DES MOINES, Iowa — Kansas’ worst fears about the Jayhawks’ second-round NCAA Tournament matchup with Arkansas came true. As a result, the Jayhawks are no longer able to defend last year’s title.
Kansas, the top seed in the West, fell to the Razorbacks 72-71. Arkansas, the region’s eighth seed, will advance to the Sweet 16 Kansas becomes the second No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament, following Purdue
Since the NCAA expanded the tournament field in 1985, only three times have multiple No. 1 seeds failed to reach the Sweet 16 before this year: 2000, 2004 and 2018.
The Razorbacks eliminated a No. 1 seed from the tournament for the second straight season, doing so last year against Gonzaga. This time, coach Eric Musselman was so moved by the feat that he jumped onto a courtside table at Wells Fargo Arena, took off his shirt and led the Arkansas fans in a “pig needle” cheer.
“I’ve been coaching a long time and this is one of the greatest wins I’ve ever been a part of in Kansas history,” Musselman said. Our first round game.”
As sweet as the win was for the Musselmans and Razorbacks, the loss was bittersweet for the Jayhawks. They were hoping to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. The Jayhawks were without head coach Bill Self on Saturday as he recovers from a heart procedure.
Going into the game, Kansas was concerned about the Razorbacks’ length, depth and athletic ability, and indeed those Arkansas attributes proved to be a problem for Kansas. Arkansas outscored Kansas 36-29 and outscored the Jayhawks 15-2 on second chances.
Arkansas pushed Grady Dick, one of Kansas’ top long-range shooters, who was just 1-of-3 from 3 and scored seven points.
“We just wanted to give Dick some leeway obviously in Grade 4,” Musselman said. “He’s an incredible shooter, one of the best shooters in college basketball.
“We didn’t want to see any daylight on Grady. We felt like if we could get him to try four or five 3-balls they would play to our advantage.”
On Friday, Roberts compared the Razorbacks to Texas in terms of their physical attributes. The Longhorns have beaten the Jayhawks twice in recent weeks, both times by double digits.
“They have some tall athletes which makes it difficult [Dick] to take shots,” said Norm Roberts, who filled in during Kansas’ two tournament games. “I don’t think we screened him as well as we wanted, maybe we could have run a few more things for him, but they played him a little bit. Canceled. I thought we shared the ball pretty well and we had one. A lot of balance, but they did a good job of preventing him from getting open looks.”
Arkansas made a furious second-half rally thanks to a spectacular second-half performance by Razorbacks guard Davonte Davis. As Arkansas’ two leading scorers in the regular season, Ricky Council IV and Nick Smith Jr., struggled, Davis carried his team. He was 7-of-9 on contested shots and 6-of-7 from the free throw line for 21 points in the second half.
“Coach Moose said to go downhill,” Davis said. “I feel like we all did something to help us win.”
Davis fouled out with 1:56 left and the Razorbacks were down 64-63. From there the council took over. He made a stepback jumper and five free throws to send the Jayhawks home.