Arkansas Pulls Off Upset of No. 1 Kansas, Advances to Sweet 16
Kansas's worries regarding their second-round NCAA tournament match-up with Arkansas have been confirmed, and the Jayhawks are thus rendered unable to defend their title from last year. Arkansas, the West region's eight seed, will now progress to the Sweet 16 after their 72-71 win over Kansas. This marks the fourth instance since 1985 when NCAA field expansion, multiple No. 1 seeds have failed to make it to the Sweet 16.
Coach Eric Musselman was left so ecstatic after the Razorbacks eliminated a No. 1 seed from the tournament for the second year in a row, this time being Kansas, that he jumped up on a courtside table at Wells Fargo Arena and led Arkansas fans in a "Pig Sooie" cheer with no shirt on. Musselman was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the win, considering the history of Kansas, and expressed that he's been coaching for a long time, making it one of the greatest victories he's ever been a part of. He acknowledged that a lot of people did not think Arkansas would win the first-round game.
The Razorbacks of Arkansas experienced a sweet victory on Saturday, while the Jayhawks of Kansas had to deal with a bitter defeat. Arkansas, led by Coach Eric Musselman, had the upper hand in the game, out-rebounding Kansas 36-29 and outscoring the Jayhawks in second-chance points 15-2. Kansas was unable to contain Arkansas’ length, depth, and athletic ability, and it showed. Kansas was missing their coach, Bill Self, who is currently recovering from a heart procedure. Gradey Dick, one of Kansas' top long-range shooters, only had seven points and was 1-of-3 from 3-point land. Kansas had hoped to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida did so in 2006 and 2007, but Arkansas put a stop to that plan.
Musselman declared that they deliberately shielded Gradey Dick, who is among the top shooters in college basketball, from getting any open looks. He added that they believed if they restricted him to four to five shots of the three-pointer, it would benefit the Razorbacks. On that same day, Roberts noted the Arkansas group is comparable to Texas in terms of their physical characteristics and pointed out the Longhorns had beaten Kansas two times in succession and both by a wide margin.
"The lengthy athletes of Arkansas made it difficult for [Dick] to get shots," said Norm Roberts, who took over for Self during Kansas' two tournament games. "We could have screened better and ran a few more plays for him, but they still managed to limit him. We did a good job of distributing the ball and had a balanced attack, though they prevented him from obtaining open looks."
A determined second-half rally from Arkansas ensued after falling behind by as much as 12 points, led by the stellar performance from guard Davonte Davis. Ricky Council IV and Nick Smith Jr., the team's two leading scorers during the regular season, had a lackluster game, leaving Davis to shoulder the load. He had a successful outing, shooting 7 out of 9 and 6 out of 7 from the free throw line for 21 points in the second half.
Coach Mus told us to get downhill," Davis recalled. "I think we all did our part to secure the win.
Davis unfortunately had to leave the game with 1:56 left on the clock and the Razorbacks trailing 64-63. Council then stepped up and made a stepback jumper followed by five free throws to clinch the victory for his team.