The latest NCAA Tournament loss for Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks, a 78-65 embarrassment Sunday to in-state competitor Wichita State, only helps feed the narrative that the team with the second-most wins in college basketball history is also a group that chokes in March.
The Kansas Jayhawks choke in March Madness, I for one am shocked pic.twitter.com/0pmMg83czy— MyScores.ca (@MyScoresCa) March 23, 2015
But is it true?
The Jayhawks, while winning the 2008 National Championship, have now lost to five mid-majors in Self's 12 tournament appearances as the favorite in each one.
Those losses are to: Bucknell (2005, 14 seed); Bradley (2006, 13); Northern Iowa (2010, 9); VCU (2011, 11); Wichita State (2015, 7).
Some will argue that the talent gap is closing, and that losing to a mid-major is not what it once was. However, only 25 percent of this year's Sweet 16 is of the mid-major variety. To find the last non-Power Six national champion, you have to go all the way back to the 1990 UNLV Runnin' Rebels.*
So, while fans of teams jealous of Kansas' success always point to those losses, what about Self's seven Sweet 16s, five Elite Eights, two final fours, two national title appearances, and one championship?
Somehow those are conveniently forgotten.
But instead of just thinking about those instances, how about comparing Self's dozen years in Lawrence to the yearly success of the other six schools to win at least one championship during that time?
I came up with a super-scientific system** to see how well Self and Kansas stack up to the sport's best.
In the chart below you will see the seven schools to win at least one title since Self's first year as Jayhawk head coach -- 2003-04. Listed are their championships, the number of times they lost in each round, number of tournament appearances, mid-major losses, and a point-ranking system.
The rankings consist of one point per round advanced in the tournament, as well as a bonus point for each appearance. In doing so, qualifying for the tournament and losing in the first round is worth more than heading to the NIT. It's simple, but easily measures how successful each coach/school is each year in terms of advancing in the NCAA Tournament -- exactly how Self and KU are measured by most critics, fair or not.
I seriously considered subtracting a point for mid-major losses, but a loss is a loss, no matter which team. Mid-major squads also are not created equal -- except in the eyes of biased fans. That being said, they are worth noting because teams like Kansas are not supposed to lose to teams like Wichita State.
Take a look at how Self compares.
Note, some teams are still playing in the tournament. They are italicized, and two points were added to their total for advancing to the Sweet 16.
|Team||Championships||Title Game Losses||Final Four Losses||Elite 8 Losses||Sweet 16 Losses||Round of 32 Losses||First Round Losses||Mid-Major Losses||Appearances||Total Points|
A few takeaways:
- Kansas finds itself in a solid second place.
- The only way the Jayhawks are passed by any team is if one of the four still playing win it all this year -- leaving KU and Self in a third-place tie at worst by season's end.
- Each school has lost to a mid-major at least once.
- Kentucky and UCONN are the only schools with multiple had coaches during this time. The Huskies have had two, and the Wildcats are on their third.
- While Kansas has the most mid-major losses (helping the narrative), it also is tied for the most appearances, and is second for the most Sweet 16 or further tournament runs with seven (Duke and Coach K are on their eighth this year).
- Kansas also has the most first- or second-round exits during the time with five.
- The Jayhawks have knocked Kentucky and North Carolina (X3) out of the tournament during this time, but have been knocked out by Kentucky as well.
- Three schools (Kentucky, UCONN, and Florida) have missed the tournament completely in multiple years.