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kansas basketball

Kansas basketball / Another early exit

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHEN WILL THEY STOP TORTURING ME? Once again, the Jay­hawks exit­ed the NCAA tour­na­ment in the first round; this time, it was a 77–73 loss to Bradley, mark­ing the sec­ond year in a row in which the heav­i­ly-favored Hawks were up-end­ed by a low­er seed.What the hell went wrong? Bradley came out loose and snap­py; the Hawks looked spooked and tight. A cou­ple of unlucky ear­ly pos­ses­sions tipped the momen­tum toward Bradley, and you could see the Hawks get some­what pre­ma­ture­ly dis­cour­aged and frus­trat­ed. Up until the very late sec­ond half, the vaunt­ed Jay­hawk defense — which had cre­at­ed easy offen­sive oppor­tu­ni­ties all year — strug­gled to keep up with Bradley's relent­less inside-out attack. All year, Kansas had locked down their oppo­nents, forc­ing bad shots and rac­ing it right back up their oppo­nents' back­side. This time, they played Bradley's game for almost 40 minutes.The most con­found­ing part was that they seemed so out of sync. The stars from the Texas game fell vic­tim to the fum­bles and hic­cups that char­ac­ter­ized the ear­ly sea­son. Julian Wright dis­ap­peared for min­utes on end; Mario Chalmers couldn't get any­thing to fall in the first half; Sasha Kaun's shots got some tough treat­ment by the rim, and then, man, what hap­pened? And JHawk, well, you just knew that he wouldn't repeat the 4‑for‑5 shoot­ing from three point range. With­out Russ­Rob, the Hawks would have nev­er been in the game.Nevertheless, late in the sec­ond half, Self went with three guards, and the sud­den, swarm­ing defen­sive pres­sure par­a­lyzed Bradley's offense. Chalmers and Robin­son cre­at­ed turnovers, shred­ded Bradley's defense and — BAM — we got a quick glimpse of what could have been a 25-point cake­walk on anoth­er night. The Hawks just total­ly over­whelmed the Bradley back­court for the last 7 or 8 min­utes, and improb­a­bly the game was with­in reach.Then, heart­break. The Hawks cre­at­ed anoth­er turnover, and brought the ball upcourt, down by three with a lit­tle over a minute left. Hawkins comes around a screen. He's got an open look. DUDE, KNOCK IT DOWN! It looks good when it leaves his hands. The ball is arc-ing toward the bas­ket. I'm in a hotel room in Albu­querque, stand­ing on the bed with my arms raised in three-point/­field goal for­ma­tion, and I'm remem­ber­ing the Mis­souri game from 2003 when Aaron Miles hit a long, con­test­ed three as time ran out to win the game, WHICH I ALSO WATCHED FROM A HOTEL ROOM! SYNCHRONICITY! and I'm not breath­ing, and my heart is pound­ing GO IN for God's sake! NO! Rebound! NOOO!Alas.Was it worse than last year? I would say yes. Last year's team par­tial­ly implod­ed in the late sea­son, limped out of the Big 12 tour­na­ment, and rolled over some­where en route to their first round game. This year's team, though. I don't think I was the only one who was hav­ing visions of the Fab Five danc­ing in my head. For days after, I mourned both my brack­et (in sham­bles), and what could have been a vic­to­ry over Pitt, a dom­i­na­tion of Mem­phis, and a rock­ing good game against UCLA. LSU would have been a prob­lem. With­in sev­en or eight feet of the bas­ket, they were tough; out­side of that, inept. Could the Hawks have stopped them enough in the paint for that to mat­ter? Per­haps.