Greatest Kansas NCAA Tournament wins in Bill Self era

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Oh, March. You beautiful, thrilling, infuriating month. Welcome back.

For the first time in almost 15 years, the Kansas basketball team will enter Selection Sunday without the title of Big 12 regular season champions.

The quest for 15 straight officially ended as Kansas was bullied by Oklahoma in Norman last Tuesday night. The streak is over.

However, the opportunity to do something special in the NCAA tournament is not.

It feels like just yesterday when many fans held little postseason faith in last year’s Kansas team. That team fell one game short of the national championship as Villanova hit 80 three-pointers in the Final 4 to beat them.

Okay, Villanova only hit 18 three’s, but it felt like 80 (No, I’m still not over it).

Anyways, don’t count this team out just yet because as we all know, insane things happen in the month of March.

March is filled with Cinderella stories, busted brackets, failed gambling bets, and a fragment of the population feeling happy by the end of it. And I couldn’t be happier to see its return.

With Selection Sunday being less than two weeks away, I always find it enjoyable to reminisce about past Kansas NCAA Tournament performances. But considering Kansas is a program with such a rich tradition, finding every all-time great moment is difficult.

In addition, since I’ve only been alive to see two Kansas head coaches in the big dance, it’s much easier and more nostalgic for me to narrow my search to specifically the Bill Self era.

Keep in mind that Kansas has made the tournament in all 15 years of Self’s tenure, so there may be a handful of historic games that don’t make my list.

With that being said, let’s take a walk down memory lane and relive what I believe to be the top 5 NCAA Tournament moments in the Self Era:

5. 2016 Sweet 16 vs. Purdue Boilermakers

This game is the only real wild card choice on the list. This matchup was a nerve-wracking one to say the least. Purdue had a clear advantage on the inside with Player of the Year Candidate Caleb Swanigan and seven-foot-two behemoth Isaac Haas, who looked like he could’ve played for the Monstars in the movie Space Jam.

But the backcourt ensemble of Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Josh Jackson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and LaGerald Vick dominated the Boilermakers, combining for 89 of Kansas’s 98 points.

Graham couldn’t miss from deep, Mason shot 81% from the field and Vick was throwing down 360 dunks. This game was an absolute party and playing in front of a seemingly 99% pro-Jayhawk crowd at the Sprint Center made it even sweeter.

Let’s just not talk about what happened in the next game.

4. 2012 Final 4 vs. Ohio State

The Final Four run from the 2012 Kansas team was slightly surprising. A 2-seed making the Final 4 isn’t exactly a Cinderella story, but that Jayhawk team had a very thin roster with only 7 guys playing significant minutes.

Nevertheless, the leadership and toughness from Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, and Travis Releford willed Kansas to a meeting in the Final Four with a Jared Sullinger-led Ohio State team.

Kansas was down by double digits on two separate occasions, but with a strong offensive performance from Robinson, along with clutch free throw shooting, the Jayhawks battled back in epic fashion to move on to the National Championship game.

3. 2008 Final 4 vs. North Carolina

As Mike Tyson famously once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” That may be the perfect way to describe this game.

Kansas was landing haymaker punches from the very get-go against a Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson-led North Carolina team. At one point late in the first half, Kansas was beating North Carolina by as many as 28 points.

However, the Tarheels swung back and were able to bring the deficit down to single digits. But behind a 25-point performance from Brandon Rush, Kansas ended up winning dominantly, 84-66.

Also, it felt pretty good to put a whippin’ on good ole’ Roy Williams.

2. 2018 Elite 8 vs. Duke

This matchup was everything you could ask for in an NCAA Tournament game — blue-blood vs. blue-blood, hall-of-fame coaches, star players and rabid fanbases ready to tear the other apart on Twitter.

It was a back and forth battle for a full 40 minutes. Almost all hope seemed lost as a Kansas found itself down three with 30 seconds left to play.

With ice in his veins however, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk turned the tides by converting one of the biggest shots in program history. Kansas won in the overtime on the back of Malik Newman, who scored all of the team’s 13 overtime points.

This one felt as good as any win that I can remember as a Jayhawk fan. Frustration was starting to set in as Kansas had fallen in the Elite Eight three separate times since 2012. But in 2018, they finally did it.

And it couldn’t have happened to a better group of guys.

1. 2008 National Championship vs. Memphis

20 years after Danny and the Miracles, Mario Chalmers pulled off a miracle of his own. Kansas faced off against an extremely fast and talented young Memphis Tigers team.

We know what happened in this one. You can call it luck, skill, quality coaching or maybe a little of all three, but in the final seconds of the biggest game, on the biggest stage in college sports, Mario Chalmers hit a game-tying three-pointer to send the game to overtime.

And five grueling game minutes later, Kansas had won its 3rd National Title.