together have a sense of what their fellow players are going to do in different situations. We played so many different point guards we never had a sense of what to do with each. Next year with Frankamp as our primary point guard we will be much better and nothing against Tharpe but with an opposing team says after the game that their scouting report was to trap Tharpe because he would probably turn the ball over that's a big problem. All great teams have great players ... But the one thing they Must have is a solid point guard. Thank GOD next year we will have such a player in Conner.

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.