With the decade all but wrapped up, it’s time to look back on what was quite a successful 10 years for Kansas basketball. They were one of only two programs to win 300 games (and the only power conference program to do so), went to five Elite 8s, two Final Fours, a national title game, and finished inside the KenPom top 10 in eight of the ten years.
It was a decade of maddening consistency. And with all of that success, it was easy to pick 10 games to put on the top 10 games of the decade list. It was much harder, however to limit myself to 10 so I came up with some honorable mentions as well.
Kansas 71, West Virginia 66 - January 15, 2018 (Morgantown, WV)
Kansas 94, Duke 83 - November 12, 2013 (Chicago, IL)
Kansas 84, West Virginia 80 (OT) - February 13, 2017 (Lawrence)
Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 - February 25, 2013 (Ames, IA)
Kansas 97, Iowa State 89 (OT) - January 9, 2013 (Lawrence)
Kansas 67, Baylor 65 - February 18, 2017 (Waco, TX)
Kansas 81, West Virginia 70 - March 10, 2018 (Kansas City)
Kansas 80, North Carolina 67 - March 25, 2012 (St. Louis, MO)
And now, the Top 10:
10. Kansas 77, Duke 75 - November 15, 2016 (Madison Square Garden - Champions Classic)
Although Duke was without a couple star freshmen, Kansas still struggled for much of the game, but a strong first 10 minutes of the second half put Kansas in front (almost) for good. Duke tied it at 75 late, setting the stage for Frank Mason:
A couple national college basketball writers mused that’s the type of shot that could kick off a national player of the year campaign, and boy were they right as Mason turned in a season for the ages, finishing as the consensus National Player of the Year.
9. Kansas 81, Kansas State 79 (overtime) - January 30, 2010 (Manhattan, KS)
From one diminutive Kansas legend to another. Kansas was 19-1 and 5-0 in Big 12 play prior to their trip to K-State, and it all looked to be headed down the drain thanks in part to 22 points from Jacob Pullen. Sherron Collins dealt with back spasms all night, and turned the ball over late in regulation. But he hit the biggest shot of the game with 9 seconds left to give the Jayhawks the win in the first game since the 1950s in which both teams had been ranked inside the top 15.
8. Kansas 90, Dayton 84 (overtime) - November 27, 2019 (Maui, HI)
The latest entry on this list, Kansas withstood Dayton going an insane 16-33 from beyond the arc, and Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson combined for 60 points to take home the Maui Invitational title. Udoka Azubuike scored 9 of KU’s 17 shots in overtime without missing a shot from the field in the extra frame.
7. Kansas 63, Purdue 60 - March 18, 2012 (Omaha, NE)
Known forever around these parts as the Tyshawn Dunk Game, Purdue jumped out to an early 17-8 lead over Kansas and led virtually throughout the entire second half. Robbie Hummel went off for 26 points and Thomas Robinson never really got things going. What’s worse, Kansas missed 15 of its first 17 shots. Kansas finally took the lead for the first time with about 3 minutes left, which was immediately snatched away by Purdue, setting off maybe the most famous sequence in RCT history:
Purdue still had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, though, because Tyshawn shouldn’t have dunked.
6. Kansas 74, Texas Tech 72 - February 24, 2018 (Lubbock, TX)
It seems so long ago, but it really looked like the streak was going to die in 2018. How foolish we all were, though, to think Devonte Graham would let that happen. The 2018 Big 12 player of the year went off for 26 points, was 6-11 from two and 4-7 from three. He also made one of the most memorable shots of the decade (at 3:43ish of the below video) and cemented himself into KU lore while clinching the Big 12 title.
5. United States 84, Germany 77 (Double OT) - July 13, 2015 (Gwangju, South Korea)
This is probably cheating, but the 2015 United States basketball team for the World University Games was comprised largely of Jayhawks, and they gave KU fans a glimpse of what could be in the 2015-16 season as well as a nice distraction over the course of the summer. After steamrolling the competition for most of the tournament, team USA struggled for large portions of the game against Germany. Wayne Selden had 22 points and was tournament MVP, while Perry Ellis had a double double (19 points, 10 rebounds) in the gold medal game.
4. Kansas 109, Oklahoma 106 (Triple OT) - January 4, 2016 (Lawrence)
This game was most memorable for Buddy Hield going insane for Oklahoma, pouring in 46 points in 54 minutes and getting a standing ovation from the Allen Fieldhouse crowd after the game. Most people forget, though, that Oklahoma had a chance to win in regulation when Landen Lucas was on the business end of one of the worst foul calls in recent memory. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, Khadeem Lattin missed the ensuing free throw.
Somehow this game went into OT despite both teams having 10+ point leads. Kansas was up 32-21 late in the first half but ended up down 4 at halftime. On the flip side, Oklahoma led by 10 with about 16 minutes left in the game.
Of note: this was only the second triple-OT result between the 1st and 2nd ranked teams in the country, and Kansas has played in both.
3. Kansas 64, Ohio State 62 - March 31, 2012 (New Orleans, LA)
KU’s return to the Final Four for the first time since the 2008 title was a memorable one both for the game and for me personally. For starters, it was the only Final Four during which I was on campus. I have some (equal parts fond and painful) memories of standing in a bar for roughly 10 hours with a couple friends in order to make sure we had a spot close enough to a TV to watch, and (only fond) memories of storming Mass Street and staying out there until about 4 am after the game with thousands of other Jayhawk friends.
Oh yeah, there was a basketball game too. Like most of the 2012 tournament, Kansas fell behind early and had just around a 15 percent win probability at halftime. But they ended the first half/started the 2nd half on a 12-2 run. Kansas finally took the lead with just under 4 minutes left, and Tyshawn Taylor hit two huge free throws with 8 seconds left to give Kansas a 3 point lead. Jeff Withey finished with 7 blocks, as many as Ohio State as a team had put together.
2. Kansas 87, Missouri 86 (Overtime) - February 25, 2012 (Lawrence)
Speaking of Tyshawn Taylor and huge free throws, Tyshawn scored the final two points in the history of the border war (until it resumes, unless Kansas comes to its senses by then), to complete a gigantic comeback against Missouri.
The Tigers ended the first half on a 19-3 run, and extended their lead to 13 with just 15 minutes left. With 10 minutes left, Kansas had a win probability of just over 13 percent, and it was at 16 percent with a minute left. But the Jayhawks did it again. Thomas Robinson followed a huge 3-point play with the block of the year.
In overtime, Tyshawn Taylor had one of the great overtime performances in Kansas history, making a huge three, a dunk with just under 20 seconds to put Kansas up by 1 and the aforementioned free throws with 8.3 seconds left. A 66 percent shooter at the line at the time, Taylor nailed both, and KU’s suffocating defense kept Missouri from even attempting a shot.
This is also the only game on the list I was lucky enough to be at, and I think I made the right choice. Frankly I don’t remember a ton, but I do remember telling my friend sitting by me that Kansas probably wasn’t 12 points better than Missouri over 20 minutes, probably wasn’t 11 points better over 10 minutes, etc., all the way up until they were better. I also remember really wanting to throw up when Tyshawn was at the line to take the lead. Fortunately we both succeeded.
1. Kansas 85, Duke 81 (overtime) - March 25, 2018 (Omaha, NE)
It is crazy to me that there are as many games on this list that took place in Omaha as there are that took place in Lawrence, but that speaks to KU’s dominance at home this past decade.
Bill Self called the 2018 team soft more than any team I can remember, but they sure weren’t soft on this day as they took on a Duke team that was basically created in a lab to beat them. Kansas played some zone, played against a lot of zone, took more threes than twos (!), and allowed the nation’s best offensive rebounding team to grab just 25 percent of its misses. Not bad for a bunch of softies.
I mentioned Tyshawn Taylor’s great overtime in the previous game, but Malik Newman’s 5 minutes will go down in KU history. Here is every KU point in overtime:
4:06 - Malik Newman 3
2:49 - Newman free throw
2:18 - Newman free throw
2:18 - Newman free throw
1:51 - Newman 3
:28 - Newman free throw
:28 - Newman free throw
:09 - Newman free throw
:09 - Newman free throw
Kansas scored 13 points as a team in overtime, and as you can tell, Newman scored 13 points in overtime. He also missed zero shots from the field and just one free throw in doing so. Oh and he added two steals, including the one that clinched it with 15 seconds left. For the game, Newman had 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals, and it wasn’t a coincidence Kansas started to take off when he started playing better.
It was KU’s third straight Elite 8. Another loss would have made the fanbase a little restless, and it’s so perfectly college basketball that after the 2016 and 2017 teams, complete with a National Player of the Year, a lottery pick, a future NBA starter, and teams that ripped through the regular season, it was the 2018 team who gave fewer minutes to its bench than all but six teams in the country, had to bring in a guy midseason, and who frankly chucked a bunch of threes and hoped math would do its job that got it done.