Kansas, after the national title race, is poised to achieve the NCAA

When you overcome a 15-point deficit at the end of the first half against a team that was on one of the biggest laps in tournament history, you are a worthy champion. Kansas were down 40-25 at the break, then started the second half on a brilliant 31-10 run to lead 56-50. Even then, the Tar Heels weren’t finished, coming back to lead 69-68 with 1:41 left before Kansas scored the last four points of the game.

The tournament was Bill Self’s second, and the first coming in 14 years in San Antonio. In that title game, the Jayhawks trailed Memphis by nine points with 2:12 remaining before they combined to tie the score on Mario Chambers’ three-pointer hitting the bell and then winning in overtime.

Al-Nafs returned to that memory in the first half when she spoke to his players. He said, “I asked them, ‘Which do you think is more difficult, stumbling nine with two minutes of starting or going down 15 with 20 minutes remaining? “They all said it was nine with two minutes left.”

But now, the end is finally on the horizon, and it could affect the national champions. Kansas is accused of five major violations of NCAA rules. Penalties can range from a wrist slap on Self to a suspension of the program from next season’s tournament.

Last NCAA Champion Not Allowed to Go Two in a Row? Kansas, in 1989. These Jayhawks were banned from playing after the season ended due to abuses committed under Larry Brown, who coached his team for the national title in 1988 and then left for the NBA. Roy Williams is left to deal with penalties in his first season.

The only team stripped of the championship is the 2013 Louisville team led by Rick Pettino. The banner KS won Monday night will not be dropped: The alleged violations occurred before any of last season’s players participated in the program.

There was certainly no talk of any of that Monday night. For a few hours, the Tar Heels and Jayhawks made everyone remember that, as Tony Larsa once said of baseball, “the game is better than all of us.”

Apparently, coach Hubert Davies and his players didn’t see it that way. They knew if they wanted to finish this season with absolute glee, they had to win another one.

The Tar Heels went on the round 16-0 late in the first half to lead 38-22, with Brady Mannick, a 6-foot-9 transmission from Oklahoma, key to increase with a pair of triples from the left. Armando Bacot, the 6-10 rebounding machine who pivoted at the ankle late in the Duke game, dominated the inside. He finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds in 38 minutes.

At that point, KS was the team that was searching for gas. David McCormick’s center was in bad trouble, and outside shots didn’t find their mark. This wasn’t a pretty game. The winning team hit 29 of 66 from the field and lost, 55-35. But the losers were 23 of 73 from the field, including 5 of 23 in three-point attempts. The Carolina guards, so crucial to the five victories that brought them into Monday night, were unable to find the range for the last time.

“They really attacked us, both offensively and defensively in the second half,” Davies said. “He made sure nothing was easy for us.”

In truth, nothing was easy for either team. After a 16-0 increase, Carolina won 34-12 to go through the two halves. From there, the teams swung to the end.

It’s worth noting that after a crushing home loss to Duke on February 5, Tar Heel was 16-7, and fans on social media were calling for Davis to lose his job. From there, North Carolina won 13 out of 15 games, including two massive victories over Duke, and Davis missed one win to become the second coach in history to win the title in his first season. Steve Fisher of Michigan took charge of Bill Frieder at the start of the 1989 championship and won six straight games and a championship. Even after Monday’s loss, there will be no calls for Davis to be ousted from Tar Heel followers.

Kansas also faltered during the winter, most notably an embarrassing 80-62 loss to Kentucky at home on January 29. The Jayhawks lost two games in March before ending the season with 11 consecutive victories. Towards the end, they won tough championship matches against Creighton and Providence, and had recovered from a 35-29 delay in the regional final against Miami, beating the Hurricanes by a stunning 47-15 second-half margin to win, 76-50.

Their dash against Carolina in the title match was, in his own way, even more impressive because of the opponent, the stage and the stakes.

Kansas had the last two baskets of the season and grabbed the final and most important headlines of the tournament which was packed with action. Carolina put on a great show until the end. Krzyzewski’s match was bittersweet: a record-breaking Final Four ride but a devastating loss to his archenemy just a short distance from the finish line. The top ten once again spat a little. Saint Peter gave hope to all the weak and they literally danced their way into people’s hearts.

And, as usual, the tournament helped us forget about the problems of sports. Now that the season is over, we will be reminded of them again very soon.