The Kansas Jayhawks had reason to hold their heads high in the first half of last night’s game versus the Michigan Wolverines.
Unfortunately, after proving they were a legitimate one seed in the tournament, they hit rock bottom, similar to many top seeds all season long.
It didn’t take long (approximately two minutes, actually) for the Jayhawks to cruise from eight points up, to a tie game with just seconds to go, and while the blame has reason to spread out to many different players and possessions, it’s NBA-ready guard Trey Burke who took over the game late, and not-so-pro guard Elijah Johnson to deflate any hope of a game-winning attempt.
Let’s paint the picture: I’m standing up, hands on my knees, staring at how Michigan is defending the final Kansas possession. My eyes grow big as our shooters help spread the floor, and Johnson takes advantage by slashing his way to the rim. Of course, he has a man slightly on his hip, but he’s got a step on him, and I know Michigan doesn’t want to send him to the foul line.
Deep down, I’m not comfortable with this, for two main reasons. One, Johnson walked into this game shooting under 40% from the floor, known for his turnovers (let’s be honest, he’s not a true point guard), and has been inconsistent all season long, especially in clutch moments. Secondly, the Jayhawks had already drifted away from what gave them a 14-point lead earlier in the game, and maybe all of us fans had a gut feeling our team was so overjoyed with the 38-minute victory, complacency showed its ugly face as Burke caught fire.
I squinted. I knew this wouldn’t end well, but if you’re asking me if I thought Johnson would throw a 30-foot pass that nearly soared out of bounds, I’d deny away.
Okay, enough about that. If you’re a Kansas Jayhawk fan, you’re probably severely depressed that we lost more than just a tournament game. Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Kevin Young, and Johnson are all seniors. It’s nearly etched in stone that Ben McLemore will be a top five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Where do we go from here?
Well, we go deeper. Joel Embiid (ranked #2 at the center position by ESPN.com) could be a very dynamic player at both ends of the court for Kansas. Wayne Selden (#4 SF in the country) is also signed for next season, a super-athletic offensive handful that you don’t want to have to defend in ISO situations. With Perry Ellis developing quickly, Naadir Tharpe gaining experience, and our recruits heading over, if we were to land the best player in the country in Andrew Wiggins, it would be difficult for me to bet against a Kansas-Kentucky rematch in the 2014 NCAA championship game.
Sadly, as fans, we have to wait. Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks for winning their 9th-consecutive Big 12 regular season title, the 2013 Big 12 tourney title, and for rolling over Roy Williams and North Carolina after beating the Kansas State Wildcats in all three meetings this season. After all, nothing felt better at the time, and wins like that make up for a loss against a Michigan team that could very well sneak into the Final Four.
Better luck next time, KU. Rock Chalk.