Largest comeback ever leads Kansas to national championship

Largest comeback ever leads Kansas to national championship

After going into halftime, fifteen points behind the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team had to play almost perfect in the second half to hold onto any chance of winning a national championship. Like their first-half struggles against Miami, Kansas found themselves off to a slow start and watched as North Carolina took a commanding lead.

After an early 9-3 start for Kansas and then an 18-14 lead with 10:27 left in the half, North Carolina outscored the Jayhawks 25-7 to end the half. Armando Bacot, who left the final four with an ankle injury, and Leaky Black and R.J. Davis all made big plays to shut down the Jayhawks and take over the momentum.

Kansas came out of the half needing the biggest comeback in NCAA championship history to have any chance of winning. Their 16-point comeback was the largest beating Loyola Chicago when they had a record 15-point deficit that they overcame in 1963.

North Carolina came out of the half with the fourth-biggest halftime lead in championship history, and Kansas started the comeback. After a David McCormack dunk for Kansas and two scores for North Carolina’s Caleb Love, the Jayhawks forced four turnovers, went on a 12-1 run and were within a point of the Tar Heels. In about ten minutes, Kansas outscored North Carolina 31-10, coming out of the half.

With 1:20 remaining, McCormack hit a shot to give the Jayhawks a one-point lead. Immediately after, Bacot drove down the court with the ball and reinjured the same ankle that took him out of the final four. McCormack then made another shot to extend the lead to three with under thirty seconds left.

After a few missed 3-point attempts to tie the game, North Carolina had the ball with under 5 seconds left. Caleb Love missed the final shot, and the clock went to all zeroes. Game over. Kansas has its first championship since 2008.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Lance King. Remy Martin #11 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts near the end of their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four Championship at Caesars Superdome on April 4, 2022, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

During the celebration, Ochai Agbaji was selected as the most outstanding player. Head coach Bill Self praised Agbaji, saying, “He’s the most accomplished player that we have had at our university since Danny,” Referring to Danny Manning, who played from 1984 to 1988. That is quite the praise, comparing Agbaji to someone who won a national championship in ’88 while being the most outstanding national college player of the year in 1988, two-time first-team All-American, and three-time Big Eight player of the year.

Coach Self said that he discussed with the team the importance of being able to win this championship in an attempt to make up for the 2020 team that was the number one overall team in the country before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic starting to shut everything down in mid-march 2020.

When asked about what it meant to be the first coach in Kansas history to have multiple national titles, Self responded, “It means that Kansas has won a fourth national championship, is what it basically means.”