I called them the most complete team remaining in the tournament no less than 48 hours ago, and I could not have been more incorrect.
Relying far too heavily on The Brothers Morri, Kansas was downed by VCU 71-61 in a game that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary may or may not have an adjective to precisely describe how improbable the result was.
Despite jumping out to an early 6-0 lead from two lay-ups and two made free-throws, the remaining 36:26 of the Southwest Regional Final was tough sledding for the last standing No. 1 seed, as the Rams from the CAA were shockingly quicker and more effective on the offensive ends, ending yet another season in sorrow for Rock Chalkers.
We speak with alacrity on just how important good guard play is in the NCAA Tournament. It was missing in KU’s rotation this afternoon, and it was evident when the Rams executed their first head-butt.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
With a “Winning” label tagged to them, guards Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar shot a combined 2-16 from the floor with only four assists. Just for good measure, freshman Josh Selby continued to show he’s a ways away from being an elite player, scoring a measly lone field goal himself.
As the game wrapped up, it dawned on me that all these articles on the success of Reed and Morningstar might have a lot more to do with their surroundings than the talent they possess themselves. It’s tough not to accumulate all those wins when you’re surrounded by future pros. If either of these outgoing seniors had the make-up needed to eek out a victory today, Bill Self would be exiting his post-game press conference lauding this duo for stepping up when it mattered most. Instead, they were porous when it mattered most, looking far less valuable (and talented) than their primary defensive assignments.
With the loss, the focus now shifts to Bill Self. An elite program with a penchant for losing to programs in March that are on a tight athletic budget, and have inferior breadth and depth of talent, should he shoulder the blame?
In eight seasons under Self, Kansas has won seven straight Big 12 titles and hung one national championship banner at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but they’ve also conspicuously fallen victim to the upstart mid-major four times in the last seven seasons. Since 2005, the Jayhawks have lost to Bucknell as a No. 3 seed, Bradley as a No. 4, Northern Iowa as a No. 1 and now the Rams, again as a No. 1.
How does Self explain this to the local media? How does he explain it to the Kansas University suits and boosters and alum who value his talents as a basketball coach to pay him $3 million a year?
The people who pay the bills don’t want to hear things like, “well, Sherron Collins isn’t walking through that door, and that’s why we had to start Tyrel Reed all season despite his mediocre scoring and assist output. And Josh Selby has a ways to go before he reaches his potential.” Elite programs aren’t supposed to have excuses. They just pluck stars from high school and reload.
Surely, VCU-Butler brings with it a story line we’ve never really seen before in the Final Four, but it’s still a real shame Kansas isn’t marching on to Houston. Big programs aren’t supposed to stumble like this. I guess that’s just how it goes when your ball-handlers are inadequate.