With this year’s edition of March Madness lurking just around the corner, the best players within the frenetic world of college basketball will look to lead their institution to outright tournament glory.
No fewer than 68 colleges will attempt to be the best that America has to offer. 68 will attempt such a feat but only one will be crowned the winner of the NCAA’s primary basketball competition.
Last year it was the Kansas Jayhawks who reigned supreme and in doing so, recorded their fourth overall March Madness win. A fourth win that keeps them amongst rather esteemed company.
Level with Connecticut on a quartet of success and just one shy of going level with both Duke and Indiana on five wins each. Those two colleges are in touching distance, the same cannot be said of the three most successful teams in March Madness history.
The Jayhawks have their work cut out if they are to match UCLA’s tally of 11 outright wins and the same can be said for the eight and six overall wins that Kentucky and North Carolina have recorded respectively.
Then again, that is not to say that the Jayhawks do not like a challenge and if they win back-to-back tournaments in 2023, who knows if a college basketball dynasty is not far away from being built?
With that in mind, we are now going to look at each of their four overall March Madness wins.
If 2022 represented the last time that the Jayhawks won March Madness, then 70 years prior was the year in which they picked up their first success. The year was 1952 and the tournament bracket only included 16 teams.
This meant a First Round pairing with TCU and it was a game where the Kansas-based college had to sweat. Just four points were the eventual difference between the two teams, as the Jayhawks progressed to the Second Round.
A progression that saw them pitted against St. Louis in their next tournament outing. This time around the win was far more comfortable than before. Pedestrian even, as Kansas cruised to a 74-55 victory.
19 points were the difference between the two teams in the Second Round and the exact same margin was recorded in the Final Four. Not only that but the exact same was lodged into the history books, as Santa Clara was brushed aside by another score of 74-55.
This means St John’s lay in wait for the final. It may not have been a 19-point win this time but a 17-point win should not be overlooked either. A rather comfortable victory in the grand scheme and a first-ever March Madness title for Kansas.
Whether their success is slightly diminished by it only being a 16-team tournament can be argued. At the same time, you can only beat what is in front of you and that is exactly what the Jayhawks managed to do.
In 1988, they beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the final with a score of 83-79. Danny Manning was named the outstanding player of the tournament for his impressive performance throughout the tournament.
While it would take another 36 years before Kansas would rule the roost. A long wait perhaps but one where the victory and its legitimacy could not be called into question. This time a full-fat 64 bracket was announced before the tournament got underway.
Waiting in the First Round was Xavier and with 11th seeds only mustering 72 points on the scoreboard, Kansas would manage 85 themselves. The inaugural hurdle of 1988 was cleared and now on to the next one.
Next up was Murray State in the second round. Perhaps an easier pairing on paper, as the opposition were 14th seeds by comparison. However, basketball games are not played on paper and a narrow 61-58 was eventually recorded.
From here on in, the difficulty was only dialed up further and with Vanderbilt waiting in Sweet Sixteen, it meant that Kansas would soon have to deal with the seventh seeds. With that said, they dealt with them rather well and won by a 13-point margin.
The Elite Eight pitted them against Kansas State, one that only enhanced this local rivalry further. The Jayhawks would earn bragging rights, as they picked up a 71-58 win over the fourth-seed.
Not only would they earn bragging rights, but they would also earn a Final Four berth. One that saw them go up against Duke. The second-seed they may have been but they went the same way as everyone else that year and lost to Kansas by 66 points to 59.
In the final, they beat the Oklahoma Sooners with a score of 83-79. Danny Manning was named the outstanding player of the tournament for his impressive performance throughout the tournament.
While it would take another 20 years for the Jayhawks to once again fly to the top of March Madness. As before though, the lengthy wait between tournament wins was certainly worth the wait.
The path to the final saw them paired with Portland State in the First Round. A potentially tricky tie as the Oregon-based college was given the mantle of 16th seeds. However, these seeds did not grow, as they were cut down on the way to an 85-61 defeat.
Portland State was disposed of and next up was UNLV in the Second Round. The margin of victory may have been smaller this time around but it was still comfortable enough to move into the Sweet Sixteen.
A 75-56 win was recorded with relative ease and this meant that Vilanova would be the next college to try and stand in their way. They tried but just like Portland State and UNLV before them, they also failed in 2008.
This would mean a 72-57 loss for Vilanova but a meeting with Davidson in the Elite Eight for the Jayhawks. A meeting that ended rather favorably for the team in question, as they just edged out the opposition by 59-57.From here, they would face then four-time March Madness winners North Carolina. The Tar Heels would go on to win the 2009 tournament but the year before, they had to do with being dumped out in the Final Four.
They beat the Memphis Tigers in the final with a score of 75-68 in overtime. Mario Chalmers was named the outstanding player of the tournament for his clutch shooting in the final game, including a game-tying three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation that forced overtime.
From that dramatic tournament win in 2008, we must now fast forward to almost the present day. The 2022 edition of March Madness was certainly a memorable one, even more so if you are a fan of the Jayhawks.
Their road to glory became with a comfortable win over Texas Southen. The 16th seeds were no match for Kansas, as they succumbed to an 83-56 loss and waved their opponents on to a Second Round meeting with Creighton.
One that saw last year’s ninth seeds give Kansas a stern test it must be said. Not stern enough though as they eventually lost out by a seven-point margin. A 79-72 win was recorded and the door to the Sweet Sixteen was open.
A door that was blocked by fourth-seeds Providence but not for long. They would also be no match for the Jayhawks in the end. It may have only been a game that five points in it, but the theme was still the same - a win for Kansas.
From here the Elite Eight set up an enticing tie with Miami. Enticing but one-sided it must be said, The Florida-based college was absolutely blown away in this encounter., as they were on the wrong side of a 76-50 scoreline.
This left just four teams in the tournament and Vilanova would act as the gatekeepers between themselves and the final. However, the gate would soon be prised open with brute force when Kansas won 81-65.
A place in the final was once secured and again North Carolina would do their best to stop the Jayhawks from coming out on top. They tried but ultimately failed, as they were edged out by just three points.
A 72-69 win for Kansas, meant a fourth overall win in the March Madness tournament and now the hunter will become the hunted. There is no doubt the reigning champions will have a target on their back but can they avoid being hit?
While we should not overlook the fact that the Jayhawks have made the March Madness final on no less than 10 separate occasions. Yes, they may have won the tournament four times, but they have also lost the showpiece game six times.
While the two most recent defeats have come within the past 20 years. 2012 saw them edged out by Kentucky, as they fell to a 67-59 reverse. Nine years prior to that, it was Syracuse who won by three points.
There is no doubt that the Jayhawks have a tournament pedigree, can they display it once more in 2023?
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