Chokehawks: Kansas' Dream Season Goes Up in Smoke
In the closing minutes of the Kansas-Northern Iowa game, I sent a text message to my neighbor Daniel Wulker, who apparently believes that he is the second coming of Skip Bayless.
"This game is over," I said, realizing that Northern Iowa, who until this year had only one NCAA Tournament win, in 1990 against Missouri, was out-hustling what had to be, from a Jayhawks fan's standpoint, the most talented Kansas team in years.
"Hell yeah," he said to me.
After Kansas hit a floating runner to cut the lead down to one, Wulker sent me back another text to say that I was stupid for saying the game was over.
"For the first time," I said, "you proved that you were smarter than me."
For one second.
Then it happened.
A guy who shares his first name with perhaps the greatest boxer of all time delivered the knockout blow to what was supposed to be a dream season for Sherron Collins and company and in the process, sent my bracket to the charred abyss of a grill outside my apartment.
As well President Obama's bracket.
There's a combination of reasons why Kansas lost this game.
The first one, which I believe is the most important, would have to be the fact that the Panthers literally out-hustled the Jayhawks, even though they were out-rebounded 32-27, and the fact that Kansas had future pros in Cole Aldrich, Collins, and Xavier Henry
Second reason was that the Jayhawks kept turning the ball over and Northern Iowa capitalized on the miscues from Kansas. The aforementioned Collins had five turnovers while the Panthers as a team had only nine turnovers.
And the third thing was the fact that Kansas, like the Memphis team they faced in the national title game in 2008, couldn't hit free throws in the home stretch.
Northern Iowa was 16-for-19 from the free throw line while Kansas was 13-for-18 from the line.
Think of how the game would have turned out if the Jayhawks had hit three of those five misses in the home stretch.
We wouldn't be trying to spell Ali's last name today or burning our brackets.
Switching gears, what will be the legacy of this Kansas team?
My opinion that this team, like the 1996-97 Kansas team that featured Paul Pierce and Jacque Vaughan which lost to Arizona in the Sweet 16 that year, will be nothing more than the best Kansas team to not make the Final Four or even worse, cut the nets down.
That will be their legacy.
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