• Omaha - Only one 16 seed has ever beaten a #1 seed. Friday evening it was close – for about 10 minutes. The top seeded Kansas Jayhawks, playing in the South bracket, took care of business Friday night, pounding the Anteaters from UC-Irvine, 88-59. Early, things looked a little dicey for the overall number one seed.

    UC-Irvine jumped out to a 6-0 lead when forward Collin Welp drilled two three pointers on the Anteaters first two possessions. After a turnover by Devon Dotson, Evan Leonard hit a three of his own to make it 9-0. Ochai Agbagi got KU on the board with a runner in the lane but UC-Irvine followed with a pair of buckets and a resulting 13-2 lead. Kansas fought back to make it 13-7 on a three pointer by Dotson and a typically thunderous dunk by Udoka Azubuike. But it was UC-Irvine that grabbed the momentum, jumping to a 19-7 lead near the midpoint of the first half.

    Welp, a 6’9" sophomore, who got only his third start of the season, was hot from the the opening tip. The team’s leading scorer on the season, despite usually being the team’s 6th man, scored 14 of his team’s first 19 points.

    After a Welp 10 footer, Kansas coach Bill Self had seen enough and called a time out to try to steady the ship. It was obvious Self was agitated, getting into an animated discussion with senior transfer Isaiah Moss moments into the time out. But then, after a word from assistant coach Kurtis Townsen, Self simply asked his team to listen.

    “We heard them”, said KU junior Marcus Garrett, “and coach made us listen.” The Jayhawks took clear note of the “KU … UVA” chant from the small contingent of UC-Irvine fans that made the trip to Omaha.

    “At first I thought, ‘hey, Virginia won the national title last year’”, said coach Self, “but coach T (Townsend) just whispered to me, ‘16 over a one’. Then I got it.” The Irvine fans were reminding Kansas that they were at risk of suffering the fate of Virginia, who became first top seed to lose to a #16 seed in 2018.

    Armed with the idea that KU, the overall number seed and winner of both Big 12 regular season title and conference tournament, might lose in opening round, the Jayhawks simply caught fire.

    The leading scorer on the night was Devon Dotson, with 22 points. Dotson, a sophomore who is likely in his last season at KU, sparked the surge with 13 points in the final 10 minutes of the the first half. Freshman Christian Braun hit a pair of three pointers and fed Agbagi for an incredible lob dunk to conclude the half. Suddenly, KU was up 37-23.

    The Irvine coach was impressed. “You see a team from afar, you watch film, you watch highlights, but you never really appreciate the best teams until you see them up close,” said Russ Turner, in his 10th season on the bench for the Anteaters. “That team can play some D. Of course, they are one of the best coached teams in country,” Turner added.

    Coach Self, though, was having none of that. “I’m not sure what we were doing out there. I think Doke was sleep walking. Maybe the win Saturday (over Baylor, 77-71) took a bit out of us. Marcus is still hobbled. Ochai has a hand thing. Heck, everyone has something. I’ve got a slight cough and a bit of a fever, but I’ll stick it out. In the huddle, with the guys, is where I need to be. But we had better be more focused, though. Quite frankly, Christian was the one that got us going.”

    Braun, who finished with 14 points, replaced Moss midway through the first half and seemed to spark the team with his hustle. “That block was amazing”, said David McCormack. The sophomore center was referring to Braun getting down the court, after a deflection and steal by Irvine, to block a dunk attempt by Irvine senior Eyassu Worku.

    “All ball”, Braun said, “not even a finger.” UC-Irvine coach Turner loudly disagreed, and got a technical when he came too far out on the floor. To make matters worse, Worku got another technical when he kicked the ball after the play. Self had Braun shoot the technical free throws, even though that job usually falls to Dotson. “It just felt right. He got us going. He was all over floor,” Self said.

    Coach Turner was regretful. “I lost track of where I was and deserved the technical. What’s worse, I think I got Eya (Worku) a bit riled up and that put us behind the eight ball.” After the free throws, KU held a 25-20 lead and the game was over.

    Welp had 21 for Irvine and senior center Brad Greene chipped in 11. The Anteaters finished the year at 24-12.

    Garrett had 9 assists, 8 boards and 4 steals to lead KU in all three categories. He added 8 points. Azubuike scored 13 points and had 7 rebounds. Kansas (32-3) started the second half on a 10-2 run, which included two Garrett layups, and cruised the rest of the way.

    KU’s win sets up a second round match-up on Sunday (3:50 pm/TNT) with the #8 seeded LSU Tigers, who won a buzzer beater over #9 Colorado, 69-67.

  • @HighEliteMajor I fell asleep before the game and woke up from a horrible dream to find Kansas rolling. Thank you for catching me up on the action!

  • @HighEliteMajor oh hey, good to see you back! Hope you and yours are well!

    But man, if you have us losing to LSU… 😉

  • There goes my perfect bracket

  • Great job! I can see this happening. Hope you plan on adding coverage for the next 5 games.

  • Great work! I was reading tournament fan fiction on the Athletic, but this is better.

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