It’s time to play Devil’s Advocate around here. I’ve read tweet after tweet, and even a few articles, talking about how Kansas is the clear favorite and they should go ahead and hang the banner anyway.
As if being the clear favorite entering the NCAA Tournament has gone well for Kansas in the past.
I’m guessing this is a piece that most Kansas basketball fans aren’t going to want to read. Not only will it bring up painful memories, but I’m also going to attempt to set you straight.
Full Disclosure: I don’t like most Kansas basketball fans. The Kansas typical basketball fan is arrogant. Prideful. Boastful. Just a complete jerk, especially the first two weeks of March. And they don’t go to football games - not that anyone can really blame them. Woe is me, the football guy who picked KU as his favorite team from an early age. To me at that age, having a strong basketball program was just a nice bonus. I had no idea what I was getting into.
Face it: KU basketball fans are no better than Duke fans, or Kentucky fans, or Carolina fans. (Ok fine. You’re better than Kentucky fans.)
All-Americans! Banners! Championships!!
Oh, you mean, conference championships? I mean, yeah that’s cool I guess. Throughout its history, Kansas has won its regular season conference title more than half the time (62/113), something no other NCAA school can say.
But like it or not, titles are what matter. Not conference titles. National titles.
Forget about the fact that a one-game elimination playoff is a crappy way to crown a national champion, especially when you have a 30+ game regular season that gives enough data points to determine who the best team is, or at the very least, who the top teams are. It makes more sense to have such a system in a sport with limited data points, say, I dunno, college football. But for basketball, it’s dumb. If it was such a good system, then the NBA, MLB, and NHL would do it too.
Kansas has one title - ONE - in the last 30 years. And that ONE came 12 years ago. Twelve years ago may as well be ancient history in today’s fast-paced information technology world.
UConn has three in the KenPom era alone (since 2002). So does Carolina. Florida has two. So does Duke. Heck, Villanova has two in the last four years.
But upsets just happen, right? That’s why they call it March MADNESS. It just seems like nobody has been more upset over the past 30 years than Kansas basketball fans.
When was the last time you were THIS excited for the NCAA Tournament? Yes, Kansas has a rich history of #1 seeds, but how often have they been THE team to beat?
So many times over the last three decades, Kansas has entered the Tournament with “as good of a shot as anybody,” and sometimes, you could have called them the outright favorites. Only once did they end the season with a win.
Here are KU’s 1-seeds since seeding began (in 1979):
|Year||KP Rank||AP Rank||Result||Lost To|
|Year||KP Rank||AP Rank||Result||Lost To|
|1986||n/a||2||Final Four||(1) Duke|
|1992||n/a||2||Second Round||(9) UTEP|
|1995||n/a||5||Sweet 16||(4) Virginia|
|1997||n/a||1||Sweet 16||(4) Arizona|
|1998||n/a||2||Second Round||(8) Rhode Island|
|2002||3||2||Final Four||(1) Maryland|
|2007||4||2||Elite 8||(2) UCLA|
|2010||1||1||Second Round||(9) Northern Iowa|
|2011||3||2||Elite 8||(11) VCU|
|2013||7||3||Sweet 16||(4) Michigan|
|2016||1||1||Elite 8||(2) Villanova|
|2017||10||3||Elite 8||(3) Oregon|
|2018||9||4||Final Four||(1) Villanova|
(The rankings are as of the first round of the NCAA Tournament, so, does not include Tournament results.)
2016? Kansas didn’t even make the Final Four. In fact, they lost in Kansas City!
2011? I can still hear Jamie Skeen tickling the twine while Tyrel Reed throws up bricks on the other end.
2010? Do I even need to utter the words Ali Farokhmanesh?
2008? Ok, there ya go! Yay!
2002? Juan Dixon is still giving Nick and Kirk nightmares.
Oh I know. The ‘90s! Wait... nope that’s not a good idea either. The 1990s saw early round losses to the likes of Arizona, Virginia, Rhode Island, and... and... what is a UTEP?
Out of those 14 years, I think you could legitimately argue that Kansas was one of the favorites, if not THE favorite, at least 10 times. I submit for your review the years of 1986, 1992, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2016. And out of those 10 tries, they won it once.
Four of those nine losses came to teams seeded 8 or lower. (Conversely, four of those losses came to a 1 or 2 seed.) But at least three times, Kansas has been the inarguable 1/1 - 1997, 2010, and 2016. The Jayhawks failed to win it those years.
And I haven’t even mentioned Bucknell or Bradley yet. While those Kansas teams weren’t national title favorites by any stretch, I know the heart of the Kansas basketball fan, and that fan thought the Jayhawks were winning it all in those years, too.
Even former President Obama picked the Jayhawks to win it all multiple times in his presidential bracket. He was let down every time.
Kansas sure seems to get upset a lot in the NCAA Tournament, don’t they?
So what makes this year any different? Did this team dominate the same way the 1997 team did? Or the 2010 team?
Yes, the 2020 Jayhawks finished the regular season at #1 in almost all of the metrics. (Gonzaga just passed them in the NET, as they were able to get their conference tournament in before everything was cancelled.) And yes, I know we at this very fine site have picked on the people saying, “There’s no dominant team(s) in college basketball this year.” Which begs the question: Why, then, is Kansas only given an 8% chance to win the now mythical 2020 Tournament?
Newsflash! The best team usually doesn’t win the NCAA Tournament! Consider: KenPom’s #1 team entering the Tournament has won it just twice in 18 tries (2008 Kansas, 2019 Virginia). That’s an 11% clip.
Sure, you can make the argument that Kansas is heads and tails better than anyone else this year. The oddsmakers obviously disagree. And so I’m telling you, all cancelling the NCAA Tournament did was spare Kansas fans yet another season of losing in the Elite 8, or possibly even the embarrassment of losing earlier than that.
Congrats, KU fans! You don’t have to listen to K-State fans poke fun at your Sweet 16 exit this year. (Forget about the Wildcats’ own struggles in the Tournament. LaSalle? Irvine? Lol. Er... whoops.) And don’t deflect and tell me about how Duke lost to Mercer and Lehigh, lest I be forced to remind you that Coach K has five titles to your one.
Just try to be honest with yourself and admit that, if you really reflect, it’s not me you’re mad at right now.
So go ahead and hang that banner. You may as well, even though odds are that you weren’t going to.