NEW ORLEANS – This was supposed to be the rebuilding year for the Jayhawks.
With so much talent leaving the program and 75% of Bill Self’s recruiting class getting ruled ineligible before the season started, Kansas was forced to play this season with a lineup that was very un-Kansas-like. Two former walk-ons — Conner Teahan and Justin Wesley — played significant minutes. Other than Tyshawn Taylor, everyone else on the roster this year was forced into bigger, much more important roles.
No one thought Kansas would be able to have a season like they did. The Jayhawks climbed all the way into the top five nation. They won the Big 12 regular season title by two games — the fourth straight season they’ve climbed the outright league title and the eighth straight year they’ve had at least a share of first place. They made an improbable run all the way national title game.
The disappointment in the Kansas locker was palpable. But once that passes, you can only hope the Jayhawks realized that what they accomplished this season was special.
“I think that’s what I’m going to remember the most,” Tyshawn Taylor said, “just how far we went with so many people not believing in us. This team here, we came a long way since the beginning of the summer. Probably no one thought we would be here, but we’re here.”
“That’s a good feeling, but it will probably feel better in a few days than it does now.”
“I loved being a part of my team,” Thomas Robinson said. “I wouldn’t take anything back. I feel proud, but to get here and then not get what you came here for, it’s going to hurt no matter what.”
No one at this level ever likes or wants to lose. While the rest of the country may not have completely bought in, the Jayhawks certainly believed that they were good enough to win the national title on Monday night. This loss is going to hurt, particularly for the players that will never don a Kansas jersey again.
But once that pain subsides, Kansas will be able to look back fondly on the memories they made with this run.