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The Day After: Elite Eight marks the end of the road

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Just like that, another wildly successful Kansas basketball season ended in disappointment for the players and fans in Louisville and around the world on Saturday night.

Villanova 64, Kansas 59.

In a game that featured two veteran teams that could score in such a wide variety of ways, the low-scoring nature of this one showed just how much of a battle it was and how things can get wacky when a trip to the Final Four is on the line.

From the sound of things, it was Villanova’s goal to make it that way and, boy, did the Wildcats succeed.

“We wanted to make it a street fight, make it an ugly game,” said Nova guard Ryan Arcidiacono. "I think we did that.”

There’s no question. And it cost a Kansas team that was on one heck of a roll and appeared to be a real contender to win a national title a great shot at bringing some more meaningful hardware back to Lawrence.

Kansas guards Frank Mason III (0) and Devonte' Graham (4) complain about a call while Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) celebrates in the first half of their NCAA Elite Eight matchup, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC YUM! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kansas guards Frank Mason III (0) and Devonte' Graham (4) complain about a call while Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) celebrates in the first half of their NCAA Elite Eight matchup, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC YUM! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. by Mike Yoder

Quick takeaway

The Twitter world certainly did not seem to want to hear it, but I think reasonable people can agree that Kansas lost to a damn good team on Saturday night at KFC Yum! Center. Were there bad calls? Sure. Did the Jayhawks miss shots they normally might have — perhaps even would have — made? You bet. But it’s not as if things went perfectly for Villanova either. And the Wildcats deserve credit for finding a way to make a couple more plays in a game that wound up being exactly what Nova coach Jay Wright predicted it would be a day earlier — a heavyweight battle. The Kansas team we saw in this one was not the same free and loose team that won 17 straight heading into it. And they were still almost good enough to beat a very talented, tough and experienced team. And, oh by the way, Wright is one heck of a coach. Possibly the most underrated in college basketball. So as much as I’m sure this loss stings for KU fans like all the other NCAA Tournament losses before it, that should not be the way this team and this season are remembered. 33-5 and one step shy of another Final Four. That’s a very good year any way you slice it.

Three reasons to smile

1 – The Devonte’ Graham bounce-back effort from a sub-par Sweet 16 game was impressive and crucial to keeping Kansas in the game. The sophomore guard who struggled through illness two days earlier hit 5 of 9 three-pointers and led the Jayhawks with 17 points. So many of his triples were absolutely critical and kept Kansas in the game. It may not mean a lot today, but just the thought of this guy being around — and continuing to improve at a rapid rate — for two more seasons should bring smiles to KU fans’ somber faces.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pulls up for a three in front of Villanova guard Jalen Brunson (1) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pulls up for a three in front of Villanova guard Jalen Brunson (1) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

2 – I know people will want to talk about how many open three-pointers he missed, but I think Wayne Selden deserves a ton of credit for finding a way to get 16 points on a night he didn’t have it. Selden never stopped attacking, kept shooting and gave all he had to the effort on a night when it would have been very easy to pout about things not going well for him personally. In a related area, Selden also handled the postgame media barrage admirably. He obviously was not thrilled, but he did not project that. In fact, none of the players did. And that says a lot about their growth and maturity.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) is fouled on the way to the bucket by Villanova forward Daniel Ochefu (23) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. At left is Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33).

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) is fouled on the way to the bucket by Villanova forward Daniel Ochefu (23) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. At left is Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33). by Nick Krug

3 – Reeling after a rough first half, KU came out of the locker room with a purpose and completely erased a seven-point deficit — and actually built a couple of five-point leads — in the first nine minutes of the second half. The way Nova was playing, it looked as if it would take more of a slow and steady effort to chip into that lead. But Kansas turned up its defense — Nova shot just 40 percent from the floor for the game — and found a way to get some easy points on offense to momentarily claim control of the game. It didn’t last, of course, but that response to the halftime adjustments was impressive.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Villanova’s ability to grab 13 offensive rebounds absolutely killed Kansas. In a game as low-scoring and tightly contested as this one was, giving up any free possessions can be devastating. And it was for Kansas. On at least a couple of occasions late, the Wildcats were able to pad their lead from two to four because of offensive rebounds, the biggest coming on a wild rebound and put-back of a missed three-pointer by Mikal Bridges that put Nova up 56-52 with 4:28 to play.

Villanova guard Josh Hart pulls down a rebound between Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) and guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Villanova guard Josh Hart pulls down a rebound between Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) and guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

2 – Villanova deserves a ton of the credit for it, but there’s no two ways about it, Perry Ellis’ final game as a Jayhawk was a dud. The senior forward, who finished eighth all-time on KU’s scoring list, scored just four points and made just one basket, the unexpected and tough-to-swallow end to one of the best scoring stretches in recent KU memory. Ellis entered the game having scored 20 or more points in seven of his last eight games, but, on this night, he struggled to get the four points he got and KU did not get enough from those around him to save the season.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets tied up with Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) and forward Darryl Reynolds (45) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets tied up with Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) and forward Darryl Reynolds (45) during the first half, Saturday, March 26, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. by Nick Krug

3 – One shot, one miss, one assist, three fouls, two turnovers and a steal. That, in all its glory, is all Kansas got from a three-man bench that played just 18 minutes combined and looked incapable of impacting the game on either end of the floor. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk missed his only shot of the night, a three from the corner that he aimed instead of shot and Jamari Traylor and Carlton Bragg could not handle Nova’s physical play. In a sense, Kansas getting nothing from its bench in the final game of the season was a fitting end because this team rode its starting five so heavily for most of the year.

One for the road

KU’s Elite Eight loss to Villanova in Louisville...

• Dropped Kansas coach Bill Self to 2-6 all-time in Elite Eight games, his losses at Kansas coming to Georgia Tech, UCLA, VCU and now Villanova.

• Snapped a 17-game winning streak which was the nation's longest active winning streak. That winning streak was the longest of the season and the longest since 2010-11, when Kansas opened the season 18-0.

• Made Kansas 14-7 all-time in Elite Eight games.

• Evened the series against Villanova is tied 3-3.

• Bumped Kansas to 100-44 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

Next up

Now it’s time to take inventory, see who stays, who leaves, which top-tier recruits will pick Kansas and what the Jayhawks will do to retool a team that returns a lot of experience and talent but also will need to fill a few key spots to make another run next season. Stay tuned...

— See what people were saying about KU's Elite Eight loss during KUsports.com's live coverage


More news and notes from KU’s Elite Eight loss to Villanova


By the Numbers: Villanova 64, Kansas 59

By the Numbers: Villanova 64, Kansas 59

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 3 months ago

Geez, I am sorry. I was really hoping for another match-up between KU and OU. Third time is a charm, you know. But well, I guess we will wait for next year.

David Robinett 6 years, 3 months ago

Limited many minutes for our bench during conference play resulted in a conference Championship but it made coach Self not confident in playing them in the big game so our vaunted depth was not really there.

Joe Ross 6 years, 3 months ago

I cant disagree. We didnt develop our bench guys. We had talent there that could have been developed. When you face really good teams, you can use them in various game situations. But you lack faith in them when you face the BEST teams in the country, and you have forfeited an advantage you would otherwise have had. I said before and still believe that you have to consider the end game. Of course the counter-argument would be that Lucas would not have developed without the minutes he got. But if it were me (viewing this without the benefit of hindsight), I would have chosen either Lucas or Mickelson early on, used Jamari Traylor for a third big man up until December, but after unlimited practice over the winter break, Id have split minutes evenly for the 3rd position between Bragg and Diallo, playing four guys for those two spots (using Bragg and Diallo to sub for Lucas and Ellis).

Still, we are not coaches. It's easier to criticize from the couch than to coach from the bench. And as far as these guys saying Coach needs to be fired, they're just nuts. There's one, maybe two coaches who might do a better job for Kansas than Self, and neither of them are coming here. Instead of playing shell game, you use the coach you have and hopefully make adjustments to strategy, etc. Bill Self should stay here as long as he wants. Period. I'd just like to bottle the same urgency Kansas plays with on its own floor and use some of it for the Tournament. After getting hit in the mouth in two consecutive games the first half (Maryland, Villanova), we played better the second. That's mindset, ladies and gentlemen, and its coachable. Yes I know what the natural tendency is; namely, to play to be "loose" and so on. I disagree with it. You have to establish a mindset that says two things at the same time: "We can beat this team, but we have to execute or we will be packing to go home." That latter part creates the sense of urgency that you saw in the second halves of our last two games, when we played much better.

Ashwin Rao 6 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, but I don't agree... Coach tried to develop the bench, but we were being taken to the cleaners (the bad games in the middle). Coach then decided to set his team and ride that team through the rest of the season. The bench was not ready for prime-time. He even tried to give them some time late in the season when we had a HUGE lead (don't recall which game it was, and we almost lost the game (until the starters were put back). Hopefully Diallo & Bragg (who seems to be much more better developed) do better together next year.

Joe Ross 6 years, 2 months ago

Called growing pains. And everyone knows we would have gotten worse with the freshmen before we got better. You cant compare what they did at the end of the season--huge lead or no--without first acknowledging they werent given the minutes to progress. Respectful difference of opinion.

Len Shaffer 6 years, 3 months ago

There's some truth to that, but don't forget that Brannen was out. His shooting could have made a HUGE difference in this game.

Dale Koch 6 years, 2 months ago

I disagree. Brannen Greene is way overrated. Sure, you can shoot 50 percent from the field if you only take maybe one or two shots from the field a game and make just one. How many shots does he turn down when he's wide open? He has no ability to get himself open and when he is he'll miss. I'm sick of people overrating this guy. My guess is it wasn't back spasm's at all and he was in the dog house again and that's why he didn't play.

Marc Frey 6 years, 3 months ago

Reason to lament: Handing the ball off close to mid-court to Villanova. Not once, but twice! Not learning from your mistakes...another reason.

Ashwin Rao 6 years, 3 months ago

I don't believe that Devonte is a good PG. He is an awesome shooting guard. His ball handling was weaker and the teams tried to take advantage of it. Mason is, on the other hand, a very good ball handler.

Joe Joseph 6 years, 3 months ago

Some people are incredible.

Kansas plays its heart out on defense and shuts down the hottest team in the tournament.

No credit to Self, however, for coaching a team with limited height and no real shot blocker into one of the top defenses in the nation.

Plenty of blame to Self, however, for 1-13 trey performance from everyone not named Devonte Graham. And illegal screens. And missed bunnies.

People are acting like KU got hosed by UNI all over again.

In reality, this was a pick-em game that came down to a matter of one more made or missed basket being the difference.

William Weissbeck 6 years, 3 months ago

VU didn't shoot any better, and they were better shooters. We weren't getting the ball inside anyway, so to some extent, the 3 was what was available. VU (like Duke) exploited rule changes which made the foul line the place to be this year. 18/19 was a deciding factor. Who stays is all that matters at this point. Opening day is just around the corner.

Titus Canby 6 years, 3 months ago

Good point William. We outrebounded VU, shot a better percentage from the floor, but lost it at the foul line and turnovers.

Titus Canby 6 years, 3 months ago

Reason to smile: 33-5. 12th straight conference title. Fun team to watch that played like a team and not like a collection of individuals.

Reason to sigh: Won't get to see Perry Ellis in Jayhawk uniform again.

One other reason to smile: Jamari Traylor graduates from college. What a story.

Joseph Leon 6 years, 2 months ago

Another reason to smile: we're not Virginia fans!

John Kelley 6 years, 2 months ago

Do you think Oklahoma right now cares anything about the Conference title they did not win. Not when you are in the final four with a chance at a National title.

Dale Rogers 6 years, 3 months ago

There are well over 300 Division I men's basketball teams in the NCAA and our group finished in the top 8. I am very proud of these guys who gave so much to get this far. Sure, it's short of where they, and we, would have liked them to end the season but it didn't happen. And that does not affect my pride in these guys one iota. Thanks to our guys for a terrific ride this season. I hope we see most of them back next year.

Michael Leiker 6 years, 3 months ago

Can't agree more than with the last two posters. Hawks missed shots yesterday, and had some calls go against them. Once you get to the round of 8 it's always a crap shoot. Fun year with what seemed to be a bunch of really good kids who represented KU really well.

William Weissbeck 6 years, 3 months ago

Just keep in mind, we could have been Virginia. We lost because we could have played a little better. UVA lost because they collapsed.

Armen Kurdian 6 years, 2 months ago

One think not on the stat sheet was when Ellis took the charge with 4 fouls. That was a really brave and pro play. It was a bad time for him to not have a good game. He did great things for the school. He's going to have a solid ten to fifteen year NBA career.

Robert Brock 6 years, 2 months ago

Story of the game: KU likes to run offense through the bigs; Villanova simply would not allow that to happen. They defended KU perfectly.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 6 years, 2 months ago

What a great run. Very sad to see it end prior to the final four. Congrats to Villanova for executing a great strategy.

Next year's team has the capacity to be even better.

Timothy Todd 6 years, 2 months ago

My whine is that Villanova didn't belong in the #1 seeded bracket. KU had to go through UConn, Maryland then Villanova. Traditional programs that made a tough road. NCAA still shows KU no favors.

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