Every Monday, The Star delves into Kansas basketball – and the week ahead. Here’s the seventh installment of the weekly feature.
One year ago today — Dec. 31, 2011 — the Kansas Jayhawks were 9-3 and preparing for a New Year’s Eve matchup with North Dakota. Remember? KU was ranked outside the top 15 – and still just two weeks removed from a non-conference loss to Davidson at the Sprint Center. Maybe the Jayhawks could regroup and win their eighth straight Big 12 title. But on that day, nothing was guaranteed.
What a difference a year makes.
Kansas, which entered Monday ranked sixth in the AP poll, is now prepared to leave another calendar year behind. The Jayhawks will play Temple at Allen Fieldhouse in six days, but first, it’s that time of the year, a time to look back and digest the last 12 months, a time to compile KU’s top five moments from 2012.
Before we get to the top three, which are quite obvious, here are two moments from outside the men’s basketball program that cracked the top five.
5. The KU women’s victory over Delaware
Junior center Carolyn Davis blew out her knee during Big 12 Conference play, but the KU women regrouped and closed strong. Behind the play of point guard Angel Goodrich, the Jayhawks upset Nebraska and Delaware (including All-American Elena Delle Donne) in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 1998.
4. Diamond Dixon wins gold
It wasn’t an individual gold medal for KU junior sprinter Diamond Dixon – she was limited to prelim duty on the 4x400 relay team – but Dixon journeyed to the London Games and became the first KU woman to bring home gold.
That brings us to the top three moments, all quite obvious picks, with apologies to Jeff Withey’s triple-double and Ben McLemore’s performance against Ohio State earlier this month.
The top three:
** The Last Border War at Allen Fieldhouse
** Kansas’ victory over North Carolina in the Elite Eight
** Kansas’ victory over Ohio State in the national semifinals
There are cases to be made for all three games. The Missouri victory featured an emotional, 19-point comeback and could be the last time the two old rivals will ever play at Allen Fieldhouse. The North Carolina victory sent Kansas to the Final Four – a key benchmark – and pushed KU’s record to 2-0 against Roy Williams. And the victory over Ohio State in New Orleans clinched a spot in the NCAA title game; if the point of college basketball is to win titles, there’s only one game more important than a national semifinal.
So, my original inclination was to put Ohio State at No. 1, followed by North Carolina, and then Missouri. The Ohio State victory, another dramatic comeback, put KU on the brink of an unlikely NCAA Championship, and that seemed to outweigh whatever emotions came from the victories over North Carolina and Missouri.
But when the question was put to Kansas fans on Twitter, my feed and email inbox filled up with a prevailing sentiment: My original inclination, according to most KU fans, was wrong.
In a very unscientific poll that included close to 50 voters, the victory over Missouri at Allen Fieldhouse was the nearly overwhelming choice. Here’s how the numbers shook out:
(We assigned three points to a first-place vote, two to a second and one for a third.)
1 Missouri at Allen Fieldhouse (117 points, 26 first-place votes)
2 North Carolina in the Elite Eight in St. Louis (89 points, 14 first-place votes)
3 Ohio State in the Final Four in New Orleans (77 points, nine first-place votes)
There’s room for debate, of course. In our unscientific poll, there was a clear winner … but only a slight majority for the victor. And maybe another 50 KU fans would vote another way. Essentially, it breaks down like this: If you’re a calculated pragmatist, maybe you preferred the Ohio State victory – and many did. If you’re a traditionalist, maybe the environment during the last Border War put it over the top. And if you’re the type that holds grudges, well, we'll note that the North Carolina victory was still pretty popular.
The Kansas-Temple game on Sunday will tip off at 3:30 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse, CBS announced on Sunday. The time had been listed as “to be announced” while CBS waited for the NFL playoff schedule.
The Jayhawks, who have won 10 straight, will conclude their non-conference slate against the Owls.