The rain extended all the way from Bourbon Street into the Kansas locker room Monday night after the Jayhawks fell in the National Championship 67-59 to the Kentucky Wildcats.
The NCAA tournament is famous for the “madness." Upsets, last-minute shots, and Cinderellas rule the month of March. It’s a rare occurrence when the best team is the same at the start of the year as it at the finish. It’s rare when the best team emerges from the chaos that is “the tournament”. Those rarities happened in 2011-2012 as the Kentucky Wildcats were widely considered the best to start the year and overwhelmed the Jayhawks en route to the title.
Down 14 points at half, the Jayhawks put up a valiant second-half effort behind the play of their best players – Final Four All-Tournament Team members Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson. Robinson, who finished the game with 18 points and 17 rebounds, and Taylor, who finished with 19 points, put up tough shot after tough shot to keep the Jayhawks with striking distance. Unfortunately for them, the first half deficit proved to be a few buckets too many.
If the Jayhawks can take some positives away from their final game and tournament, they should definitely take solace in the fact that juniors Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey were fantastic. Withey held the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Anthony Davis, to just 1-10 shooting. Johnson stepped up late with his defense and shooting, chipping in 13 points off 3 three-pointers. Both players looked poised for great senior years alongside fellow juniors Travis Releford and Kevin Young.
In the postgame press conference, Coach Bill Self spent quite a bit of time pontificating on the year that was and how great it was to coach this team. Their improvement from day 1 has been nothing short of remarkable, and he was extremely proud of his team’s effort in the 2nd half tonight. At the end of the night, the defensive play of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – expected to be the No. 1 and No. 2 picks respectively in the upcoming NBA draft – was just too much for the Jayhawks to overcome.
The best team in the country won the tournament, and it’s not often we get to say that.
As Self said in his opening response during the post-game press conference:
“I don’t feel like we lost. They just beat us.”