Rock Shock Jayhawks, Kansas Bows Out
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kansas sophomore Marcus Morris fell to his knees. Senior guard Sherron Collins, realizing that his KU career was over, collapsed near an empty Kansas bench.
On the other end of the Ford Center's court, purple clad Northern Iowa players hugged and celebrated. Jordan Eglseder, UNI's 7-foot, 280-pound center, grabbed his extra, extra, really extra large jersey, and thrust the words "Northern Iowa" toward the sky as a reminder to where they were from.
Northern Iowa 69, Kansas 67: Rock, Shock Jayhawks.
The NCAA tournament's No. 1 overall seed and the nation's No. 1 ranked team for the majority of the season has been playing all season with the No. 1 bull's eye on its back. It finally caught up to them Saturday night in one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.
The Jayhawks were outplayed all night, but nearly pulled off a comeback from 12 points down in the second half before falling short.
"You operate under duress, you operate under pressures the whole year that a lot of teams don't operate under because of where we were ranked and expectations," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "And to put ourselves in a position that we were in, they don't come around every year.
"You got to make the most of those opportunities when you're granted them. That's probably what stings the most."
Even 15 minutes after the game concluded, the magnitude of this loss was still sinking in for the Jayhawks inside their tear-filled locker room. Markieff and Marcus Morris, Tyshawn Taylor and Xavier Henry were sobbing into towels. Brady Morningstar also cried.
Perhaps, the one it hit the most was Collins, Kansas' only senior.
"Obviously everyone is disappointed on our team," Kansas junior center Cole Aldrich said. "To work so hard and to go through so much adversity that we did through individuals on our team, it's disappointing that we couldn't have let Sherron go out in a better way."
Added Tyrel Reed: "Everyone is very disappointed, sad that it happened, especially for Sherron because he's the ultimate competitor. There's nobody I wouldn't go to war with but Sherron. He's the ultimate teammate, ultimate competitor. He's been great for this program and I wish we could have sent him out on a much better note. We had a good season, it just didn't end the way we wanted it to."
Collins obviously didn't have the ending to the career he envisioned.
Collins missed 11 of 15 shots, including all six 3-pointers, and finished with 10 points, three rebounds, four assists and five turnovers.
"There's only going to be one happy team at the end of the day and certainly you always wish that that was you," Self said. "But I would love to see him go out on a better note because today wasn't a true indication of the player that he is.
"He labored today, but I've never coached anybody that's tougher, harder, more competitive and more of an extension of me that what he is. And so when a guy gives you so much for over four years and it's over in 40 minutes, it's kind of -- obviously a tough reality.
"But he'll look back on his career as time passes with the greatest memories because he's been the face of our program and I'm awfully proud to have had the opportunity to coach him."
Ironically three days ago, Collins discussed the pressure the Jayhawks had experienced all season.
"It's something we've been dealing with all year, so I think that pressure is over with," Collins said. "In a sense, there's no time for slip-ups and I think that's why you get those losses out early in the season, so you're prepared for this."
Taylor also said a few days ago the Jayhawks realized what was at stake. And that 32-3 was a good season, but not good enough.
"It's more serious now," Taylor said. "We're playing for a lot more now. We worked hard to get to this point, but it means nothing if we lose a game."
In Saturday's The Oklahoman, the newspaper wrote that "Kansas' starting lineup reads like an NBA starting five."
Yet all the talent in the world couldn't keep the Jayhawks from becoming only the 14th No. 1 seed to lose in the NCAA tournament's second round.
Kansas also has three second-round NCAA tournament losses as a No. 1 seed, the most of any school.
"When the brackets came out ... the first team I looked at was Northern Iowa," Self said. "A lot of people talked about Ohio State or Georgetown or Michigan State or whoever, Maryland was in our bracket. The first team I looked at was Northern Iowa because I know how they play and in basketball the key to having a good team is to get easy baskets and not give up easy baskets."
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org