Kansas takes the crown

Fred Jeter | 4/7/2022, 11 p.m.
It was like magic. The University of Kansas went into the halftime locker room looking like a frog, and came …
University of Kansas players leap for joy Monday night after the final buzzer sounded and they clinched the NCAA Tournament title with a 72-69 win over the University of North Carolina.

It was like magic. The University of Kansas went into the halftime locker room looking like a frog, and came out dressed as a prince.

In so doing, the Jayhawks taught basketball teams of all ages a valuable lesson: “Never Give Up.”

Coach Bill Self’s Big 12 Conference squad battled from a 16-point deficit — 15 at halftime — to defeat ACC royalty the University of North Carolina 72-69 Monday night for the NCAA title at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

The 16-point deficit was the largest ever overcome in an NCAA final. The previous catchup mark of 15 was set in 1963 when Loyola-Chicago rallied past the University of Cincinnati.

Kansas All-American Ochai Agbaji was named Most Outstanding Player, but he got plenty of help from Virginian David McCormack, who scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

The 6-foot-10 McCormack played at Norfolk Academy and Oak Hill Academy before enrolling at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan.

Christian Braun had 12 points and 12 boards and Remy Martin added 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting from behind the arc.

Richmonder Armando Bacot, playing on a tender ankle, had 15 points and 15 rebounds for UNC before re-injuring the joint with 1:20 left in the game.

Bacot, out of Trinity Episcopal High, was seeking to become the second Richmonder to help UNC to a national title. Benedictine’s Ed Davis was a key man for the Tar Heels’ 2009 NCAA championship team.

Monday night’s contest wasn’t decided until the Tar Heels’ Caleb Love missed a heavily contested 3-pointer at the final horn. Love had been outstanding throughout the tournament, but was only 5-for-24 from the field against Kansas.

En route to winning its fourth NCAA title, the Jayhawks defeated Texas Southern, Creighton, Providence, Miami and Villanova before finishing the deal against UNC and the Tar Heels’ first-year coach Hubert Davis.

Kansas almost surely will lose Agbaji to the NBA, but plenty of help is on the way. Coach Self’s in-coming freshmen for 2022-2023 include Gradey Dick (Wichita), M.J. Rice (Napa, Calif.) and Ernest Udeh Jr. (Orlando). All are rated five-star (highest rating) prospects.

Now that the 2022 title is in the books, here’s a look back at Kansas’ previous three championship titles.

• 1952 — Led by future NBA star Clyde Lovellette, the Jayhawks defeated St. John’s in the final.

• 1988 — Known as “Danny and the Miracles,” the Danny Manning paced squad topped Oklahoma for the crown.

• 2008 — With seven future NBA players on the roster, including all five starters, Kansas topped Memphis 75-68 in overtime.

Near misses

Kansas’ Monday night win over UNC is long-overdue revenge for the 1957 title game in which the Tar Heels beat the Jayhawks, led by Wilt Chamberlain, in three overtimes.

In 1966, Kansas nearly foiled Texas Western’s historic run to the NCAA title. The Jayhawks lost to the Miners in the Midwest Final 81-80 in double overtime. Heavily favored Kansas was led by future NBA Hall of Famer Jo Jo White and 7-foot Walt Wesley.  

White appeared to have won the game for Kansas at the buzzer of the first overtime, but the 32-foot shot was nullified when officials determined White’s foot had been out of bounds by a fraction of an inch.

Texas Western (now University of Texas-El Paso) went on to become the first team to win the NCAA title with an all-Black starting lineup.