The National Championship game certainly didn’t play out as we expected it to. Yes, Kansas was projected to win the game, but no one thought they would be down by 15 points at halftime. And at that point, it sure didn’t look like they would end up getting the job done. But the Jayhawks did, giving the University of Kansas its fourth national championship and head coach Bill Self his second.
It was a feel-good story for a team that was likely going to be the top overall seed in the tournament in 2020 before it was canceled. Even though Kansas is considered a blueblood program in college hoops, they really haven’t experienced the same level of success as some of the other top teams. Before its recent win, Kansas was behind UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Indiana, and UConn. Technically the underdog in the matchup has had more historical success than Kansas. Even though the Jayhawks have been at the top of college hoops for a while, they haven’t reached the pinnacle as many times as other teams. They have also been runner-ups to the national title a record six times, so this team knows heartbreak.
For a while, it seemed like the Jayhawks would once again fall just short of earning the sport’s ultimate prize. They were down 40-25 at halftime and it looked like North Carolina was going to roll to the championship surprisingly easily. But something clicked for Kansas at halftime and they came out determined in the second half. They outscored the Tar Heels 31-10 in the first ten minutes of the second half to take a 56-50 lead. It looked like Kansas was poised to use that momentum and run away with the game, but the action was very back-and-forth the rest of the way.
Plenty of players made big plays down the stretch but it was big man David McCormack that came up big, scoring the final four points for the Jayhawks. He put them up 70-69 when he followed up his own miss with an offensive rebound and a bucket. He then iced the game with another score with 22 seconds left, giving the Jayhawks a 72-69 lead that would ultimately be the final score.
McCormack scored the biggest baskets for Kansas but this was an all-around team effort from the national champions. McCormack and Jalen Wilson each scored 15 points to tie for the team lead, while Remy Martin added 14 points and both Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun chipped in 12 points apiece. This game was not the story of one player leading his team to the promised land, but a team coming together to overcome adversity and win the big game as a unit. It may have been the one expected outcome from an otherwise unpredictable game. The Jayhawks played like a well-oiled machine all throughout the tournament so it was fitting that the final game was as much of a team effort as it was.
In the end, it is hard to feel bad about Kansas’s win even if you were rooting for North Carolina. This was a team full of a bunch of upperclassmen that have been through a lot. From a global pandemic canceling a potentially great season in 2020 to a disastrous exit from the tournament in 2021. The players decided to spurn the NBA for one final attempt to win it all and bring glory to their university and that is exactly what they did. The Jayhawks persevered on their way to a national championship and their one shining moment.