Apr 2, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas Jayhawks players and mascot huddle before the finals of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball Final Four against the Kentucky Wildcats at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE
With the summer in full swing, I thought looking back at one of the most memorable seasons in KU history would be a good way to pass the time. Today a look at the top 10 games of last year. Feel free to leave yours in the comments and also remember to be mailing the mailbag at RCTmailbag at gmail dot com.
This year's Kansas team played in more big games - and more close ones - than any I can remember, and they actually lost quite a few of them, which made this list even tougher than normal to compile. Do I rank losses higher than wins because the game was better? Or should the top few games all be wins? Let's find out:
10. vs. North Dakota, December 31
We'll start off with a game that meant more to me than probably any other college basketball fan out there as my alma mater and current institute of higher learning squared off in an epic grudge match. Or maybe it was a 26 point blowout victory for KU. Either way. Thomas Robinson had a 30-20 game in the win, and it was fun to drop some knowledge about the Sioux and hopefully help show Kansas fans how great my home state is.
9. at Baylor, February 8
After losing at Iowa State and at Missouri, Kansas was in real danger of losing to Baylor and perhaps dropping out of the conference title race for good. It certainly appeared things would go in that direction in the first half, as Baylor leapt out to a quick 19-9 lead. But, as we would see so often later in the year, this team just needed to not get too far in the hole, and a comeback was often all but certain. It was so on this night as well, as Kansas battled back and even took the lead in the first half. But it was the first few minutes of the second half that showed me that this team had a team to be something special. They took it from 33-30 at the half to 56-36 in the first 9 minutes of the half. Bill Self obviously challenged his team to make a big statement on the road, and they responded in spades. Jeff Withey had probably his best offensive game of the year, going 8-10 from the floor and 9-11 from the line for 25 points. He also, no shock, had 3 blocks.
8. vs. Ohio State, December 10
Though Jared Sullinger didn't play, who could have known that this would be a preview of a Final Four game? Because Ohio State was ranked 2nd, there was an excitement in the building usually reserved for conference play, and the crowd helped out the home side, helping to fluster the Buckeyes into 9 first half turnovers and a field goal percentage of just 33%. The Jayhawks never trailed in the game, thanks in large part to Travis Releford's defense on William Buford. Elijah Johnson, shockingly, went 5-7 from three.
7. vs. Georgetown (in Maui), November 21
Georgetown originally looked like they were going to be an also ran, and the game appeared that it was going to be easy game 1 of 2 on Kansas's way to the Maui title game. But the Hoyas made a game of it, and while Kansas led from 12:32 left until the end of the game, they never were able to put the game away. Of course, little did we know how big of a win that would be, as Georgetown spent much of the year sniffing the top 10 of the rankings before finding their way to a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. I originally thought that the Georgetown win might even be what would help KU get a #1 seed.
6. vs. Duke (in Maui), November 23
On the night before Thanksgiving, the Jayhawks and Blue Devils met in a storied matchup of two teams that weren't that good yet. But, as can happen with those games, it combined to provide some exciting basketball. Kansas led by four at the half, but the offense deserted them in the second half as they scored just 26 points and ended up losing by 7. But the final score wasn't indicative of how close it was, as the two teams battled back and forth throughout the second half. The backbreaker came on a desperation heave from Tyler Thornton as the shot clock was running out with just 20 seconds left in the game. Tyshawn (or, rather, his 11 turnovers) took much of the blame for the loss, which in retrospect is funny to think about. But the game did provide plenty of good signs: Jeff Withey had a double double, Thomas Robinson had 15 rebounds, and Kansas held Duke to just 35.4% from two, giving fans a glimpse of the defense that would propel the team all the way to the title game.