LAWRENCE – 2.6 percent.
That was the chance of a Kansas victory on Tuesday night, with the Jayhawks trailing West Virginia 57-49 with 2:35 left to play. According to KenPom.com’s win probability calculation, the Mountaineers, at that moment, had a better than 97-percent chance of leaving Allen Fieldhouse with a victory.
They did not.
In the moments after the game, I thought of a conversation I had earlier in the week with Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson, a former Self assistant and member of the Kansas staff during the 11-year title streak. The conversation became part of a longer story on Kansas’ title streak, but Hinson also said something that didn’t make the story.
“How many times has it seemed like (Kansas) has no chance of winning and then they do?” Hinson said.
A moment later, Hinson brought up the Iowa State victory from the 2012-13 season, when the Jayhawks trailed 87-82 with 45 seconds left. On the road at Hilton Coliseum. That was the night Elijah Johnson, who was scuffling through a frustrating stretch of his senior season, exploded for 39 points.
“Think of that game,” Hinson said.
According to KenPom.com, the Jayhawks had a 3.8 percent chance on that night in Ames. Which, according to some research by Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal, was the most unlikely Kansas comeback in the last six seasons.
Until Tuesday night.
This leads to an obvious question: The Jayhawks once trailed 60-51 with two minutes left in a rather memorable game. So what was the likelihood of that victory over Memphis in the NCAA title game? KenPom.com has a Win-Probability Calculator for situations like this, but a couple problems. We don’t have the original win projection for that game — KenPom’s game-by-game box scores don’t go back that far — and the calculator doesn’t offer a “neutral floor” setting. So this is just a rough estimate.
But if we say that KU-Memphis was a coin-flip game — each team entered with a 50 percent chance to win — and that Kansas was the “home team” in San Antonio, the calculator says the Jayhawks had approximately a 1.7 percent chance to beat Memphis with two minute left.
How accurate is all this? I have no idea. But less than 24 hours after one of the most unlikely comebacks of the Self era, it sure is interesting. Sports are cool.
NCAA Tournament odds
Speaking of probability and odds, Kansas is now listed at 20-1 to win the NCAA Title, according to oddsmaker Bovada. This positions the Jayhawks as the eighth most likely favorite in the field. No. 1 Kentucky is listed at 1-1 to win the NCAA title, while Duke is listed second at 17-2. Wisconsin is third at 9-1.
The player of the game.
Late on Tuesday, Self said he thought junior forward Jamari Traylor was the best player in the game. But Mason had a solid case, playing 42 minutes, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and making 11 of 12 free throws.
The moment of the game.
Traylor threw down this one-handed dunk in transition, giving the Jayhawks the lead in overtime. When asked how he pulled it off, Traylor shrugged his shoulders: “Like, how do you dunk? You just jump.”
The stat of the game.
Zero for 15.
The last time Kansas didn’t hit a three-pointer in game? Last season in an 80-69 victory over Eastern Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks went zero for seven.
But here’s something slightly surprising: The Jayhawks have actually won their last four games in which they did not hit a three. The previous victories without a three came against Western Kentucky in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, and against Baylor in a 100-90 victory in 2008.