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Familiar Four: 2018-19 Jayhawks faced 3 of the 4 teams in this year's Final Four

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Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) fights for a rebound with Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman (23) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Indianapolis.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) fights for a rebound with Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman (23) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Indianapolis.

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.”

Comments

Brad Avery 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Matt, thanks for the "cheery" report. KU also played 5 of the teams in the "elite eight," but really, for me at least, so what? KU has a tough schedule every year, and this season the schedule, injuries and the NCAA were tougher than the team. The fact the schedule was a "monster" and KU lost to "better" teams in 2018 - 2019 is no less painful than losing to Bucknell in 2005, maybe it's even more.

Bryce Landon 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Losing to Bucknell was still more painful than losing to any of the teams we lost to this year.

Jeff Kallmeyer 5 months, 2 weeks ago

A little too unrealistically optimistic Matt! At the end of the season, we wouldn't be able to stay within 20 points of any of the elite eight teams, much less the final four! Truly a disappointing and forgettable season!

Matt Tait 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Perhaps. Optimism wasn't the intent, though. I just found it incredible that KU had played 3 of those teams and beaten 2 of them. This team got the fate it deserved and wasn't going to advance much past the 2nd or 3rd round even in a best-case scenario, but there's no doubt that all of those games against all of that talent, while hurting this season, will help those freshmen in the years to come.

Bryce Landon 5 months, 2 weeks ago

One of my biggest complaints about Bill Self is that he only has three Final Fours and one national title when he should have more, and that the other bluebloods are leaving us in the dust in terms of Final Four appearances and national championships.

This year, however, that's not totally true. The only blueblood program in the Final Four is MSU, as Sparty is in the Final Four for the 10th time in program history - that's five fewer Final Four appearances than KU. If MSU was to win it all, it would be the program's third title, bringing them even with KU. However, Tom Izzo does have eight Final Four appearances, five more than Bill Self, so in that regard Izzo is a superior coach to Self.

The other three programs - TTU, UVA, and AU - have hitherto not won a national title, and UVA is making only its third Final Four appearance in program history and its first in 35 years.

So in that regard, setting aside Tom Izzo, the bluebloods are NOT leaving KU in the dust this year.

As far as who wins the title, I hope it's not Texas Tech or Auburn.

I don't want TTU to win it because (A) I don't want another Big 12 school to be able to claim that they won a title more recently than KU, and (B) I don't respect Chris Beard for the way he handled going to TTU - agreeing to take the UNLV job only to bolt for TTU after less than a month. That shows he's not a man you can trust to be true to his word.

And I don't want AU to win it because (A) of what they did to KU this year, (B) because Bruce Pearl is a lump of primordial slime, and (C) As insufferable as Sir Charles was during the KU-AU game, he will be exponentially more so if AU wins it all.

Here's hoping for MSU-UVA in the title game.

Armen Kurdian 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm definitely pulling for TT, I want the Big XII to win a title, the last time a Big 8 or Big XII team won a title was Oklahoma A&M back in 1946. I'm tired of the other power conferences winning, and I want it back in our yard. That said, I'll take anyone other than MSU, be good to give one of them a first title.

AU beat us fair & square, got nothing against them.

Dane Pratt 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Nothing against Auburn except they are a football school. Just don't care for football schools also winning in basketball. Can't really explain it anymore than that.

Bryce Landon 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm not saying AU didn't beat us fair and square; I'm saying their coach is scummy - as an assistant coach at Iowa, he got Illinois in trouble with the NCAA; and of course, we know the kinds of shady things he did while at Tennessee.

Also, Oklahoma A&M (which, of course, is now Oklahoma State) was in the Missouri Valley Conference when they won their titles back in 1945-1946. The conference KU was in was known as the Big 6 (Colorado would join in 1947, and OSU in 1958).

Dale Rogers 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Armen, am I misreading your comment or have you forgotten KU's NCAA titles in 1952, 1988, and 2008?

Eliott Reeder 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Dale, I think he meant the last time a team in our conference 'other than KU' won a title. And Bryce, you might want to consider curbing any criticism of schools/coaches being 'shady' considering all the things KU coaches and players have been involved in the last few years. Um... we're basically among the primary faces of the Adidas scandal, you know?

Bryce Landon 5 months, 2 weeks ago

As it stands, the only coach who has question marks about his conduct is Kurtis Townsend, the allegations against whom are unproven. And the only player with a scarlet letter on him is Silvio De Sousa - and that has more to do with his greedy guardian than with Silvio himself.

By contrast, it is established fact that Bruce Pearl did the things he did at Iowa and Tennessee. He is a proven scumbag. And while Chris Beard's departure from UNLV to Texas Tech wasn't against the rules, it was unethical.

Keith Gellar 5 months, 2 weeks ago

By these standards, Pablo Escobar would have been a saint as well. Lol...only Kurtis...lol..Bill Self had no clue what was going on. Poor Bill.

Jeff Kallmeyer 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm all about a national title going to the Big 12 as that's our conference. I also think Chris Beard has done a helluva job and is the deserving coach of the year! Had a far better year than Self.

Bryce Landon 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Why? A national title to Texas Tech doesn't profit Kansas in any way. The idiot fans of SEC schools who chant "S-E-C! S-E-C!" whenever one of their teams wins a title think that somehow they profit from it. News flash - Alabama winning the national title in football wins the title only for them, not for the entire SEC. A Crimson Tide title means nothing to Florida, or South Carolina, or Texas A&M, or Missouri. And Texas Tech winning the national title wins it only for themselves, not for the rest of the Big 12. Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas, and the Big 12 schools won't get to share in a TTU championship.

And yes, Beard did a better job at TTU this year than Self did at Kansas this year; but that doesn't make Beard a better man than Self. Beard screwed over UNLV in leaving them for Texas Tech. Self has always been forthright about career moves he has made, whether from ORU to Tulsa, from Tulsa to Illinois, or from Illinois to Kansas.

Bill Walberg 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I will always cheer for the Big 12 when we are out.

Also, if TT wins the natty, the conference, including KU, gets a share of the profits. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/sports/ncaa-money/

Titus Canby 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I always cheer for the Big 12 school... now that we've rid our conference of the scum.

Robert Brock 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Beard was smart to turn down UNLV, a truly pathetic basketball program, and stay in Lubbock where his children reside.

Brett McCabe 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Robert: I hammered him at the time for walking out on UNLV and for taking a dead-end job at TTU. The guy is now the Bill Snyder of Texas.

Jay Scott 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Everyone expects that you'll always be wrong. No need to admit it.

Layne Pierce 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I would submit Matt that it was not the record, or even the fact that the string was broken, as to what it said about the team and where we are .

I guess you can say that with Frank and Devonte there was a certain toughness about the team, a way to get it done. And last year we simply did not see that craftsmanship. Our offensive timing, (when people make cuts and receive the ball) was never very good. Our defensive intensity always seemed to be 3 of the 5 people,, but never everybody at the same time.

Too often we simply gave the ball to Dedrick and expected him to cram it down the other team's throat. Go back and look at the ball movement on other KU teams. Rebounding was always spotty. And in most of our losses you will see that we would go 4 or 5 minutes without one player doing one thing well enough to win. These things make the people who really watch the games intently, and who know a little bit more about the game, than Phil (CBS) does, nervous and concerned. So yes thanks for painting a brighter picture, but bottom line there is definitely work to be done. RCJH

Mike Morris 5 months, 2 weeks ago

IMHO, if the team that was preseason #1 played the entire season, we were definitely a threat to win it all. Unfortunately, as many have said before, that's not the team we ended the season with. We've had a remarkable run, but nothing lasts forever. It took a perfect storm of injuries, suspensions and absences to turn a powerhouse into a solid-but-not-spectacular team.

I live in Chicago and believe me, there are plenty of schools around here that would kill to have finished 26-10 and made the second round this year. We'll be back next year. I'm confident HCBS will right the ship and get us back on track. RCJH!

Pius Waldman 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I realize this is off the subject for this thread. We need to FORCE the NCAA to allow a review for De Sousa. He deserves one as another year without playing doesn't make sense.

Layne Pierce 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Right on Pius. Even if DeSouza had to leave KU, if he could play right away, I would be all for it. He doesn't deserve one of the most severe penalties the NCAA has ever given a player.

It seems to me they are using this situation to punish KU, without giving them a hearing.
That is wrong, and what is doubly wrong is punishing DeSouza for being alive, and on the KU campus.

RCJH

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