US: Kansas Wins National Championship
The Kansas Jayhawks are the men’s college basketball national champion after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels on Monday, April 4. Now that the NCAA Tournament is wrapped up, the sports news cycle will start to shift to MLB and the playoffs for the NBA and NHL.
The final score showed a 72-69 victory for the Kansas Jayhawks, but that doesn’t even come close to telling the entire story. It looked as if North Carolina was on their way to a blowout win in the title game, but it ended up being the biggest comeback in NCAA Championship Game history.
North Carolina led by as many as 16 points in the first half and then went into the locker room with a 40-25 lead. It didn’t take long before that lead was completely gone and the Jayhawks actually took the lead within ten minutes of action in the second half.
The 1963 Loyola Chicago Ramblers previously held the record for the biggest comeback in title game history with a 15-point comeback. Kansas actually surged out to a six-point lead late in the second half, but North Carolina just continued to keep the pressure on.
David McCormack took control of this game late for the Jayhawks, hitting the final two field goals to set the final score. McCormack made a jump hook with around 1:20 left to give Kansas a one-point lead and then added another bucket on the ensuing possession.
North Carolina would actually get three attempts to tie the game in the final 20 seconds, but all three of the three-point attempts fell short. Kansas actually added some unnecessary drama to the game when turning the ball over trying to inbound the ball up three.
Kansas was the number one seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament, and they won the Big 12 Championship. The Jayhawks faced very little challenge during the run in the NCAA Tournament, but they got a real test on Monday night.
There were some doubts as to whether UNC would even make the NCAA Tournament this year, but they got into the field as a number eight seed. The Tar Heels beat some great teams along the way, including defending national champion Baylor.
The championship for the Jayhawks was the fourth in school history and it also allowed the Big 12 Conference to go back-to-back. Kansas was the number 1 overall seed in 2020 before that tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Self Secures Second Title
This victory by Kansas was also important to the legacy for head coach Bill Self as it now gives him an elusive second title. Self now joins a long list of Hall of Fame coaches with at least two championships, and his run might not be done at Kansas.
When Self left Illinois to come to the University of Kansas in 2003 it was to replace the legendary Roy Williams. Ironically, Hubert Davis was in his first year as the head coach at North Carolina after replacing Williams as well.
It had been a long championship drought for the Jayhawks despite being a top seed in the NCAA Tournament a number of times. This was the fourth trip for Kansas to the Final Four under the direction of Self, and 2008 was the only other national championship.
Self and his Kansas teams have dominated the Big 12 Conference since his arrival, winningi 16 Big 12 regular season titles and nine Big 12 Tournament titles.
Lack of Depth Hurt Tar Heels
North Carolina struggled with depth throughout the entire regular season, and it was a big reason that they barely snuck into the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels got just two points from their reserves in the semifinals, and played just seven players on Monday night.
Foul trouble and injury concerns hurt the Tar Heels against the Jayhawks, especially late in the game. Center Armando Bacot was forced to leave with 50 seconds remaining after re-injuring his right ankle on a drive to the rim.
Puff Johnson came off the bench to deliver 11 points and six rebounds for the Tar Heels, but his night was also cut short. Johnson was seen vomiting on the court late in the second half after taking a blow to the stomach.