Kansas needed just one more win without their big post presence, seven-foot freshman Joel Embiid, to get to the Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and things would start to look much better for the Jayhawks chances to make their 15th Final Four appearance and second in three years.
That was Kansas and head coach Bill Self were hoping, but the Stanford Cardinal, seeded 10th and making their first NCAA appearance since 2008, had other ideas. The Jayhawks trailed or were tied the entire first half and didn’t take their first lead until two seconds were left before intermission when freshman guard Connor Frankamp hit the first of his four three-point shots in the game to put Kansas up by two, 26-24, at the half.
The No. 2-seeded Jayhawks grew their halftime advantage to five points early in the second 20 minutes before Stanford went on a 7-0 run to regain the lead at the 16:29 mark in the second half. The Cardinal kept Kansas on its heels and playing from behind the rest of the way. Stanford led by seven points with 33 seconds left in the game and looked to have the game in hand. But Frankamp hit consecutive treys to cut the Stanford lead to two with 13 seconds left on the game clock.
Stanford’s Anthony Brown made one of two free-throw attempts, and that gave the Jayhawks the ball, down by three and a chance to tie with a three-pointer. Frankamp badly missed on a contested three, and KU’s hopes of making it to next weekend and possibly having Embiid back came to an abrupt end.
The Jayhawks had a very poor shooting game, which was a major contributor to the loss. Kansas missed on numerous close-in shots at the rim and ended up hitting just 19 of 58 field-goal attempts for 33 percent, well below its 50 percent average for the season.
Fifth-year senior Tarik Black, who transferred from Memphis to play his final college season at Kansas, was the Jayhawks leading scorer in the game with 18 points before fouling out late in the second half. Black had 12 points in Kansas’ second-round victory over Eastern Kentucky. Super freshman Andrew Wiggins, who likely played his final game in a Kanas uniform and led the Jayhawks in scoring this season, had just four points.
Four Stanford starters, all upper classmen, scored in double figures, with forward Dwight Powell leading the way with 15 points.
So Stanford moves on to the Sweet 16 in Memphis, where it will face the No. 11 seed Dayton Flyers, who upset higher seeds Ohio State and Syracuse to reach the round of 16. That game will be played on Thursday night.
Kansas ends its season with a record of 25-10 and a 10th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship.