Familiar Four: 2018-19 Jayhawks faced 3 of the 4 teams in this year's Final Four
There’s little doubt that Kansas basketball fans do not find the Final Four to be nearly as enjoyable when the Jayhawks aren’t in it.
But there may be a small silver lining to this year’s foursome.
Finalized on Sunday, with thrilling victories by 2 seed Michigan State over Duke and 5 seed Auburn over Kentucky, this year’s Final Four in Minneapolis will feature No. 1 seed Virginia, No. 2 seed Michigan State, No. 3 seed Texas Tech and No. 5 Auburn.
So where’s the silver lining? It comes from the fact that the Jayhawks played three of those four teams this season and brought home a 2-2 record against them.
That may not hang a banner or bring Lawrence to life next weekend, but it certainly does validate what we heard KU coach Bill Self say all season long in about a dozen different ways — that KU’s schedule was a monster.
Auburn, of course, was not actually on KU’s schedule but instead became the team standing between the Jayhawks and advancing in the Big Dance, but it does not do anything to diminish the cast of characters the Jayhawks squared off against during their 26-10 2018-19 season.
Looking back, 23 of KU’s 36 games came against teams ranked in KenPom.com’s Top 40. Twelve of those came against teams in the KenPom Top 21 and the average ranking of KU’s 10 losses came in at No. 29 in the nation.
It may not have been the best or most memorable season for Kansas fans or the players and coaches in the program. But it was not because the Jayhawks lost to a bunch of teams they should not have lost to. Sure, there were one or two of those mixed in during the season, but isn’t that true for just about every team in the country?
Four freshmen started the final 13 games of the season and two players that finished among KU’s top three scorers — in terms of points per game — missed a combined 40 games. That’s more than a full season.
That, along with KU’s tough schedule — the hardest in the nation according to KenPom — turned a season that began with incredibly high hopes into one full of disappointment and frustration.
And, yeah, watching four other teams — two of which you beat at one point this season — compete to cut down the nets during the final weekend of the college basketball season probably isn’t a lot of fun.
But knowing that three of the four were on your schedule is not the worst consolation prize either. With a few better breaks, a bounce here or there and a little luck in the injury department, a case could be made that the Jayhawks could be right there with them next weekend.
That may not change the way the 2018-19 season is remembered, but maybe it takes some of the sting out of it.
“It was a fun team to be around, but it was not one in which we ever had momentum,” KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World over the weekend, while reflecting back on the 2018-19 season. “We’d play better, but then there’d be something off the court, or on the court with personnel, that would happen and it just never allowed us to get momentum like teams in the past.”