Kansas will have to go back to the drawing board as it attempts to one day join the circle of programs with back-to-back championships after its second-round elimination to No. 8 Arkansas on Saturday.
The defending champions and No. 1 seed in the West led by 12 with 15 minutes remaining, but quickly saw it slip away over the next seven minutes with a 18-5 run by the Razorbacks before eventually losing 72-71.
Despite only returning two contributors from last year’s championship team and playing without head coach Bill Self -- who remains sidelined as he recovers from a heart procedure -- the Jayhawks entered the tournament with championship expectations. A 26-point win over Howard in the first round set the stage for a date with Arkansas.
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Kansas controlled the game from the opening tip, heading into halftime with a 35-27 lead. It looked ready to extend that lead and put it away out of the halftime break, thanks to a pair of buckets from both Jalen Wilson and Dajuan Harris Jr.
Arkansas, however, didn’t shake easily. Its 18-5 run was led by junior guard Davonte Davis, who recorded 11 points during that stretch. Davis led all scorers on the night with 25 points and went 6-for-7 from the stripe.
Davis wasn’t alone in his impressive performance from the line. After exchanging baskets down the final eight minutes of play, Kamani Johnson’s layup with 51 seconds left put the Razorbacks up for good. Kansas then sent Ricky Council IV to the line four different times where he went 7-for-8 in the final minute.
Wilson went 6-for-6 from the line as well (9-for-11 total), but it wasn’t enough to lift his team to the Sweet 16. The Jayhawks were trying to join Oklahoma State, Kentucky, San Francisco, Cincinnati, UCLA, Duke and Florida as the only programs with consecutive national championships.
Arkansas now faces the winner of No. 4 UConn and No. 5 Saint Mary’s. This is the program's 14th Sweet 16 and third consecutive in as many years.