Well hell, it was a great season and keeping that in perspective is tough after losing that one but it's the reality. Early on in the year Esteban threw up a fanpost asking all of us what a successful season would be. The overwhelming response would have been in the range of 12-4 in conference with a 6 seedish and a sweet 16. Tell me what part of that we didn't succeed in achieving?
The 2008-2009 Kansas Jayhawks void of 80+% of the scoring and rebounding from a a season ago exceeded what most around here expected. Sure that level was raised a bit after we won the Big 12 but there is nothing about this year that these Hawks shouldn't be proud of.
Michigan State is a more experienced squad and also a conference champ and we had them on the ropes. In the end though the lack of a third go to guy killed us. A first half 13 point lead couldn't be maintained after adjustments that limited Aldrich and Collins but we fought to the end.
They'll be back, I feel it now and we'll be back as strong as ever. I'll say this the Bill Self coached team of 2008-2009 was a different breed than the same group that won it all last year. Remember that group lost twice in the first round and limped to a loss in the Elite Eight to UCLA before finally putting the pieces together. This group has it in them and will only get better. Will they win a title? Maybe, maybe not, but they will continue this programs success and make being a Jayhawk fan as enjoyable as it's ever been. Give it time, keep it in perspective and enjoy the journey.
Full Stat and game breakdown after the jump...
Keys to the game the Jayhawks were actually fairly solid. As usual though the two areas that have plagued us all season were likely factors in the loss. Turnovers and not getting to the line as much as our opponent. The fouls were called even but where the fouls were called was somewhat the difference. Michigan State was getting foul calls that sent them to the line where we weren't and that led to a lot of easy point for the Spartans.
This might be the last Player Impact chart I throw up here where you see two guys play such an important role in a Jayhawk game. Next year the level of play from these young guys will be elevated and likely the group coming in should also have an impact. Rest assured if Sherron and Cole come back they'll shoulder the load, but it won't be nearly as critical as we've seen it be this season.
From a team stat standpoint we won this game. We out rebounded them, shot better than they did, but we didn't take care of the ball, and we couldn't score when we absolutely needed to. There were a lot of reasons we let this one get away but again that's the price of inexperience I suppose. Just wished our two leaders were a little more experienced and could have pulled this one out.
From an individual standpoint we still struggled to find that third option, that third guy that would make it all work. Nothing new for this group but an issue I think will be resolved next year in a big way. Everything we thought would carry us this game didn't happen. Sure Tyshawn was better and the Morris twins were improved, but not to the extend we needed or were hoping for. We knew we needed another level of play from them and it just wasn't there. From the 5 minute mark on it was clear to anyone that could see, we were going as far as Sherron or Cole could take us. Hard to win a game like that against an experienced defensive group like the Spartans.
One last comment I'll leave you with to ponder until next year. Did anyone else think that Coach Self and the rest of the Jayhawks looked much more disappointed in the outcome than you've seen a Kansas team even in the two first round losses of a few years back? I honestly think Coach Self, the assistants and even the players that weren't here expect more, expect better and they will demand better going forward. This is Kansas, this IS college basketball and everyone wearing that jersey or associated with that team tonight knows it...I even think that everyone associated with the other bench knew it too. We're where programs strive to be and all you can do is keep fighting for that ultimate prize.