MARSHALL: March sadness

3/25/2014

March Madness still reigns. And so does the March sadness.

March Madness still reigns. And so does the March sadness.

I don’t know about you, but once again my bracket is full of bullet holes. Blown away to smithereens.

I didn’t win the $1 billion that Warren Buffet humorously and smartly made available to those who believe in the miracle of miracles.

But then, neither did anybody else. Small consolation.

Like many other Kansans, Sunday’s swan song for the Kansas Jayhawks and then later the Wichita State Shockers brought an end to great interest in this year’s NCAA Men’s Championship.

Oh, I’ll be interested certainly with a few games — such as Michigan and Michigan State.

You ask why those two teams? It comes with having lived in Ann Arbor for 15 years and attending games both there and in East Lansing, where I watched Tom Izzo grow into one of college’s best basketball coaches. And, just in case you missed our March Mayhem online contest, I chose the Spartans to win it all.

Got them beating Louisville in the championship game.

Don’t want Kentucky anywhere close. Don’t like the Wildcats. Never have, never will. Too much bad history between that group of bluebloods and the Jayhawks. Too much John Calipari can wear on you. He’s too cool, too smooth. No surprise that he can recruit thoroughbred athletes to the thoroughbred state.

While I suffered like so many other Kansans on Sunday watching the Jayhawks struggle in their loss to Stanford, it was the Wichita State loss that put me over the top of sadness, and a bit of frustration.

Remember the Shockers’ loss to Louisville in the Final Four semifinals in 2013?

The Shockers never shot a free throw in the final six minutes against the Cardinals while watching a double-digit lead disappear.

Sunday was a bit of dejá vu.

Leading by five with five minutes left, the Shockers managed to find their way to the free throw line only twice, and those came with 10 seconds remaining. Cleathony Early knocked them both down. Meanwhile, Kentucky headed to the charity stripe (notice the double entendre) 16 times with less than five minutes remaining, and the Wildcats made good on 13 of those. In all, Kentucky made 15 of 19 free throws in the final 20 minutes after going just 1 of 3 in the first half. Is that consistency?

Perhaps WSU head coach Gregg Marshall summed it up best in his post-game comments when he said, “In the end, they just basically lowered their head. It seemed they were just driving it and we were having too much body contact. And for the first time this year it seemed like the rules, the new rules, worked against us as opposed to in our favor.”

No truer words were spoken.

I’ll put it more bluntly.

The NCAA selection committee hosed the Shockers by placing them in the toughest regional. A Kentucky team that was ranked No. 1 at the start of the season, was playing like a No. 1 team at the end of the season. Even Calipari said it was an Elite Eight, or even a Final Four, game.  

The Jayhawks’ loss to Stanford was not quite as stunning due to the absence of center Joel Embiid, and the fact that KU was inconsistent throughout the season was perhaps a reflection of what transpired on Sunday against the Cardinal.

One of my college coaching buddies said earlier this year about the Jayhawks that they had not learned how to play defense yet...it was all about heart, and they had not shown the intensity and toughness to be great on that end of the floor. And the other overused word to describe the 2013-14 Jayhawks — potential. Yes, this KU squad had a lot of potential. But that also means they hadn’t done it yet. And they still haven’t.

Still, the college basketball season provided many highs for the Sunflower State with the Jayhawks winning a 10th straight Big 12 championship. We will bid farewell to Andrew Wiggins, another one-and-done player. We will remember with great admiration the Shockers winning 35 straight games in a season, something no other team in NCAA men’s basketball had accomplished.

Now it is time to get ready for the spring sports season. I can’t wait.

My basketball season came to an end too soon. March sadness has settled in.

Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be emailed at bmarshall@gctelegram.com

 

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