Coming into Friday’s Big 12 quarterfinal Kansas had dismantled its last four opponents on its way to a share of the Big 12 regular season title. The Jayhawks, playing for a possible number one seed, really didn’t give anyone a reason to think Nebraska could hang with the reigning Big 12 Tournament champs.
If winning their last four contests by an average of 25
wasn’t enough reason to think this would be a one-sided
affair KU also beat Nebraska by 21 in Lincoln and 31 in Lawrence in two
regular season matchups.
Let this be a lesson learned when March rolls around things
don’t always go as planned. Seeds are just numbers. They may
decide who plays who but all too often they sure don’t
determine the result.
Nebraska sure didn’t look like a middle-of-the-pack Big 12
team Thursday, and after head coach Doc Sadler pondered how his Huskers
were going to compete with KU on Thursday, by Friday he sure learned
the answer. Sadler’s team was determined to use every ounce
of the shot clock and even built a nine-point lead in the first half.
It was a true survive-and-advance type of game one that Kansas could
face again in Round 1 or 2 of the NCAA tournament next week. Sadler
game-planned and attempted to compete with Kansas the only way the NU
coach knew would give his team any shot.
In a crazy way, maybe Kansas needed this.
KU picked the postseason to have one of its worst halves of the season
tying a season-low 22 points. Kansas hit just eight field goals and
turned it over 12 times against a Nebraska team not really known for
pressure defense, and trailed 27-22 at the break. A stunned partisan
Jayhawk crowed could not believe what they were seeing.
The fifth-ranked Jayhawks cranked up the defensive intensity and
responded with a 15-4 run that turned a five-point deficit into a
six-point lead. The Cornhuskers were down but not quite out. Nebraska
kept within striking distance and lost by just ten, 64-54 – a
very respectable performance by Sadler’s squad.
A week from now a performance like that one could end this extremely
talented team’s season. Playing three perfect games in the
Big 12 and six more in the NCAA tournament on the way to what Bill Self’s team hopes is an NCAA title, was highly unlikely
– in fact it’s pretty close to impossible so along
the way there could be a performance or even two like this one. When
you look back through history teams have survived scares on the way to
titles so maybe this bodes well for Kansas.
One other thing about March – there’s certainly not
much time to dwell on a poor performance or mull over deficiencies
because KU will take the floor less than 24 hours later for the
The Jayhawks are blessed with talent and experience but a little wake
up call couldn’t have hurt. After all this is March, where
style points don’t matter – remember,
it’s all about surviving and advancing.
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