Now that's how you put an exclamation point on winning a conference title outright. By rattling the jaw of a loud mouthed conference also ran. All throughout that 30 point prime time beat down of Texas, the Jayhawks made like Muhammad Ali taunting the Longhorns with, "The champ is here!"
Every four years the worst month on the calendar hangs on for an extra day. For Kansas fans in 2016 though, that's alright. On February 1, Kansas had a 17-4 overall and 5-3 conference record, slipping in the national rankings and sitting at third in the Big 12. Then 29 days later they sit 26-4, conference champs, #1 in the nation, and are now poised to be the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. What a February it's been for the Jayhawks and Bill Self.
Now, whose ready for March?
Two weeks from today the greatest tournament in American sports will tip-off. If you're a college basketball fan, there is nothing better than your school taking its student body, alumni and fan base on a three week run of glory through the single elimination gauntlet. It's cute that other schools' fans like to storm the court when their teams beat KU. In Lawrence, Kansas fans don't do court storming. They save their energy for Final Four Mass Street storming. For those KU students and Lawrence townies alike who've yet to experience this, apologies are due. If you were a freshman during the 2008 Final Four run, then you got to do it all over again as a senior in 2012, so don't rub it in ya greedy bastards.
Each Final Four run leaves a lasting mark on those who get to live vicariously through the court exploits of 18 to 22 year old men. There's no explaining or justifying it, it just does. Even Lawrencians who care little about sports in general get swept up in the insanity. It's a beautiful thing.
For Kansas fans, with the conference title streak safely extended, the wait through these last two weeks will be long. To feed the impatient hype, here is a Kansas Tournament history potluck of random information. Enjoy!
Did You Know?
Bill Self, nationally, and unfortunately even among some KU fans, has been deemed a tournament choker. However, when you set his tournament record at Kansas alongside that of Mike Kryzewski's (Coach K for the mercy of consonant usage) during that same 2004-2015 period it looks like this:
Coach K: 28-10
The lone loss separating the two being Coach K winning in his second National Title game appearance (2015) during that span, and Self losing in his (2012).
Top 10 Tournament Scoring Performances by a Jayhawk
#1 Clyde Lovellette - 44 points vs St. Louis - 1952 Elite Eight
#2 Danny Manning - 42 points vs Missouri State - 1987 Round of 32
#3 Danny Manning - 38 points vs Vanderbilt - 1988 Sweet Sixteen
#4 Wilt Chamberlain - 36 points vs SMU - 1957 Sweet Sixteen
#5 Wayne Hightower - 34 points vs Texas - 1960 Sweet Sixteen
Nick Collison - 33 points vs Duke - 2003 Sweet Sixteen
Clyde Lovellette - 33 points vs St. Johns - 1952 National Title Game
Clyde Lovellette - 33 points vs Santa Clara - 1952 Final Four
Sherron Collins - 32 points vs North Dakota State - 2009 Round of 64
Wilt Chamberlain - 32 points vs San Francisco - 1957 Final Four
Ryan Robertson - 31 points vs Kentucky - 1999 Round of 32
Danny Manning - 31 points vs Oklahoma - 1988 National Title Game
Clyde Lovellette - 31 points vs TCU - 1952 Sweet Sixteen
Wayne Simien - 30 points vs UAB - 2004 Sweet Sixteen
Wilt Chamberlain - 30 points vs Oklahoma City - 1957 Elite Eight
#10 Dave Robisch - 29 points vs Houston - 1971 Sweet Sixteen
10 Past KU Tournament Games Worthy of Repeat Viewing
(Game tapes in the link included in the score line)
#10 - 1999 Round of 32 - #6 Kansas 88, #3 Kentucky 92 in OT
This is an often forgotten gem of a Kansas tournament game. Probably, due to the fact the Jayhawks didn't win. But it was a well played overtime thriller between two of basketball's bluest bloods in what was the first time they'd ever met in the NCAA Tournament.
Stat Line of the Game: Ryan Robertson 31 points
#9 - 2002 Elite Eight - #1 Kansas 104, #2 Oregon 86
Roy Williams' 2002 Jayhawks were an absolute scoring machine. They averaged 91 points a game, topping 100 points 12 different times. This win marked Kansas' return to the Final Four for the first time in 11 years.
Stat Line of the Game: Nick Collison 25 pts, 15 rbs, 3 blks
#8 - 2004 Sweet Sixteen - #4 Kansas 100, #9 UAB 74
A week after Mike Anderson's UAB squad bounced the tournament's number one overall seed, Kentucky, with a tireless full court press and impressive athleticism, people weren't sure how Kansas would handle it. The Jayhawks ran through it like it was no stronger than a wet piece of paper. The tape from this game should serve as a case study on how to wreck a press.
Stat Line of the Game: Wayne Simien 30 pts, 9 rbs, 5 asts - Broke Chamberlain's KU Tournament record for free throws made with 18
#7 - 1991 Elite Eight - #3 Kansas 93, #1 Arkansas 81
The 1991 Tournament's Southeast Bracket was comically overloaded. The top three seeds in the region were as follows: Arkansas at 1; Indiana at 2; and Kansas at 3. Indiana and Arkansas finished third and fifth, respectively, in the final AP poll before the tournament. Everyone was looking for a battle between those Top 10 big boys to decide the region's bid to the Final Four. Roy Williams' Kansas squad crashed the party after routing Indiana by 20 points in the Sweet Sixteen.
Stat Line of the Game: Alonzo Jamison, 26 pts, 9 rbs
#6 - 2003 Elite Eight - #2 Kansas 78, #1 Arizona 75
This was a rematch of an early season game in Lawrence in which Kansas blew a huge lead to the Wildcats. Lute Olson gambled in trying to squat on Nick Collison. Kirk Hinrich responded by playing out of his mind.
State Line of the Game: Kirk Hinrich 28 pts
#5 - 1987 Round of 32 - #5 Kansas 67, #13 Missouri State 63
Manning scored his career high in this game. It's a good thing he went off on the Bears that day too, because every Jayhawk not wearing the number 25 on their jersey came out of the locker room sleepwalking. Missouri State came out swinging, aggressive and hot shooting. They took a 33-31 lead into the break. Of those 31 first half Kansas points, Manning threw in 21 all by himself.
Stat Line of the Game: Danny Manning 42 pts
#4 - 2012 Final Four - #2 Kansas 64, #2 Ohio State 62
In a Final Four run defined by gutsy performances, this Final Four comeback by the 'Hawks was the gutsiest of all. Try watching Thomas Robinson's screaming dunk at the 15:45 mark of the second half and not get chills.
Stat Line of the Game: Thomas Robinson 19 pts, 8 rbs
#3 - 2003 Sweet Sixteen - #2 Kansas 69, #3 Duke 65
This Sweet Sixteen matchup of heavyweights very well could have been Roy Williams last game as Kansas coach. The day after this game North Carolina fired Matt Doherty and speculation that Williams would take his place hung over the rest of Kansas' NCAA title run. But that run was almost cut short by Duke on this night. Collison was a one man wrecking crew in the paint though, bucking Devils off his shoulders left and right with 11 of his 19 boards coming on the defensive end. He was an absolutely relentless 14 for 22 from the field
Stat Line of the Game: Nick Collison 33 pts, 19 rbs
#2 - 1988 National Championship Game - #6 Kansas 83, #1 Oklahoma 79
Manning capped off a terrific Kansas career and a sensational tournament run with, arguably, the greatest game of his life. Manning and the 'Hawks surprised Billy Tubbs' Sooners by coming out and racing up and down the court with Oklahoma in a forging a 50-50 track meet tie at halftime. Then Kansas coach Larry Brown dictated the pace in the second half en route to securing KU's first national title in 36 years.
Stat Line of the Game: Danny Manning 31 pts, 18 rbs
#1 - 2008 National Championship Game - #1 Kansas 75, #1 Memphis 68
One of the greatest NCAA title games ever played. Kansas emerged victorious from the first Final Four to feature all 1-seeds. The title game consisted of two teams thick with pro talent. Like a prize fight it went back and forth before Kansas peeled itself off the mat with Mario Chalmers' miracle shot.
Stat Line of the Game: Really deserves to go to the whole team here, but to single one guy out let's go with Darrell Arthur's 20 pts, 10 rbs. Arthur tore Memphis up all night down low, too quick and athletic for the Tigers. It was his shot that started the rally from nine down, and his rim shaking dunk on an alley-oop in overtime for his 19th and 20th points that let everyone know that game was over.
Kansas Tournament Odds and Ends
In the 2009 Round of 32 game against an overmatched Dayton Flyers team, sophomore Cole Aldrich put together his best performance as a 'Hawk. Every rebound seemed to be his, and every Flyers' attempt to reach the rim seemed an exercise in futility. Aldrich amassed 10 blocks, but easily altered half a dozen more shots. Aldrich's triple double was the first, and as of yet only, "official" triple double in Kansas' NCAA Tournament history. His final stat line read 13 pts, 20 rbs, 10 blks.
Kansas has produced five NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Players. Three in title wins: Lovellette in '52; Manning in '88; and Chalmers in '08. AND two in title losses: B.H. Born in '53; and Wilt Chamberlain in '57.
Coach Rich for Going on Eight Full Decades
Kansas is the only school in NCAA Tournament history to have six different coaches take a school to the Final Four: Phog Allen '40, '52, '53; Dick Harp '57; Ted Owens '71, '74; Larry Brown '86, '88; Roy Williams '91, '93, '02, '03; and Bill Self '08, '12.
Kansas is tied with North Carolina as one of only two schools to have three different coaches win an NCAA Tournament Championship: Allen '52; Brown '88; and Self '08.
A Third of a Century's Worth of Tournament Ball
Though not made official, Kansas has already punched its ticket to the 2016 tournament, making it 27 tourneys in a row. That streak is tops in the nation for active runs, and tied with North Carolina for best of all time. By this time next spring, Kansas will surely hold the record all by themselves. Were it not for Larry Brown doing what Larry Brown does in getting programs to play at high levels before landing them on suspension (1989), Kansas would already hold the record. When the tournament tips in two weeks Kansas will be making its 32nd appearance in the last 33 tournaments.