March Madness 2023: How Arkansas’ persistence, poise led to the demise of defending champion Kansas

DES MOINES, Iowa — In the middle of what would ultimately come to be a joyous Arkansas locker area, Keith Wise had scrawled a cryptic message on the dry erase board at halftime.

Two Feet From Gold

It did not make significantly sense at the time. Soon after 20 minutes in the West Regional second-round game, No. eight seed Arkansas was down eight to No. 1 seed Kansas, the defending national champions. And the Razorbacks had been hunting relatively sloppy.

The message remained on the board but was virtually ignored at the finish of a single of the most significant wins in Arkansas’ history, 72-71 more than KU. For the second straight year, Arkansas and its coach, Eric Musselman, beat a No. 1 seed. An improbable second-half rally melted the Jayhawks exactly where they stood which remains at — or close to — the major of college basketball.

A 13-loss Arkansas group — the most defeats in Musselman’s 4 seasons — was as well busy celebrating to notice Smart’s message. Turns out the Hogs assistant is a large audio book guy. Even though he’s in his second year with Arkansas, Wise has identified Musselman for 35 years.

They necessary some thing as the Jayhawks looked like they had been on its way to dissecting the Hogs. Arkansas’ second-top scorer Nick Smith was on the bench with two fouls. Jalen Wilson, the Large 12 Player of the Year, was on a different heater for Kansas, which appeared on its way to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the final seven years.

Rather, for the 16th consecutive year, not only did the defending national champion fail to repeat, it did not advance previous the Sweet 16.

In the bowels of the Wells Fargo Arena, a diverse message was getting forged.

“I generally appear each day for some thing exceptional,” Wise stated.

Wise grabbed the marker and riffed on a variation of a motivational book, “3 Feet From Gold.” To paraphrase a overview: Never ever give up, you could be this close to a single of the greatest successes of your life.

The message undoubtedly match the evening and Arkansas’ season. 

“It is sort of a motivation, history, it could be spiritual,” Wise told CBS Sports. “It shows, if you give up as well quickly on your dream as well quickly, you are not as well far from it.”

These Hogs could be as well young to keep in mind Wise and his 1987 national championship game-winner for Indiana. But there is nevertheless some shine from the assistant on his ninth group (largely in the NBA) considering that becoming a coach in 1997.

Wise is a calmer counterpart to Musselman the head coach leaves each bit of himself out on the court. Soon after the upset, Musselman ripped off his polo shirt and climbed into the Arkansas fan section to celebrate.

“I would appreciate to lie and say that I felt composed,” stated Musselman, whose sideline histrionics are legend.

It is been a strange season for the Razorbacks. Smith missed quite a few games with an injury. The Hogs’ three-point shooting (31.six%) was amongst the worst in the nation. Judging by Saturday alone, they did not seem disciplined. There is talent all more than the court, but the eight-ten SEC record was mediocre ranking 10th in the 14-group conference.

“They gave up on us, bro,” freshman star Anthony Black yelled above the din of the locker area. “All of them.”

 Who, specifically?

“Everyone,” Black clarified.

It has been that sort of year.

So, it did not look surprising that each run Arkansas created, Kansas appeared to have an answer.

The Jayhawks had been up by as lots of as 12 in the second half and led by ten with 12:35 left in the game.

“The narrative on us was, ‘If you get down or up large, they are just going to quit if you hit them in the mouth a couple of instances,'” senior Kamani Johnson stated.

This time, the Hogs hammered away in the second — sort of digging down for gold. 3 players fouled out down the stretch: Jordan Walsh, Makhi Mitchell and Devo Davis, who fell a single point shy of his profession-higher with 25.

Johnson muscled in a basket off a Ricky Council IV miss with 50 seconds left to break the 65-65 tie. Kansas went the final three:47 without having a field target. Arkansas muffled freshman Gradey Dick (nine points on three of 9 shooting), and even although Wilson scored 20, he disappeared for extended stretches.

“Folks do not comprehend these are youngsters,” Johnson stated. “I am a grown man, but these are youngsters. We grew up in March.

“Kansas would not go away. I ain’t going to lie: We got some dogs on our group. We can compete with anyone in the nation. It ain’t been the most effective season, but it is been our season.”

Musselman’s legend continues to develop. The Razorbacks are rolling toward their third straight Sweet 16 and possibly a third consecutive Elite Eight. Musselman was busy immediately after the game exchanging texts with golfer John Daly. There are priorities, you know.  

“I just kept telling them, ‘Hey man, it is a 40-minute game. You just have to preserve playing. Crazy stuff takes place in this tournament,'” Musselman stated. “We just hung about and defended when we had to.”

We ultimately got an answer to the query of irrespective of whether losing Bill Self would hurt the Jayhawks. It did. Not to say Kansas would have won with Self, who missed his fourth game considering that getting two stents inserted close to his heart final week. But the what if? will linger.

Monday marks an anniversary Norm Roberts would rather neglect. It was 13 years ago Kansas’ acting coach was final in charge of a plan. St. John’s fired him March 19, 2010, immediately after an typical six-year remain that ended at 81-101. As acting coach these previous two weeks, Roberts went 7-two.

On Saturday, Roberts could not maneuver about foul difficulty to Kansas’ large males. That hindered the inside work. KU was outrebounded 36-29 by a persistent Arkansas work.

“I’ve been coaching for a extended time,” Musselman stated. “That is as terrific of a win as I’ve ever been a component of.”

Far more gold awaits to be dug for in a fitting spot: Las Vegas. That is the web page of the West Regional. Soon after that?

“I am attempting to assist them get there,” Wise stated.

Leave a Reply

Previous post Reopening A Fillip To International Financial Recovery – Evaluation – Eurasia Critique
Next post Bulverde art studio owner heartbroken right after fire destroys small business