KU is the Natonal Champions! In honor of the past and to complete the string (yes, I am a bit of a completionist), the final player ranking of the season. This weekend in Lawrence KU is melding the football team’s spring preview and the baskeball team’s championship parade. Taking their lead, I will meld the two together by giving my player ratings to the theme of important KU football victories since the Tom Hayes era ended.
5 Stars: KU 24, Virginia Tech 21 (2008)
The pinnacle of football victories in the post Tom Hayes era is the Orange Bowl victory over the Hokies. Much like the Jayhawks did Monday night, the gridiron Jayhawks spread the ball around and the defense came up with big turnovers to keep them in a position to win.
David McCormack is the man here. He may have put us all through the ringer over the course of his career, but this was the fruition of all the talent he seemed to have when he came to KU as a McDonald’s All American. His 15 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of play while saddled with foul trouble most of the second half was even bigger than his performance against Villanova on Saturday. As Ochai Agbaji said “if I really had a most outstanding player throughout the entire Final Four it would be David.”
4.5 Stars: KU 76, Nebraska 39 (2007)
“It was obviously one of those games you’re never going to forget,” Todd Reesing.
Christian Braun should remember this game going forward, be it leading KU as a senior next year or playing at the professional level. Christian had a rough first half missing numerous layups and generally being the poster child for what was going wrong in the first half for the Jayhawks. He came out with 10 second half points leading the rally in the first 10 minutes. At the end of the game, he had played all 40 minutes and along with David McCormack had a double-double with 12 points and a team leading 12 rebounds.
Remy Martin continued his postseason being the player he was expected to be before he was injured early in the year. Sharing ball handling duties, playing 21 minutes and scoring 14 points including several 3 pointers in big moments down the stretch. To quote Bill Raftery, “There’s nothing like a little Remy late in the evening”.
4 Stars: KU 57, Texas 56 (2021)
As the gridiron Jayhawks did against Texas last fall, no matter what happens keep plugging along and make good things happen. Do you ever get tired of watching the final play? I thought not, so here you go.
Jalen Wilson was the co-leading scorer along with Big Dave and he proved KU players can make their free throws by hitting all four of his opportunities. His shooting percentage might not have been stellar, but he is the glue keeping the Jayhawks pointed in the right direction.
3.5 Stars: KU 31, K-State 28 (2004)
Breaking an 11-year skid to your in-state rival may seem like it should go higher on the list but as the headline to a story in the Lawrence Journal World said the following day “This time, Jayhawks didn’t fall apart”
Ochai Agbaji hit a 3 pointer to start the game and get the team off to a hot start. He contributed 12 points total, drew plenty of fouls while being hounded by Leaky Black. His biggest play outside of the opening shot of the game may have come on the last play of the game. He was in the way of Brady Manek just enough that Manek tripped over his own feet and was not available to take the final 3 point attempt for UNC.
Dajuan Harris was exactly what KU needed him to be. Handle the ball, and play good defense. Except for giving the Tar Heels once last gasp by stepping on the sideline, he did what he needed to do.
Mitch Lightfoot spent most of his time in the Villanova game getting pushed around. Pair his performance in that game with McCormack’s performance recently being at the peak of his Jayhawk career and Mitch only played 7 minutes with 2 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist. Not great, but KU won the championship so he gets 3.5 stars for spelling McCormack as long as needed.
3 Stars: KU 52, K-State 21 (2008)
The last time the hardcourt Jayhawks won the national championship was also the same year the gridiron Jayhawks last beat the Wildcats. Thought the good times did not last long on the football field, there is plenty to cheer about on the basketball court.
KJ Adams Jr, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Joseph Yesufu, Zach Clemence, Bobby Pettiford, Chris Teahan, Michael Jankovich, Kyle Cuffe Jr, Cam Martin, Charlie McCarthy, and Dillon Wilhite all contributed all season long. Most of their contributions were unseen and underappreciated, but vital nonetheless to making the championship a reality.
Anything under 3 Stars does not apply for a game in which you win it all. The only thing left is let you sing about how “We are the Champions”.