Arkansas ousts defending champ Kansas from March Madness

Getty Images

DES MOINES, Iowa — Kansas’ national title defense ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday when Arkansas’ Ricky Council IV made five free throws in the closing seconds and the eighth-seeded Razorbacks beat the No. 1 seed Jayhawks 72-71.

Davonte Davis scored 25 points and Council added 21 as Arkansas rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit. Kansas, playing without ailing coach Bill Self, became the second top seed not to escape the tournament’s first weekend after Purdue lost on Friday night to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson.

Arkansas (22-13) and coach Eric Musselman return to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year. The Razorbacks will play either Saint Mary’s or UConn in the West Region semifinals in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Musselman and his players rushed to a group of fans sitting courtside after the final buzzer. The 58-year-old coach ripped his polo shirt off, waved it over his head and shouted with joy.

“That’s such an unbelievable win for our program,” Musselman said. “I keep telling people that we’re getting better. Not many teams can get better this time of year. I’ve never been prouder of a team like tonight.”

Self has been with the Jayhawks (28-8) since they arrived in Des Moines and has attended practices and meetings, but he still didn’t feel well enough to coach a game after having a heart procedure March 8 to clear clogged arteries.

Longtime assistant Norm Roberts was acting coach for a fifth straight game in Self’s absence.

Kansas, bidding to become the first repeat national champion since Florida in 2006-07, was ahead 35-27 at halftime and lost for the first time in 27 games when entering the second half with a lead. Kansas had been 47-0 in the NCAA Tournament when leading by eight points or more at the half.

Davis scored 21 of his points in the second half. He fouled out with 1:56 left, turning things over to the veteran Council, a transfer from Wichita State who scored nine of the Razorbacks’ final 11 points.

“This team was struggling and we figured it out,” Davis said. “I’m glad we did at the right time. Hopefully we continue to do it.”

Outside the locker room a few minutes later, a sobbing Musselman hugged Davis and shouted, “I (expletive) love you, man!”

Council’s free throw put Arkansas ahead to stay, 68-67, with 24 seconds left. He then rebounded his own miss of the second free throw and made two more to give the Razorbacks a three-point lead.

The teams traded free throws, and Arkansas sent Kansas’ Jalen Wilson to the line with 3 seconds left to prevent a potential tying 3-pointer. Wilson made the first free throw and appeared to try to miss the second intentionally, but it banked hard off the glass and in, and Kansas never regained possession.

Wilson led the Jayhawks with 20 points.

Arkansas was playing a No. 1 seed for the third straight year. Last year, the Razorbacks knocked out Gonzaga on the way to their second straight Elite Eight.

Arkansas, which beat Illinois in the first round, was considered a scary matchup for the Jayhawks with its explosive transition game and ability to play lockdown defense.

But circumstances were less than ideal for the Razorbacks. Guard Anthony Black tweaked a nagging ankle injury early and went to the bench to get re-taped and change shoes, and fellow guard and projected high NBA first-round draft pick Nick Smith Jr. picked up two quick fouls and was limited to 10 minutes and no points in the first half. Also, big man Kamani Johnson was ill and played with a sore toe.

The Razorbacks were too eager to shoot 3-pointers early. They missed 8 of 9 in the first half and couldn’t get their running game going.

Kansas looked in full control early. The Jayhawks got their fans out of their seats with a series of electric plays that included Gradey Dick’s fast-break dunk off Dajuan Harris’ steal, Wilson’s contested inside basket on an and-one and his primal scream directed at Arkansas fans, and Joseph Yesufu’s high-arcing 3 from the logo to beat the shot clock.

Davis started a game-turning 11-0 Arkansas run in the middle of the second half and Jordan Walsh’s 3-pointer with eight minutes left gave the Razorbacks their first lead since their first basket of the game. Davis rushed over, chest-bumped Walsh and raised his arms to ask Arkansas fans for more noise.

Arkansas neutralized Wilson when it mattered most, allowing the All-American only two shots over a 15-minute stretch of the second half.

Arkansas is in the Sweet 16 for the 14th time. The only lower-seeded Razorbacks team to reach a regional semifinal was the 1996 squad, which was a No. 12.

Bill Self to miss Kansas’ NCAA game against Arkansas

Getty Images
1 Comment

DES MOINES, Iowa – Bill Self will miss top-seeded Kansas’ second-round NCAA Tournament game against Arkansas on Saturday, the school announced.

Self, who is recovering from a heart procedure he received earlier this month, has been with his team since it arrived in Des Moines and attended meetings and practices.

Self declined to comment Friday when he walked past reporters after practice, but said in a radio interview before the Jayhawks’ first-round win over Howard that he is feeling better and getting stronger – just not yet ready to be on the bench for a game.

Norm Roberts, Self’s longtime assistant, will serve as acting coach for a fifth game.

Self went to the emergency room the night of March 8, shortly after watching the Jayhawks hold a final shootaround ahead of their Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal. He was complaining of chest tightness and concerns with his balance, and the 60-year-old had two stents placed to help treat blocked arteries.

Kansas is 3-1 in Self’s absence, with the loss coming to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

The 57-year-old Roberts is Self’s right-hand man, having been on Self’s staff at four coaching stops.

“We have been together for almost 25 years, so we probably do finish each other’s sentences in basketball terms,” Roberts said Friday.

No. 1 seed Kansas cruises past Howard with Self still absent

Kelsey Kremer/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

DES MOINES, Iowa – Jalen Wilson had 20 points and seven rebounds for No. 1 seed and defending national champion Kansas, which allowed absent and recovering coach Bill Self to rest a bit more comfortably during a 96-68 victory over Howard on Thursday in a West Region first-round game.

Self is recovering from a heart procedure.

“He wished us good luck and told us to go out and do what we do,” Wilson said.

Gradey Dick had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the freshman’s first NCAA Tournament game, his first career double-double. K.J. Adams Jr. scored 13 points and Dajuan Harris Jr. added 11 points, seven assists and four steals for the Jayhawks (28-7), who will play No. 8 seed Arkansas or ninth-seeded Illinois in the second round on Saturday.

Kansas, which has won 16 consecutive first-round games, is aiming to become the first repeat national champion in 16 years.

Shy Odom had 15 points and eight rebounds and Steve Settle III added 13 points for the Bison (22-13), who were making the program’s first tournament appearance since 1992 in front of Vice President Kamala Harris, a Howard alumna.

The Jayhawks started their NCAA-record 33rd consecutive tournament appearance with assistant coach Norm Roberts running the show. The 60-year-old Self, who’s in his 20th season at Kansas, had a procedure to treat blocked arteries in his heart last week that prevented him from coaching in the Big 12 Tournament.

The Jayhawks lost in the Big 12 title game to Texas, but their 15-6 record in Quadrant 1 games that the NCAA categorizes for selection criteria was unmatched in the country, an impressive season from a new-look team that lost most of its best players from last year.

The Jayhawks won the regular-season title in a stacked conference, a testament to Self’s acumen and the versatility of this team led by the Big 12 Player of the Year in Wilson, a rising star in Dick, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in point guard Harris, and Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar Jr.

“The Big 12 prepared us for moments like this and games like this,” forward K.J. Adams Jr. said.

The Jayhawks aren’t that deep, but they move and share the ball at a dizzying pace that was ultimately too much for the Bison to keep up with – although they tried.

“They played faster than I think even we thought they would,” Roberts said.

Howard took the lead five times in the first half, but Kansas always snapped back – often with a well-placed hand in a passing lane for a steal and a fast-break finish. Then there were the alley-oops, with Harris and McCullar each delivering a textbook lob off the drive to Ernest Udeh Jr. for a rim-jarring dunk in the first half. Harris found Adams for one, too.

Howard totaled 18 turnovers and missed 15 of 20 shots from 3-point range in the second half.

“There was a part of it where I was pretty exhausted, but those are the most fun games when you’re going up and down, and anything can happen,” Dick said.

Howard’s rare appearance on the big stage came exactly five years after UMBC’s takedown of Virginia, the only time a No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1. The Bison were the 149th team to try.

Coach Kenneth Blakeney, whose team went 4-29 in his first season in 2019-20, brought a confident team. Elijah Hawkins hit an early 3-pointer and pointed a finger to his forearm to signal ice in his veins. Kobe Dickson flexed his right arm after muscling in a layup. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions just weren’t able to match the Jayhawks’ speed and athleticism.

“Wen you play a team like Kansas, they capitalize on all of our mistakes,” Settle said. “We left a lot of meat on the bone in the first half.”


Dick went 3 for 5 from 3-point range to break the Kansas freshman record for made 3-pointers (82 and counting) in a season, besting Jeff Boschee (1998-99).

“He played with great confidence out there,” Wilson said.


Dick was startled by a sudden roar from the crowd a split-second after he swished a free throw late in the first half. What was the big deal? The end of the Furman-Virginia game was on the video board above the court, and the Paladins had just hit a late 3-pointer for the lead. Another cheer followed when No. 13 seed Furman sealed the victory, a less disruptive reaction because it was during timeout.

Kansas’ Bill Self, recovering from heart procedure, to miss game

AP Photo/Brad Tollefson
1 Comment

DES MOINES, Iowa — Kansas coach Bill Self will miss the defending national champion Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament first-round game against Howard, the school announced two hours before tipoff.

Assistant coach Norm Roberts will serve as acting head coach while Self continues to recover from a heart procedure performed last week.

Self traveled to Des Moines with the Jayhawks and led the team’s practice. He did not attend the team’s media availability. Roberts said Self had returned to the hotel to rest.

Self’s status for a possible second-round game was unknown.

Self went to the emergency room the night of March 8, shortly after watching the Jayhawks hold a final shootaround ahead of their Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal. He was complaining of chest tightness and concerns with his balance.

Dr. Mark Wiley, the chief of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Kansas Health System, said the 60-year-old Self underwent a standard heart catheterization and had two stents placed to help treat the blocked arteries.

Roberts coached the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament. He also served as acting coach earlier in the season, while Self was serving a school-imposed four-game suspension.

Edey, Jackson-Davis, Wilson headline AP All-America Team

Alex Martin/Journal and Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

Purdue’s Zach Edey and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis gave the Big Ten Conference a third straight year with multiple first-team Associated Press All-America picks, while Kansas had a second straight first-teamer in Jalen Wilson.

The 7-foot-4, 305-pound Edey appeared on all 58 ballots as a first-team selection from AP Top 25 voters as the lone unanimous pick.

The selections of the Boilermakers’ Edey and the Hoosiers’ Jackson-Davis came a year after the Big Ten had three first-team picks. And it gave the league seven through the last three seasons; no other league has more than three.

The Big Ten has had at least one first-teamer for five straight years and eight of the last nine.

Houston’s Marcus Sasser and Alabama’s Brandon Miller joined Edey and Wilson on the first team in representing each of the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 seeds.

Edey has commanded the national spotlight all year. The Big Ten player of the year ranks sixth nationally in scoring (22.3), second in rebounding (12.8) and first in double-doubles (26).

“Everybody goes: ‘You go to him so much,’” Purdue coach Matt Painter said after the Big Ten Tournament title win against Penn State. “If they call it by the rules, they’re fouling him on every possession. So why shouldn’t we get it to him and just try to get in that bonus early and steal points?

“Obviously he can make tough post-ups and he can get at the rim, and he gets offensive rebounds when you take him away.”

Jackson-Davis, a 6-9 fourth-year forward, is Indiana’s first first-team selection since Victor Oladipo in 2013. He’s averaging 20.8 points and 10.9 rebounds while taking a leap with his passing (4.1 assists, up from 1.9 last year).

“I probably have pushed him harder than any player on this team and I know there’s been days that he’s walked out of here thinking that, ‘Hey, is this guy really in my corner, based on how he’s pushing me?’” coach Mike Woodson said. “But at the end of the day, he’s gotten better as a player.

“We have benefited from it, you know, with our ballclub, in terms of how we played as a team. And he’s been the driving force behind it.”

Wilson, a 6-8 fourth-year forward, was a returning complementary starter from last year’s NCAA title run. He thrived in an expanded role, becoming Big 12 player of the year and nearly doubling his scoring average (20.1, up from 11.1) to go with 8.4 rebounds.

It marked the fourth time in seven seasons that the Jayhawks had a first-team pick going back to national player of the year Frank Mason III in 2017.

“He’s an elite competitor,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said after a Big 12 Tournament loss to the Jayhawks. “He gets to the glass. He makes cuts. He makes it hard. He does so many things.”

Sasser, a 6-2 senior, was a starter on the Cougars’ Final Four team two years ago and is the star of another title threat this year. He’s averaging 17.1 points as the program’s first first-team selection since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984 during the “Phi Slama Jama” era.

Miller, a 6-9 freshman, was a McDonald’s All-American who became an immediate star on the way to being named the Southeastern Conference player of the year. He’s averaging 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds for the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.

Miller has been involved in a murder case that has overshadowed the Crimson Tide’s successful run, leading to capital murder charges against former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man for the January shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris. A police investigator testified last month that Miles texted Miller to bring him his gun that night, though authorities haven’t charged Miller with any crime.


Pac-12 player of the year Jaime Jaquez Jr. of UCLA was the leading vote-getter on the second team that included Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, last season’s AP national player of the year.

Gonzaga’s Drew Timme was a second-team selection for the third straight year, while Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis and Penn State’s Jalen Pickett rounded out the second quintet.


Kansas State’s surge led to the Wildcats earning third-team selections in Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson, their first AP All-Americans since Jacob Pullen in 2011.

Big East player of the year Tyler Kolek of Marquette, Iowa’s Kris Murray and North Carolina’s Armando Bacot rounded out the third team.


National scoring leader Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who averaged 28.2 points and fell three points shy of tying “Pistol” Pete Maravich’s all-time career scoring record, was the leading vote-getter among players who didn’t make the three All-America teams.

Players earned honorable-mention status if they appeared on multiple voters’ ballots. This year’s list includes Memphis’ Kendric Davis, Xavier’s Souley Boum and Miami’s Isaiah Wong.

Kansas coach Bill Self out of hospital after heart procedure

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas coach Bill Self was discharged from a Kansas City-area hospital where he’d been recovering after a procedure to treat blocked arteries in his heart, and the Hall of Famer will rejoin the No. 3 Jayhawks for the defense of their NCAA championship.

His longtime assistant, Norm Roberts, said Self would probably be back in the office to begin preparing for Howard. That’s who the top-seeded Jayhawks will open the NCAA Tournament against in Des Moines, Iowa, after they were surprisingly put in the West Region by the selection committee.

“He talked to the guys earlier today and they were so excited to hear his voice,” Roberts said. “He was talking and getting after it like he normally does. He said, ‘Guys, I’m back. I’m ready to go.’ And he just talked about the things we need to do to be successful.”

Self went to the emergency room shortly after watching the Jayhawks in a final shootaround ahead of their Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal, and was complaining of chest tightness and concerns with his balance.

Dr. Mark Wiley, the chief of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Kansas Health System, said the 60-year-old Self underwent a standard heart catheterization and had two stents placed to help treat the blocked arteries.

“Coach Self responded well to the procedure and is expected to make a full recovery,” Wiley said.

Roberts also served as acting coach earlier in the season, while Self was serving a school-imposed four-game suspension. Kansas beat West Virginia and Iowa State in the Big 12 tourney with Roberts again on the bench before getting blown out 76-56 by seventh-ranked Texas in the championship game.

Now, Self is back.

“I’m so thankful for the amazing staff at the University of Kansas Health System for the excellent care I received,” Self said in a statement. “I am proud of our team and coaching staff for how they have handled this and am excited to be back with them as the best time of the season gets underway.”

Self is 581-130 during two decades at Kansas, and 788-235 in 30 seasons as a head coach, which includes stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois. He led the Jayhawks to the national title in 2008 with an overtime win over Memphis. Kansas then hung a sixth championship banner in Allen Fieldhouse after its win over North Carolina last April.

The Jayhawks, who won the regular-season Big 12 title, hardly seemed to be bothered by their lackluster loss to Texas, when they also were missing injured defensive stopper Kevin McCullar Jr. Instead, they were looking forward to the NCAA tourney and getting both McCullar and their coach back on the court.

“He’s one of the greatest coaches of all time so that’s a big bonus for us,” Jayhawks guard Dajuan Harris Jr. said. “We missed him last weekend. Coach Rob is great but having (Self) back is great for us. He’s been in March Madness a long time. He knows what he’s doing. We just have to have his back.”