Kansas Jayhawks' 5 Best Moments from March Madness

Brett Gering@BrettGeringCorrespondent IApril 7, 2012

Kansas Jayhawks' 5 Best Moments from March Madness

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    The Kansas Jayhawks' run in the 2012 NCAA tournament was nothing short of breathtaking—literally.

    Five of the six games involved last-minute theatrics that decided the outcome.

    Although the Jayhawks were picked as preseason co-favorites—along with Texas A&M—to win the Big 12, one local sports commentator declared that Bill Self's squad wouldn't finish within the top five.

    Others, while not ready to travel to the depths of the aforementioned extreme, were also hesitant to anoint the Jayhawks as kings of the league for an eighth straight season. 

    The majority of Kansas fans scoffed at the notion, and perhaps justifiably so—seven consecutive Big 12 titles speak volumes. However, in their heart of hearts, they were also ambivalent about their team's potential.

    This was not the prototypical Bill Self team.

    Initially, before the first tip-off, senior guard Tyshawn Taylor had culminated more playing time throughout his college career than the rest of his teammates combined.

    The fate of the team rested on the shoulders of Thomas Robinson, a junior that averaged less than 15 minutes per game during his sophomore campaign.

    There were no McDonald's All-Americans running out of the tunnel, and at times, it showed throughout March Madness. 

    But that's what made this particular team so endearing.

    These are the five best moments that epitomized Kansas' hair-raising expedition to New Orleans.      

5. Bill Self Wins Naismith Coach of the Year

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    Okay, so this particular moment might not be hair-raising. 

    [Insert Bill Self toupee joke here.]

    However, without Bill Self, this team's chances of competing for a national championship are slimmer than an Ethiopian swimsuit model. 

    Thomas Robinson, a sixth man that averaged 14.6 minutes per game last season, was presumed to be the offensive catalyst. 

    Although he has the shoulders of a maturing Incredible Hulk, could he hold the weight of heavy expectations from a raucous fan-base?

    Tyshawn Taylor was a playmaker, but also the only senior whose words held any weight in the locker room. He had made questionable decisions, both on and off the court, in the past.

    Would he be capable of stepping into a leadership role for the Jayhawks?

    There were no McDonald's All-Americans, no towering twins, and three freshmen—Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor and Braedan Anderson—were declared ineligible before the first sign was decorated.

    It seems implausible now, but before November 11th's tip-off against Towson, a Kansas fan who would have screamed "Put your shoes on!" at Elijah Johnson, would have also received a restraining order.

    "Gettin' Withey with it" would have been corny, because Jeff Withey had never invoked excitement at Allen Fieldhouse before.

    At the beginning of the season, Conner Teahan—a walk-on—had his name announced in the starting lineup... at Kansas.

    For the majority of Jayhawk's fans, Bill Self all-but clinched the Naismith Coach of the Year award after winning the Big 12.

    To take the scattered pieces he was given and transform them into a puzzle only Kentucky could figure out when it mattered most was truly remarkable.  

4. Elijah Johnson's Inbound Layup Against North Carolina State

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    North Carolina State proved why flocks of basketball analysts were fighting for room on its bandwagon. 

    The Wolfpack's athleticism paralleled Kansas'. Its leading scorer, C.J. Leslie, had actually been recruited by Bill Self and company two years prior.

    With 13.5 seconds left in regulation and Kansas clinging to a 58-57 lead, Tyshawn Taylor inbounded the ball to a streaking Elijah Johnson who converted a wide-open layup.

    Blue shirts exuberantly spring-boarded into the air as Johnson secured travel plans for the Elite Eight.  

3. Tyshawn Taylor's Transition Dunk Against Purdue

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    The third-round matchup pitted Kansas against Purdue—also known as "The Fighting Hummels." And for good reason.

    Robbie Hummel, an Indiana native, wasn't to be denied. 

    No. 4 garnered 22 points in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting. He was on a mission to carry his team to the Sweet 16, and a hand in his face wasn't going to deter that. 

    Until the second half.

    Bill Self unveiled a zone defense for the Boilermakers, and Purdue's lead was slowly, but surely, trimmed. 

    Fans grabbed handfuls of hair as Elijah Johnson's alley-oop feed to Tyshawn Taylor soared through the air between two defenders. Then Taylor did what Taylor does—he finished. The senior guard slammed it home to cut the deficit to one in the final chapter of the game.

    A Johnson steal would lead to a breakaway layup that presented Kansas with the lead.

    However, the Jayhawk faithful were not relieved. Not after witnessing Robbie Hummel's precision throughout the matchup.

    But nervous cheers metamorphosed into confident screams as Robbie Hummel's three-pointer ultimately led to a Tyshawn Taylor slam for the final points of the game.   

2. Elijah Johnson's 3-Pointer Against North Carolina

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    Excluding its opening-round game against Detroit, Kansas' victory against North Carolina was its easiest contest in the tournament.

    Don't tell that to the players.

    In a back-and-forth, anything-you-can-do-I-can-better match of highlights, both renowned fan-bases were on the edge of their seats during each possession.

    Elijah Johnson showed North Carolina fans the exit.

    With 3:09 on the game clock, Johnson used a screen and elevated behind the arc to introduce the ball to his best friend—the net.

    For the first time in a heart-stopping battle, Kansas fans could taste victory.

    Johnson's three-pointer ignited a 12-0 Jayhawk run to finish the game and book Kansas' trip to the Final Four. 

1. Tyshawn Taylor's Free Throws Against Ohio State

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    In a game of sharpshooting snipers from the arc, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't dribbling and posterizing acrobats, free throws seem dull.

    They interrupt the flow of a game dependent upon constant motion and freakish athleticism, with a feat that a senior citizen could own with grace. Consistently.

    In 2007, a 60-year-old man set a world record with 209 consecutive three-pointers.

    And we're talking about free throws. Free throws. [Cue Allen Iverson sound-byte.]

    How could they ever solicit excitement?

    Tyshawn Taylor exemplified the answer. 

    After Kansas' deficit totaled as many as 13 points, the Jayhawks echoed their new mantra as "the comeback kids."

    Behind Thomas Robinson's offensive will and Jeff Withey summoning the spirit of Dikembe Mutombo, Kansas would eventually claim a 62-61 lead with 8.3 seconds left. The Ohio State sent Tyshawn Taylor to the free-throw stripe. 

    Tickets to the national championship were on the line. Taylor had missed critical free throws earlier as he witnessed archival Missouri claw its way back to a win. If he missed, Ohio State could potentially draw payback with a bucket to end Kansas' season and the senior's Kansas career. 

    During these two shots, every set of eyes was glued on Taylor.

    They could define how Kansas fans ultimately remember the name "Tyshawn Taylor."

    He drained them.

    In a time where the world around him stopped on its axis, Taylor laughed in the face of pressure and sank the two most defining shots in his basketball career, setting Mass Street ablaze back in Lawrence.