KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Duck!
That collapsing sound you heard was another highly regarded Kansas team falling short — and falling hard — one step shy of the Final Four.
Oregon’s 74-60 upset of the Jayhawks in Saturday night’s NCAA Midwest Regional final at Sprint Center marked the second year in a row that Kansas lost in the Elite Eight as a No. 1 seed, this time before a raucous, gravely disappointed crowd less than an hour’s drive from campus.
But it gets worse: Kansas (31-5) now is 2-5 in regional finals under coach Bill Self — with the last four of those losses as a No. 1 seed. Self is 2-7 in his career in Elite Eight games, which on Friday he called the toughest round of all.
“They all stick with me, and they’ll stick with the players that have been a part of it,” Self said. “I’m disappointed more for them than I am for me . . . I don’t think we ever really put our best foot forward.”
For the Ducks (33-5), who next face the winner of Sunday’s Kentucky-North Carolina game, the victory was historic.
The last time they made it to the national semifinals was in 1939 en route to coach Howard Hobson’s “Tall Firs” winning the first-ever NCAA Tournament, when there was no “Final Four” as we now know it.
Tyler Dorsey led Oregon with 27 points, shooting 9-for-13 (6-for-10 on three-pointers), and Dillon Brooks scored 17. Jordan Bell had a brilliant all-around game with 11 points (5-for-6 shooting), 13 rebounds (seven of them offensive), eight blocked shots and four assists.
“I don’t think I really scared them,’’ Bell said. “I think I just maybe made them change their shots a little bit.”
Said Oregon coach Dana Altman, “That may have been his best performance in his three years here. He was phenomenal . . . He dominated inside.”
National Player of the Year front-runner Frank Mason III scored 21 points in his final game for Kansas. His backcourtmate, Devonte’ Graham, scored three points and shot 0-for-7 from the field.
Both teams attempted 25 three-pointers. Oregon made 11, Kansas five.
Mason said he thought the Jayhawks were out of sorts from the beginning. “I think we started the game really tight and didn’t take good shots,” he said.
After trailing 55-37 with 14:38 remaining, Kansas got as close as 66-60 with 2:49 left on a corner three by Svi Mykhailiuk. Dorsey restored order for the Ducks with another in a series of big shots, a three-pointer that put Oregon up 69-60.
When Oregon won it all in 1939, the NCAAs were an eight-team event in which the first two games were played in regionals and the final, played in Evanston, Illinois, was a stand-alone event.
Said Altman, “1939 was a long time ago, and I think everybody will be pretty excited about the opportunity to go to Phoenix and play for a national title . . . It’s been a long time coming . . . There are a lot of guys who built some tradition at Oregon. We owe all the ex-players.”
The Jayhawks got off to a slow start, one not helped by the fact that one of their most dynamic players, freshman Josh Jackson, picked up his second foul 2:37 in and spent the next 8 1⁄2 minutes on the bench.
The final minute of the first half suggested it might be Oregon’s night. Dorsey made a three-pointer that bounded up off the rim and fell through. Then he banked in a three, and suddenly it was 44-33 at halftime.
“Coach tells us we have to be the tougher team at the beginning of the game,” Dorsey said.
Added Brooks: “We were just out-wanting them.”
Dorsey, who excelled in Thursday’s victory over Michigan, finished the first half with 14 points and 5-for-7 shooting — 4-for-6 on threes — as the Ducks shot 60 percent from the field. Bell had eight rebounds.
Things started to get away from Kansas in the second half. When Brooks sank a three-pointer to make it 55-37, the Jayhawks appeared to be cooked. They made a game of it but never were able to make the big shot they needed.
“They were the aggressor and certainly controlled the game almost from the jump,” Self said. “We certainly needed to play a lot better today and didn’t do it . . . I’m sad, but yet still proud.”