OKLAHOMA CITY - The Kansas Jayhawks flirted with first-round elimination several times in the last 15 NCAA tournaments, but always avoided it. They weren’t able to Friday night against a No. 14 seed with zero NCAA tournament victories in its 110-year history, five scholarship players and even a borrowed band.
That would be the Bucknell Bison, who beat the third-seeded Jayhawks 64-63 and shook up the Syracuse Regional when Chris McNaughton banked in a hook shot over Wayne Simien with 10.5 seconds left, and Simien missed an open 15-foot jumper at the buzzer.
“Unbelievable,” said guard Kevin Bettencourt, who led Bucknell with 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
As crushing as the loss is for preseason No. 1 Kansas, it’s even more stunning for the winners. They’ve been playing since the first season of Division I play and were 0-for-2 in the NCAA, losing their previous tries by 22 and 23 points in the last 1980s. No team from their conference, the Patriot League, had ever won an NCAA tourney game in 13 tries.
Bucknell (23-9) is the first No. 14 seed to win since Weber State beat North Carolina in 1999. The Bison will go for another Sunday against sixth-seeded Wisconsin (23-8), which beat Northern Iowa 57-52 earlier Friday.
“Certainly it’s the biggest win we’ve ever had,” said coach Pat Flannery, a 1980 Bucknell grad. “Our kids battled their big kids all night long. Our kids made them work for everything they got.”
The Jayhawks (23-7) had reached the second round every year since 1984 and in their last 21 tries. Although they had some scares along the way, including one by Utah State in Oklahoma City two years ago, this was their first opening-round exit since being eliminated by UCLA in 1978.
“I think everybody’s kind of in a moment of shock,” said coach Bill Self, in just his second season at KU. “These seniors have looked to this moment for a long time. To have it end so abruptly of course is devastating to those guys. I really don’t have any words to try to comfort them right now.”
Kansas seemed vulnerable because it had lost five of its last eight and second-leading scorer Keith Langford was slowed by a lingering flu problem and a creaky left ankle. However, the Jayhawks weren’t too concerned because four of those recent losses were to teams that won first-round NCAA games.
But Bucknell opened its scoring with a four-point play from Bettencourt and led by as many as seven midway through the first half. Kansas closed the half with a 10-0 run to take the lead, but with Simien the only consistent threat (24 points, 10 rebounds), the Jayhawks were never able to take control.
They had a chance to play up to their pedigree in the final minute, when Langford hit two free throws with 25.4 seconds left to put KU up 63-62.
Bucknell opted not to use a timeout, went straight up the court and fed McNaughton in the lane.
“It came off the backboard and rimmed in somehow — I don’t even know how, but I don’t care,” said McNaughton, who was 6-of-7 for 14 points.
Langford had another attempt, but missed short. Bucknell’s John Griffin got the rebound and was fouled, but missed the front end of a one-and-one and Simien grabbed it with 2.4 seconds left.
After a timeout, Kansas tried the Grant Hill-to-Christian Laettner play Duke used to beat Kentucky in the NCAAs. Michael Lee’s heave to Simien went perfectly and he spun for a good look at the basket. But his shot hit the rim and bounced away.
“It went over my right shoulder, which is a very comfortable move for me,” Simien said. “It felt good on the release, but I didn’t hit it.”
CBT: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official that he'll be coaching Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and he'll also be with Duke at least that long, too.
Latest from CollegeBasketballTalk
College basketball videos
Team USA prolongs Coach K's tenure at Duke
DPS: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski joins the Dan Patrick Show to talk about his decision to return as Team USA basketball coach. Coach K admits coaching in the Olympics has extending his tenure at Duke, saying, “I wouldn’t stop coaching at Duke while I am still the National [team] coach.”
Three cheers for college hoops
Take a look at cheerleaders in action from around the country.