In the 2008 NCAA Title game, Mario Chalmers and the Kansas Jayhawks took down the Memphis Tigers in a thrilling overtime victory thanks to the help of Chalmers’ late game heroics. Since then, the Jayhawks have only made it back to the title game once, being kicked from the tournament in early rounds a few of those years. The 2012 team led by Thomas Robinson were the closest to bringing the NCAA title back to Lawrence, Kansas. With a deep roster and rising stars, many Jayhawk fans believe that this year’s team may be the team to add a new banner to the rafters in Allen Fieldhouse.
Heading into the 2015-16 college basketball season, the Kansas Jayhawks have one thing no other college team has: the World University Games gold-medal. The University of Kansas men’s basketball team represented Team USA in July and went undefeated on their way to a gold-medal. Along with the gold-medal, Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr. and Perry Ellis earned spots on the All-World University Games teams. Selden carried the team through most of the Games, averaging 19.3 points per game and earning himself the honor of the World University Games’ best player. In the gold-medal game, junior point guard Mason scored 18 points and earned the Finals MVP on his way to a double overtime victory against Germany. The Jayhawks played 8 games in a matter of 11 days, so Coach Bill Self had to utilize his whole bench, giving each player a chance to showcase their talents. The Games also gave the team an opportunity to bond and get more reps in together while other college teams were unable to do so due to NCAA restrictions on summer practices.
So the Big Question is: Is the momentum from winning the World University Games enough to propel them back into the NCAA title game?
With a disappointing end to last season, falling to Ron Baker and the Wichita State Shockers in the third round, the Jayhawks are hungry to make another Final Four appearance. They have rising stars in guards Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr. and a veteran presence in forward Perry Ellis. Those players along with a deep roster are convincing reasons to believe they can. During the team’s appearances in the Games, there was not a single player on the team who had a disappointing outing. After bringing the gold home, confidence in the locker room must be high and the whole team must be anxious to begin the season at full stride. The only question is if the length of the college basketball season will slow down the momentum they have picked up so far.
With the talent the Jayhawks have, Coach Self’s leadership, and a gold-medal in their pockets, the Big 12 Conference Title seems to be theirs to lose. Kansas has won 11 straight regular season titles showing consistent greatness. Now the momentum of the gold medal and hopefully a 12th conference title needs to carry them through March. As long as Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr. can continue to play as they did this past July in the Games, the Kansas Jayhawks look as if they can make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, and hopefully have a “Mario’s Miracle” part 2.
Cain Lever ’19
All statistics from www.sports-reference.com
Photos from www2.ljworld.com/news