Cliche as it sounds, there's a reason squads like VCU are referred to as "Cinderella" teams.
It's because sometimes, just like in the movie, the glass slipper fits.
Kansas dashed the hopes of another underdog who captured the interest of sports fans across the United States in 2008, when they knocked off Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats in the Elite 8. Back in San Antonio in 2011, the parallels weren't just hard to ignore – they were becoming borderline creepy.
To reach the Elite 8 in 2008, Kansas faced opponents seeded 16, 8 and 12. Davidson was 10-seed.
To reach the Elite 8 in 2011 the Jayhawks took on the 16, 9 and 12 seeds, while VCU was seeded at 11.
The similarities came to a screeching halt Sunday afternoon, however. In 2008, Kansas marched to the Final Four and eventually the national championship.
In 2011? The Rams and their enigmatic head coach, Shaka Smart, were just too much for the Jayhawks to handle, as they advanced to the first Final Four in program history with a 71-61 victory.
"I thought they played great, obviously," Self said of VCU afterward. "In the first half they had us on our heels the entire first half. And then we mounted a good comeback and fought hard, and just couldn't get the ball to go into the basket."
Indeed, the two teams could not have been on more opposite ends of the offensive spectrum early. After Kansas jumped out to 6-0 lead in the first half, and it looked as the partisan Jayhawks crowd at the Alamodome was going to be treated to a repeat of Friday's blowout Sweet 16 victory over Richmond.
But then the Rams went nuclear, canning 9-of-17 threes in the first half, as Kansas went ice cold. The Jayhawks shot just 31-percent from the field, and an abysmal 18-percent from three, before intermission. They went into the locker rooms down 41-27, with thousands of befuddled Crimson and Blue-clad fans looking at each other in bewilderment.
Of particular note was the shooting of seniors Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed. The veteran sharpshooters combined to go just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc for the game. The team itself was 2-of-21, or 9.5-percent.
"It happens," said Morningstar. "When teams miss shots you've got to find another way to stay in the game. The ball didn't go in today. It's tough to win when you're not making the shots, when a team is on a roll like that."
For a time, it appeared as if halftime had provided the Jayhawks with just the opportunity to readjust and refocus they needed. They slowly whittled away at the Rams lead, cutting it to just two, 44-46, with 13:11 left in the game.
"We knew we were going to come back coming into the second half," Markieff Morris said. "We knew we were going to make a run. We played hard, but couldn't get any shots to fall."
No matter how close Kansas got to finally getting over that hump, VCU pushed it just a little bit higher. Less than three minutes later the lead was back out to nine, 46-55, and the Jayhawks would never seriously threaten again.
Now, heartbroken, the Kansas team will make its way back to Lawrence, Kan. and look to begin the process anew - all except for Morningstar, Reed and fellow senior Mario Little, who will be moving on due to graduation.
"When we recruited these guys four or five years ago, we had no idea the impact they'd have on our team," Self said. "And certainly, really proud of our team. They've had a great year."
Several Jayhawks are expected to look into the possibility of NBA futures, including the Morris Twins, Thomas Robinson, Josh Selby and Tyshawn Taylor. All were non-commital about their decisions in the immediate aftermath of the game.
"I have to sit down and talk to my coaches and family about my future, and my brother's future," Markieff Morris said. "Whatever happens, it will be the best decision."