Being a Jayhawk basketball fan usually brings joy and excitement, but more often than not, the season ends in disappointment. Let’s take a look at a few of the most heartbreaking tournament losses in the past decade.
5. Bucknell (2005)
Here’s a matchup that I don’t hear talked about enough. Maybe it’s because it was such a long time ago and people are over it, or maybe it just didn’t hit people as hard as the other games. Still, I feel that the Bucknell game was definitely one of the low points in KU basketball in the past decade.
Before heading into this match up, I seriously had no idea who Bucknell was. Granted, I was like 10 but the point stands. After all, this was a school who had, up until this game, never won a single NCAA tournament game ever. This game was supposed to be a gimme, as #3 vs #14 matchups usually are. KU had been great in the first half of the season but struggled towards the end. Limping into the tournament, KU still should have won the game and advanced.
The game itself came down to a Wayne Simien shot at the buzzer that didn’t go in. You can’t blame the loss on Simien at all though, as he and Michael Lee were the only ones who really contributed offensively. Simien had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Michael Lee had 18 points, and no other Jayhawk had more than 6 points. It wasn’t a team effort for KU and it ended up costing them.
This was the first time since 1978 that KU had lost in the first round. Following a great year in 2003, KU had hoped to finally get over the hump, but instead went backwards.
4. Michigan (2013)
Oh, Trey Burke. Personally, this was the toughest loss for me. That 2012-13 team just felt special, as if an NCAA title was meant to be. We all know that wasn’t the case. The last go around for guys like Travis Releford, Kevin Young, Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson didn’t go as planned. Should this loss be blamed on the brilliant game by Trey Burke, or the ineptitude of Elijah Johnson down the stretch? I know it’s a Kansas cliché to blame everything on our point guards, but Elijah Johnson: c’mon, man.
No seriously, this game was on Trey Burke. There’s really not much you can do there but tip your cap if you’re KU. But the moment Burke’s miraculous shot went in was like a 100 punches straight to the gut. What made this loss worse was, in my opinion, the fact that this team was such a missed opportunity. With the entire starting five leaving, there were many questions on how the team would look the next season. This was before the Wiggins announcement so we had some time to panic and overreact before feeling comfortable with the team. Once again: Trey Burke.
3. Northern Iowa (2010)
This was a bad game off the bat. For a team who was so dominant in the regular season (33-3, 15-1), KU failed to bring any of that talent and intensity into this game against Northern Iowa. KU trailed throughout most of the game, and it wasn’t until late in the 2nd half when KU finally made a surge and had a near comeback, coming within a point of UNI with under a minute to go. It was a case of too little, too late at that point though and KU lost as Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh came through with one of that school’s biggest moments, as he hit a 3 pointer with just 35 seconds left, as that proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Jayhawks. This was another huge wasted opportunity for the Jayhawks, as they had a really talented roster and great season but came up with nothing to show for it.
2. Syracuse (2003)
I guess you can expect to lose a game versus one of the best freshman of his time. Carmelo Anthony was a stud in college and he was the only thing standing in the way of KU’s quest for a championship. Well, him and Hakim Warrick. Warrick came through with the most clutch block of his life when Michael Lee attempted to tie the game with a three pointer. Warrick saved the day and swatted the ball out of bounds with just .7 seconds left. Kirk Hinrich threw an off balance 3 at the buzzer, but it failed and Syracuse won the National Championship.
You can pin this game on Carmelo Anthony being tremendous, you can laud Warrick’s clutch block, but you also have to mention KU’s free throw shooting. The Jayhawks went 12-30 from the free throw line and it cost them the game. You do have to give credit to that Syracuse team, though. It was a good game and it marked the beginning of a great ride between Bill Self and the Jayhawks.
1. VCU (2011)
The bad thing about being one of the nation’s few powerhouses is the fact that you can’t really be considered an underdog. There are no real upsets to be had when you’re KU. There are exciting games, and you beat teams who are better than you, but you’re never really a Cinderella story.
One of the biggest Cinderella stories in the past decade is VCU. VCU is public college in Richmond, where winning basketball games wasn’t really a given. That is until Shaka Smart came into town. VCU stunned the basketball world by reaching the Final Four for the first time in school history. They did that by knocking off the #1 seeded Kansas, in a win that surprised even the VCU players. They weren’t even supposed to be in the tournament that year, but got in and advanced from the First Four to the Final Four.
Jamie Skeen dominated the game vs KU and hit 12 3 pointers, which proved to be too much for KU to handle. KU only hit two 3 pointers as a team combined. They couldn’t handle the ball either and committed 14 turnovers. To top it all off, they couldn’t hit their free throws either, going just 15-28 from the line.
I’d say that the VCU was more embarrassing than heartbreaking, but it tops the list here.