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Is VCU the worst of Kansas’ crushing NCAA tourney losses?

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Consider Sunday's 71-61 loss to VCU in the Elite Eight just another chapter in Kansas's now storied run of painful losses in the NCAA tournament over the last two decades.

Examples of postseason heartache for the program go much farther back, even as long ago as 1957, when KU and unstoppable force Wilt Chamberlain lost in triple overtime in the national title game to North Carolina. But the consistency of those upsets, for reasons unknown to anyone, increased starting in the early 1990s.

So where does the loss to 11th-seeded VCU rank? In making a Top Ten list, it definitely makes the cut.

And, of course, no one should cry poor for a program that just three years ago won a national championship. Along the way, though, there were several teams that could have done the same

Here's how the toughest of those losses stack up:

1) 1997 - No. 4 Arizona def. No. 1 Kansas, 85-82 (Sweet Sixteen)

This will likely always remain the greatest Kansas team to not win it all. The Jayhawks didn't lose to a slouch of an Arizona club, as the Wildcats ultimately won a surprising national title and did so with the likes of Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Michael Dickerson and Miles Simon. Still, KU had four starters — Paul Pierce, Scot Pollard, Jacque Vaughn and Raef LaFrentz — who played in the NBA for at least a decade, and they were nearly unbeatable that season. Ask any long-time Kansas fan about that game to this day, and it's greeted either with a pained sigh or a shake of the head.

2) 2005 - No. 14 Bucknell def. No. 3 Kansas, 64-63 (First Round)

No Kansas postseason loss will ever be as shocking as this one, as it was the lowest-seeded team to ever knock the Jayhawks out of the dance. KU had some chemistry issues, with Self, in his second season, leading a team largely comprised of holdovers from the Roy Williams Era. It was roughly the same group, though, that advanced to the Elite Eight just a year earlier.

3) 2010 - No. 9 Northern Iowa def. No. 1 Kansas, 69-67 (Second Round)

Ali Farokhmanesh, with a dagger of a three in transition with 35 seconds remaining, earned himself a spot on the list of names forbidden to be mentioned in Lawrence, joining the likes of Cuttino Mobley and Gerry McNamara (those will be covered in a bit). That shot ultimately ended the college careers of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich.

4) 2011 - No. 11 VCU def. No. 1 Kansas, 71-61 (Elite Eight)

Heck, you might as well add Jamie Skeen to that list squarely behind Farokhmanesh. He hit four of VCU's 12 3-pointers on Sunday in a game that Kansas was favored to win by double-digits. On the other side, the Jayhawks lived through an offensive nightmare, committing 14 turnovers (eight by junior forward Markieff Morris), going 2-of-21 from 3-point range and just 15-of-28 from the free throw line. {YSP:MORE}

5) 1998 - No. 8 Rhode Island def. No. 1 Kansas, 80-75 (Second Round)

A year after the Arizona debacle, KU still had Pierce and LaFrentz and was just as dangerous. However, Rhode Island's back-court duo of Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler combined for 47 points off of 16-of-32 shooting to go with 13 assists in the second round stunner. After this one, Pierce became the first underclassman to declare as an early entrant for the NBA draft during Williams' tenure.

6) 1992 - No. 9 UTEP def. No. 1 Kansas, 66-60 (Second Round)

In between Final Four appearances in 1991 and 1993, KU was shocked by legendary coach Don Haskins for the second time. The first? The 1966 regional finals, when Texas Western became the first team to ever win an NCAA title with five African-American starters. There's a little history lesson for you amidst all this heartbreak.

7) 2006 - No. 13 Bradley def. No. 4 Kansas, 77-73 (First Round)

Just a year removed from the Bucknell loss, KU suffered a first round loss that was just as unexpected, but had a better built-in excuse. With major roster turnover, the Jayhawks were young, led by freshmen Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright. It came as a surprise, though, as the team heated up down the stretch and blitzed through the Big 12 tournament untouched.

8) 2003 - No. 3 Syracuse def. No. 2 Kansas, 81-78 (National Championship)

In hindsight, can you really be ashamed of losing to a team that had Carmelo Anthony on college basketball's biggest stage? Not really. But it wasn't Anthony who did them in. Sure, he had 20 points and 10 boards, but pesky freshman Gerry McNamara came from nowhere to bury six 3-pointers. Meanwhile, KU was a horrific 12-of-30 from the free throw line. Despite all of those points left on the board, KU had a key opportunity late to tie with a 3-pointer from the corner. Hakim Warrick made sure it never made it very far. This went down as Williams' last game at Kansas.

9) 2002 - No. 1 Maryland def. No. 1 Kansas, 97-88 (National Semifinals)

True, this loss was to a fellow No. 1 seed, but if the 1997 team went down as KU's best team to never win it all, this was the second-best to come up agonizingly short. They had a loaded roster — Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden as juniors; Keith Langford, Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles as freshmen — and were the nation's hottest team for much of the season, going 16-0 in Big 12 play (no league team has done that since). What made this one even more difficult for KU to swallow was seeing 5-seed Indiana continue to overachieve in upsetting Oklahoma in the other national semi, essentially making this the real national championship tilt.

10) 2009 - No. 2 Michigan State def. No. 3 Kansas, 67-62 (Sweet Sixteen)

Another loss to a worthy opponent here. Michigan State went on the be the national runner-up, but what made this one so rough was how KU let it get away late. The Jayhawks led 60-55 with three minutes remaining, but allowed Sparty to close the game on a decisive 12-2 run.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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