Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's a Crying Shame....

I'm a KU fan, 100%.  They didn't deserve to win and this is a beautifully written, "tough" article.  Remember that no matter how good you are, on any given day, someone is always better.  Go hard or go home.

It's a Crying Shame...

It's a crying shame Kansas didn't want it sooner

By Gregg Doyel National Columnist

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Better late than never, Kansas wanted this game. Time had run out, sadly. Ninth-seeded Northern Iowa had just beaten the No. 1 seed Jayhawks -- the No. 1 overall seed Jayhawks -- in the second round, a 69-67 upset Saturday night that will rank among the biggest shockers in NCAA tournament history.
And Kansas wanted it. Finally. 

The clock hit zero, the buzzer sounded, the Northern Iowa and Kansas State fans in attendance at the Ford Center went bonkers, and right then and there, it occurred to the Jayhawks that they really wanted to win this game. 

Senior guard Sherron Collins walked toward the Kansas bench to be near someone, anyone, who might feel his pain, and finding nobody to hug, he simply collapsed in a heap in front of coach Bill Self's empty chair. Sophomore forward Marcus Morris was on his hands and knees. So was his twin brother, Markieff Morris.

Fifteen minutes later, when the Kansas locker room opened its doors to the media, the Jayhawks were still crying. Literally, bawling. All of them. I've never seen anything like it, and I've seen devastated college locker rooms -- after losses in the Final Four, the national championship game -- every year since 1998.

The Morris twins were crying into towels. So were Tyshawn Taylor and Xavier Henry. Brady Morningstar was bawling loudly, completely broken by this loss. It was a shocking sight for two reasons.

One, like I said, I've never seen a locker room this distraught.

Two, Kansas didn't play like the game had mattered this much. Not until it was late. Not until it was too late, obviously.

I'll tell you when it kicked in for Kansas, the desire to win, the realization that losing might actually, you know, hurt: With less than three minutes left, when Self stopped yelling and started coaching, and had his players cover the entire court as if their season depended on it. Which it did. From that moment on, it was obvious which team was the No. 1 overall Goliath, and which team was the ninth-seeded David from the Missouri Valley Conference.

Honestly, it was uncomfortable to watch the final three minutes. Uncomfortable because it wasn't fair, Kansas being so much bigger, stronger and quicker than Northern Iowa. It was like watching a ninth-grader beat up a second-grader. It was that much of a physical mismatch. 

And it was uncomfortable because, as those final three minutes unfolded, it crystallized Kansas' apathy over the previous 37 minutes.

Kansas had wanted to win from the opening tap, sure. Sort of like, when it's dinner time, you want to eat. Are you hungry? Maybe, maybe not. But it's 6 p.m., and you eat at 6, so you head for the table. Same with Kansas for those first 37 minutes. This was a game, and athletes prefer winning to losing, so Kansas wanted to win.

But the Jayhawks didn't need to win until they trailed 59-54 with 2 minutes, 58 seconds left. They weren't starving until those final three minutes. Northern Iowa, meanwhile, chased down this game from the opening tap like it was the Panthers' first meal in weeks. I'm not talking about shots going into the basket, though Northern Iowa had plenty of those. Ali Farokhmanesh made a trio of 3-pointers in the first half, no surprise considering he was the final-second hero of the Panthers' opening-round victory against UNLV. Center Jordan Eglseder made two 3-pointers in the first half, a shock considering he had made just one 3-pointer all season.

It was more than made shots. It was rebounds. Both teams had 16 in the first half, and again, you had to watch those last three minutes to realize just how much smaller, slower and weaker Northern Iowa was. In the second half Kansas outrebounded the Panthers by eight, but by then the Jayhawks trailed by 12 points.

Kansas' low point might have come with 14 minutes left when a Northern Iowa 3-pointer was tapped all the way into the backcourt, and Markieff Morris literally stopped chasing the ball. He figured it was a backcourt violation, never mind that Northern Iowa was still playing. Chasing everyone else would have required desire, and Morris wasn't about to show that, and so the Panthers played the rest of that possession like a power play in hockey, five on four -- and scored two points.

Final margin of victory? Two points.

But it was more than made shots or rebounds or even hustle at halfcourt. It was grit. The Panthers chased Kansas around the floor like Kansas had taken their lunch money. Kansas was bigger, stronger and faster, as I've said, but Northern Iowa was pissed. It wanted that money back. Kansas was nonchalant, aloof. If this was a baseball game, through 37 minutes every Northern Iowa player would have had dirt on his chest and knees. Kansas' uniforms would have been immaculate.

Am I being clear here? Kansas forced just four turnovers in the first half, and that's not even technically true. Northern Iowa had four turnovers in the half. That much is true. But Kansas forced only one of them. The others were offensive fouls or unforced, sloppy UNI mistakes. 

That's how the second half unfolded, too. Kansas forced two turnovers in the first 17 minutes of the second half. Do the math there: In 37 minutes, Northern Iowa committed just six turnovers. That's almost impossible to do, especially against a team with more size, speed and strength. But anything's possible when that bigger, stronger, faster team doesn't have the heart. And Kansas, until three minutes were left, didn't have it. Just wasn't Kansas' day in the ol' ticker department.

In those final three minutes, though, Kansas made like the Grinch. Its heart grew two sizes after Self called for the full-court press, and Kansas just about chased Northern Iowa into oblivion. 

The Panthers probably would have folded all the way under the pressure were it not for Farokhmanesh, who's as gutty as any player in the field. He had missed six straight 3-pointers when he found himself alone on the 3-point arc with 35 seconds left and a 63-62 lead.

It was early in the shot clock, so the smart basketball play would have been to pull the ball out, run off some more clock and shoot with about 10 seconds left in the game -- but screw it. Where's the fun in that? Farokhmanesh didn't punt. He went for it. He fired up the 3-pointer, and it went down, and this game was basically over.

When it was finished, Northern Iowa had scored more points off turnovers than Kansas. Northern Iowa had scored more points off the offensive glass. More points in transition. More points not just on the scoreboard, but more points in every way that measures effort.

Kansas led just once. It was 2-0. Other than the opening score of 0-0, this game was never even tied.
And you're going to cry after the game, Kansas? Don't bother. Too late. Nobody wants to hear that crap now.

For more from Gregg Doyel, check him out on Twitter: @greggdoyelcbs