KU’s Midwest Regional championship was the cherry on top of both the basketball season and our trip to Kansas City.
Oddly enough I never felt nervous Sunday. Not before the game, not during the game. I was at peace with the season and satisfied with how far the team had advanced in the tournament. I was just hoping they would be competitive. In fact, I was on record as saying they would either win by 20 or lose by 20. I didn’t expect another nail biter.
Which is exactly what it was until the late KU 12-0. Even with some silly turnovers, and an almost unforgivable Tyshawn Taylor 3-point attempt when the game was still in question, I loved the body language of the KU players. There was something about how they slowly imposed their will on Carolina that made me confident that they would win.
I watched the game at our good friends the B’s home. Outside. While drinking many Boulevard Irish Ales. With friends that I watched the 2002 and 2003 regional finals with. It was damn near perfect. I’m pretty sure some of the children that were present were freaked out at all the screaming when Elijah Johnson nailed his big 3-pointer. There was a lot of happiness at the B’s house late in the game, and then during our extended post-game celebration.
A terrific coaching job by Bill Self. Many are making a big deal about how his move to the triangle-2 defense against Carolina Sunday completely took the Tar Heels out of their game. True that, but let’s not overlook Roy Williams’ complete inability to adjust his offense to face the new defense. Some have argued that Roy didn’t have much he could do, lacking his starting point guard. But what is most curious is how Roy didn’t even seem to realize that KU had switched defenses for more than a single possession.
Listen, Roy is a great, great coach. And, as usual, we’re making too much of an isolated event in a long, spectacular career. But that exchange summed up both coaches about as well as anything could. Bill Self manages the first half, adjusts at halftime, and then is willing to make more adjustments throughout the second half. Roy runs his stuff over-and-over and challenges you to be good enough to stop it. In this case, Bill’s system won.
You know, those losses to mid-majors hurt. But five Elite 8’s in Self’s nine years, seven in the past 11 years, is pretty freaking good. I’ll trade the occasional loss to some no-name school if Self can keep getting to the Elite 8 every other year and turn half of those appearances into Final Four berths.
I began Sunday with a controversial move: I purchased a new KU shirt. Wearing a new shirt for a big game is generally a bad move. How do you know what kind of mojo the shirt has in it? But I had already worn the two KU shirts I took to Kansas City, and figured if I had avoided superstition all season, I might as well continue.
I think I’ll be wearing that shirt again Saturday.
The Ohio State game should be very interesting. I think Jared Sullinger will want to show he really was the difference in the game last December. I think KU players will get sick of hearing about that. I think Tyshawn Taylor will get tired of hearing how good Aaron Craft is, and want to remind people that he was playing on a torn meniscus when the teams last played. Both teams have been through rough patches since then, and are much better than they were in December. Both feel like they have something to prove. The difference could be that KU is the team playing with more house money, having escaped two tight games they might have lost in the past and imposed their will on a more talented opponent to get to New Orleans.
Regardless of the result, I’m thrilled with this year’s version of the Jayhawks. I’m not counting on much but would love it if they had another couple wins in them.
Rock Chalk, bitches.