2022 NCAA Champions: Kansas Jayhawks

Cam Cobey, Sports Editor

The University of Kansas Jayhawks are the 2022 College Basketball National Champions. The Jayhawks beat the University of North Carolina Tar Heels on Monday night by a score of 72-69 to win their fourth NCAA Championship in school history.

Kansas was a team that had high expectations this year, as they were ranked number three in the Preseason AP Top 25 poll coming into the season. Evidently, the Jayhawks met these expectations. They won the Big 12, going 14-4 in the conference. The Jayhawks only lost six games all season, even in a conference that was arguably the best in the country. They cruised through the Big 12 Tournament at the end of the season, winning each game by more than nine points, on their way to their 12th Big 12 title in school history. 

Throughout the season, the Jayhawks were led by star guard Ochai Agbaji. The senior averaged 18.8 points per game, which ranked the highest in the Big 12. He was also named Big 12 player of the year and a first team All-American. Agbaji had tremendous talent to support him as well, including big men David McCormack, a beast down low, and Jalen Wilson, who averaged 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. Guards Christian Braun and Remy Martin also had fantastic seasons, and stepped it up during postseason play in March.

On their March path to the National Championship game, Kansas defeated Texas Southern, Creighton, Providence, Miami, and Villanova. Their average margin of victory was 14.2 points per game. They dominated their opponents, even Villanova in the Final Four, who weren’t able to keep up with the Jayhawks. 

Flash forward to Monday night, the biggest night of many of these young ballers’ careers, and the Jayhawks started off hot. KU got off to a 7-0 lead to start things off with help from an Agbaji three and a McCormack jumper. But then everything started to go downhill. 

UNC went on a 16-0 run, in which Kansas didn’t score a point for 3:45. During that span, UNC’s Brady Manek made two threes and Armando Bacot played physical down low and got to the free throw line. Bacot had a double-double in the first half of the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds, his 31st double-double of the season, which ties him for most in a single season in NCAA history. Kansas could not buy a bucket during the UNC run, and they were putting up questionable shots. The Jayhawks went into the half down 40-25. 

During the postgame interview, CBS reporter Jim Nantz asked Kansas coach Bill Self what he told his squad during halftime. “I really didn’t say much. We were disappointed in how we played in the first half. I told them at halftime, would you rather be down 15 with 20 left or down 9 with 2 left?” This was a reference to the 2008 Championship game, in which Kansas was down nine points with two minutes remaining. 

Kansas big man David McCormack had a similar message that he shared with CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson after the game. “I was smiling to my teammates [at halftime] – they thought I was crazy. I said [Let’s] have fun and do what we were born to do.”

The Jayhawks came out firing in the second half. They put together their own 26-10 run that gave them the lead at 56-50 with just over ten minutes left in the first half. Christian Braun added ten of his own points to the run. 

The last ten minutes of the game was phenomenal championship level basketball. Kansas had control until about two minutes left when Brady Manek grabbed a rebound and put in a tip-in to take the lead at 69-68. David McCormack then had two huge buckets with under a minute and a half to give the Jayhawks a 72-69 lead. 

With under 30 seconds left, UNC’s Caleb Love pulled a deep three that just rattled off the back rim. UNC got the rebound twice but missed another three and turned the ball over on the second. 

With a chance to ice the game, Kansas turned the ball over with just four seconds left when Dajuan Harris stepped out of bounds, giving UNC a chance to tie it. Caleb Love got the call, had a great look for a three, but air balled it, solidifying the Jayhawks as National Champions.

Kansas overcame the biggest deficit (15 points) in the history of the National Championship game, an impressive feat. Ochai Agbaji was awarded the Final Four’s most outstanding player with his 12 points in the Championship game. Bill Self won his second NCAA Championship at Kansas.

This game was everything you could’ve asked for as a college basketball fan. It was a game of runs, featured a team overcoming a huge deficit and ended with a shot at the buzzer. What a March.