The KU men’s basketball season ended abruptly in Kansas City when the Ducks of Oregon ousted the Jayhawks from the NCAA Tournament in the Elite 8. While the road to the Final Four has ended for the ‘Hawks, the accolades keep rolling in, including first-team AP All-American honors for senior Frank Mason and third-team honors for freshman Josh Jackson. That adds to the team’s haul of Big 12 honors, including Player of the Year (Mason), Freshman of the Year (Jackson) and Coach of the Year (Bill Self), in addition to KU winning its thirteenth consecutive Big 12 title. Obviously, it’s been a busy year.
The KU Alumni Association also kept busy connecting fans and alumni for watch parties coast to coast. Nick Kallail, assistant vice president for alumni and career programs, tallied up his attendance at KU basketball gatherings during his first year on the staff, sharing the total with friends and alumni volunteers on Facebook:
Reflecting on an incredible first basketball season with KUAA –
3 home games
4 games in KC
5 road games – Las Vegas, Ft Worth, Norman, Waco, Austin
14 watch parties – LA (3), Denver, Chicago (2), Manhattan Beach, Seattle (2), San Francisco (2), San Diego, Houston, Dallas
And loved every second of it… because of the time spent with so many of you. Heading home!
Nick ended the season with our L.A. Jayhawks, where halftime festivities include a highlight video celebrating our loyal alumni and fans (see below). Similar celebrations took place all season every place Jayhawks flock, from Maine to Seattle, and last Saturday was no different. All told, the KU Alumni Association hosted 68 watch parties during KU’s Elite 8 contest with Oregon in Kansas City.
And throughout the postseason, our staff was able to travel in style, thanks once again to our postseason partner Crown Automotive. The Crown Jayhawk Car didn’t log as many miles as we had hoped, but fans loved seeing it and snapping pics with it when we hit the road to Tulsa and KC.
More awards and recognition will continue to come before Monday night’s national championship game, and we have one more to add, for the Best Fans and Alumni in the Nation, always proud to be a Jayhawk.
The road to the Final Four ended abruptly Saturday with KU’s loss to Villanova in the Elite 8. Time to load the car and head for home, but not before looking back on a great “ride” through the postseason.
Thanks to a partnership with Miles Schnaer’s Crown Automotive in Lawrence, our staff was fortunate enough to drive the Jayhawk Car to NCAA Tournament sites in Des Moines and Louisville for alumni events. I asked the lucky staff members who were beyond excited to drive it what it was like to get behind the wheel of the Jayhawk Car:
“It turned heads quicker than a Wayne Selden dunk!”
“It drove the lane more smoothly than Devonte Graham!”
Ugh. Okay, clearly we’ve still got basketball on the brain, but that’s understandable. The Jayhawk Car–a Scion tC, the sportiest model in the Scion line up–visited the venues and other popular sites during the Jayhawks’ postseason run. The car itself was a popular attraction among fans who asked to take pics with it, including one KU alumnus who asked for a picture sitting behind the wheel (he reportedly wanted to send the shot to wife, hoping to drop a hint). This didn’t surprise the team at Crown, who told us the Jayhawk Car has been popular with fans since it was created.
“The relationship with KU is very important because it is a partnership based on each entity supporting one another,” said Crown spokesperson Randy Habiger. “Miles has had a relationship with KU for over 20 years. The car was his idea, and he envisioned it being displayed at KU events, golf outings, etc., so we wrapped it to be a recognizable icon that it is.”
So recognizable, in fact, that it even attracts non-Jayhawks.
“We’ve even had K State and Missouri fans want their pictures taken with the car,” he said. (We’ll have to take his word for it, since we didn’t spot any during this year’s NCAA Tournament.)
Even though the journey had to end, the partnership made for a memorable March. And while the Jayhawks’ drive to the championship didn’t pan out, it was a incredible season …and one great ride!
After visiting historic Churchill Downs for their team dinner Tuesday, the top-seeded Jayhawks convened for open practice Wednesday in downtown Louisville’s cavernous KFC Yum! Center in preparation for their Sweet 16 showdown Thursday with the No. 5 seed Maryland Terrapins.
In their light-hearted but spirited open practice, KU guards—especially Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonte’ Graham—looked to be locked in as they made their way around the arc, launching shots from 2 and 3 feet behind the line that consistently swished elegantly through the net. The highlight of the afternoon session was Evan Manning’s swish from half court, nearly equalled by LaGerald Vick.
“We know how it feels to take losses,” says forward Jamari Traylor, referencing opening-weekend NCAA Tournament losses the past two seasons. “We’re just a little bit more focused. When you take a loss, it sits in the back of your mind and you’re going to do anything you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Terrapins are coached by former KU guard Mark Turgeon, c’87, who in 1987 became the first Jayhawk to appear in four NCAA Tournaments. As for coaching against his alma mater, the veteran former coach of Wichita State and Texas A&M coach said, “The Kansas thing is not that weird to me anymore, or unique. It was a little bit that way the first time we played them, but being at Texas A&M, we played them a lot. You get used to it.”
Turgeon did, however, disclose that one boyhood sports loyalty will never fade: “I literally can’t go to bed at night,” Turgeon said, “until I get a Royals’ score.”
KU alumni, fans and friends are invited to gather for a pregame party starting at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Cascade Rooms A, B and C. The KU spirit squad, mascots and band will lead a pep rally at 6:15 p.m.
Miami and Villanova open the South Regional’s Sweet 16 action at 6:10 p.m. (Central) Thursday. The KU-Maryland game follows at approximately 8:40.
The two teams advancing to the Elite Eight will play Saturday (time to be determined Friday), with a trip to the Final Four in Houston on the line.
“I hate that it’s Kansas.” – Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, after his team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
Amen to that.
At our house, we cheer passionately for two college basketball teams: the Jayhawks of Kansas (my alma mater) and the Terrapins of Maryland (my husband’s).
Most of the time, this is fine, especially in the era of the DVR. Sometimes at home we do wardrobe changes—including shoes— between games. (More on that later.) We’ve found ourselves at Allen Fieldhouse or Xfinity Center in College Park watching a game on a cellphone at halftime. But nothing too crazy.
We did once watch Maryland play in the old Wooden Classic in Anaheim and then drive to San Diego to watch Kansas play that evening. And in 2001, we flew back and forth between Anaheim and San Antonio, watching three NCAA tournament games in two cities in three days. It would have been four games in four days, but alas, Kansas lost to Illinois in the Sweet Sixteen.
Did I mention we’re passionate about college basketball?
Our schools aren’t in the same league, so it’s mostly a good thing, not competitive. We’ve learned new cheers and traditions. I never knew before that Maryland also calls itself the Free State, because it abolished slavery in 1864. Kansas, of course, was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1861. Three years earlier. Now, what was I saying? Oh, embracing new traditions and cheers. Rick mastered the I’m A Jayhawk clap in record time. Even the double-time part.
Rarely do our interests conflict. The Jayhawks and Terps have played only one regular season game in the time we’ve been married. (Maryland won.) Some years, they’ve been on a collision course in the NCAA tournament, but the bracket was busted before they met. The exception was 2002, when Maryland beat Kansas in the national semifinal game in Atlanta. We were at that game, but did not sit together. The marriage survived.
Then the brackets came out this year and the selection committee placed Kansas and Maryland in the South region. When both advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, we started getting messages of concern from friends. What would we do?
Well, we’d go to Louisville, of course. We’ve been focused this week on travel plans and ticket acquisition. No trash talk.
Everything is arranged. Now all I have to do is pack.
When we were in Lawrence for the Kentucky game, I bought a pair of Jayhawk sneakers. I have worn them for every game since. As you may know, the Jayhawks have played well during that time. Undefeeted, as Rick puts it.
During that streak, he decided I needed a pair of Terp sneakers. Even Rick acknowledges, though, that the Crimson and Blue shoes are cuter than the Red and White and Black and Gold pair. (Yes, Maryland has four colors, and yes, I can explain why, but it’s a long story and not that interesting.)
The Terp sneakers haven’t been nearly as lucky as the Jayhawk pair, which I will wear Thursday in Louisville.
I will tuck the Maryland pair in my suitcase for the Elite Eight in case I need them. I hope I won’t.
Marriage is all about give and take, and I think it’s the Jayhawks’ turn.
—Shawna Seed, j’85, lives in Dallas and is the author of two novels. Find her on Twitter @shawnaseed.
The KU men’s basketball team earned the No. 1 overall seed in the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, marking the seventh straight season that the Jayhawks have earned a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, and the 12th time overall that Kansas has been a one-seed.
The team opened tournament play against No. 16 Austin Peay State University on Thursday, March 17. No luck was needed as the Jayhawks handily beat the Governors, 105-79, to advance to the second round and a matchup against No. 9 UConn.
March Madness can create some unlikely rivalries, and KU’s feisty first-round match against Austin Peay produced some good natured trash talking on Twitter this week. The admissions offices from KU and Austin Peay exchanged shots that were too good to miss. Check it out. These loyal staffers work hard and play hard. Let the games begin!
This year, thanks to a partnership with Miles Schnaer’s Crown Automotive in Lawrence, there will be no missing the KU Alumni Association on the ‘Road to the Final Four.’ Catch our staff in this one-of-a-kind Jayhawk Car, if you can!
The Crown Jayhawk Car is a Scion tC, and take our word for it, this Jayhawk can fly. If you’re lucky enough to spot it on the road, or if you scored tickets to see the Jayhawks play in person, look for the Crown Jayhawk Car and post a pic. According to our friends at Crown, the car has been a fan favorite among Jayhawks and auto enthusiasts young and old.
Follow the ‘hawks throughout the postseason on our ‘Hawks and Hoops page, with the latest information on tournament games, pep rallies, shoot arounds and watch parties around the country. Plus, look for special benefits just for proud Association members. No matter how far our Jayhawks go in the tournament, you can bet we’ll arrive in style!
In a blog post titled “One Bad Loss” Paul Pierce shared his memories of the one that got away in 1997, and for Pierce, ’99, KU’s epic upset loss to Arizona still stings.
“Our team was just about unstoppable that season — we started the year 22-0,” Pierce noted. “ESPN was calling us the national title favorites. Our only loss during the regular season was against Mizzou in double OT, and we beat them by double-digits the next two times we faced them.”
The 1996-97 Jayhawks featured a line-up many consider the best in KU’s storied history, including future NBA stars like Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard, along with Jacque Vaughn, Jerod Hasse, Ryan Robertson and Billy Thomas to boot.
“We entered the 1997 NCAA tournament that year as the No. 1 overall seed and won our first two games convincingly. In the Sweet 16, we were set to face No. 4 Arizona. We had beaten them the previous season in the Sweet 16, so I felt like we were ready.”
But fate has a funny way of manifesting itself, and as KU relished the role of Cinderella in ’88, it would experience the madness of March in ’97 running headlong into eventual NCAA Tournament Champion Arizona, which had a date with destiny. Despite a thrilling comeback, KU would fall by three points, as a last-second shot clanged off the rim. As bad as the loss was for the rest of the team to take, it might have been harder on Pierce. Like all champions, Pierce wanted the ball in that clutch situation, and he remains haunted by those final seconds in which he never touched the ball.
A University Daily Kansan clipping captured the heartbreaking loss
“Coming all the way back from a big deficit and me not having a crack at the final shot made it hurt that much worse. I just remember crying in the locker room after that game. All of us were crying — the entire team was completely devastated. To us, it was a wasted season.”
KU Alumni and fans also shed tears along with Head Coach Roy Williams, who would call it the most painful loss of his coaching career. But as Pierce concluded, that’s why they call it March Madness.
“The tournament is unforgiving. If you have one bad game, that’s it. Throughout my career I’ve had many losses, but all these years later, this is one that still stings.”
Pierce’s full post, including pictures and video clips, can be read online at theplayerstribune.com. Danny Manning’s reflection on the ’88 championship, titled “It’s Over,” was featured earlier this year.
The NCAA Tournament depends, in part, on the annual rite of building up the underdogs; David versus Goliath is a March Madness mantra that never grows old. So when second-seeded Kansas faces No. 7-seed Wichita State University, it might be expected that anybody who’s not part of the crimson and blue crew in Omaha’s CenturyLink Center will be rooting for the Shockers.
Objection! That’s assuming facts not in evidence, advises Omaha attorney Rick Putnam, c’77, l’80, chair-elect of the Alumni Association’s board of directors.
While the Sunflower State storyline has been hotly coveted by WSU fans since NCAA brackets were revealed last Sunday, the game won’t be contested on a strictly neutral court: CenturyLink is the home arena of the Creighton University Bluejays, a fierce Missouri Valley Conference rival of Wichita State.
“There’s a lot of bad blood between Creighton and Wichita State, a lot of bad blood,” Putnam said during KU’s official pregame rally, hosted by the Alumni Association in partnership with the Williams Education Fund and Kansas Athletics, before Friday’s NCAA opener. “There’s going to be a lot of blue in here cheering for the Jayhawks if we face Wichita State, and it won’t be only our blue. Creighton blue will be here to root for KU.”
Sunday kicks off with the Association’s pregame rally, set to begin at 12:30 p.m. on the second floor of the CenturyLink Center. Game time is 4:15 p.m.
“It will be a big game for our state,” said KU coach Bill Self, “without question.”
When Alumni Association president Kevin Corbett, c’88, took the stage to welcome Jayhawk alumni and fans to the official rally before Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener in Omaha’s CenturyLink Center, he told the gathering that he and other members of the Association staff weren’t sure what to expect.
With a rally that began at 8 a.m., ahead of an 11:15 a.m. tipoff, they worried the early hour would keep fans from showing up in time for a gathering of the flock.
“And next thing we know,” Corbett noted to the crowd of about 1,000 Jayhawk faithful, “there’s a line outside the door to get in. Welcome to the Big Dance.”
The early risers soaked in the complete crimson and blue experience. With the giant inflatable Jay towering over the ballroom and D.J. Scott Simpson, ’85, cranking out the tunes, fans frolicked with Baby Jay, found themselves interviewed by television crews and scored official gear from KUStore.com, all while greeting old friends from near and far.
“We’re thrilled to have everyone back in Omaha,” said the Association board’s chair-elect Rick Putnam, c’77, l’80, a local attorney. “Every few years we get to see all of our KU friends return here for the tournament, and it’s always seems to work out well.”
The Jayhawks launched their 2008 national championship run in Omaha, and did the same on their way to the NCAA Tournament title game in 2012. Should they be fortunate enough to advance to the tourney’s second weekend three years from now, the Jayhawks could return again to Omaha, which will host NCAA regional play in 2018.
“Here we are again,” Corbett told the crowd, “ready to begin another run.”
Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, PhD’96, told the KU faithful about a few minutes he spent in the locker room with assistant coaches while coach Bill Self met with the media after the Jayhawks secured their 11th-consecutive Big 12 title. The coaches, Zenger said, thought back to the 72-40 drubbing by Kentucky Nov. 18; from that disappointment emerged 26 victories entering NCAA play, another outright conference championship, a trip to the Big 12 Tournament’s title game and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“The coaches said to me, ‘We’d have taken that and run,'” Zenger recalled. “What a job coach Self has done.”
Noting that KU is in its 26th-consecutive NCAA Tournament, Zenger closed with, “This is what we do, and nobody does it better.”
With the Spirit Squad and basketball band kicking the festivities into high gear, fans sang along with fight songs, the Alma Mater and, of course, the Rock Chalk Chant before descending in droves to the arena below.
The Big Dance had begun.
Check out our photos from today’s pregame party and pep rally in the slideshow below.