Lawrence, Kan .; January 30, 1988
Depressed. Suppress. Lost.
These adjectives best describe the morale in the Kansas Jayhawks dressing room after a home game against Kansas State. It was KU's third loss in a row and, more importantly, ended a home game series with 55 games dating back to 1984.
Postgame, Kansas junior Milton Newton told reporters, "It hurts so much, right now I feel like the world is over."
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The world may not have come to an end yet, but all signs indicated their time of year was up. The loss meant a long decline for a team that landed in seventh place in the 1
After a respectable start to the season, the team faced a variety of adversities, but Allen Fieldhouse remained his safe haven.
Regardless of how bad things got, KU had a homecoming to pull it off. In a year of lows, the end of the series was probably the lowest point.
The safe harbor was infiltrated by the loss of K-State. There was nowhere more hope. Nowhere but her coach Larry Brown.
Brown remained optimistic and pleaded with his team to start a new series. The Jayhawks would not be instant, but their stripes came soon enough – and at the right time.
What the 1988 Kansas Jayhawks did in the next nine weeks – culminating in a national championship – was far more remarkable than any winning streak.
This is her story, narrated by the memory of 1988 National Player of the Year Danny Manning.
Four days after the fall into K-State, the Jayhawks suffered another loss that they lost in the hands of No. 4 Oklahoma had. The team, which had won eight of their first 10 games, then lost eight of their next 10.
With just one month in the regular season, this preseason top-10 team was in danger of missing the NCAA tournament.
How do you get back from such a low point? It was easy for Manning. Trust your coach.
"We go through this difficult track and Coach Brown is like," We're close, we're close, "he said. "We have to keep pushing, we have to keep fighting."
At this time, Brown had already gained 15 years of college and professional headcoaching experience. He was a three-time ABA coach of the year, who also led two schools to the Final Four. When he spoke, the players trusted him.
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His credulity and persistence messages resonated with Manning and the rest of the team.
"When you finally get the breakthrough … maybe it's four or five consecutive possessions that give you a chance to win the game, or maybe it makes games that win the games you start [think] ] & # 39; OK, let's go, let's build on that. "
Build. That's what the Jayhawks would do.
After losing the Sooners, KU finished the season with nine of his last 11 games, establishing himself as a tournament team. The 21-11 Jayhawks earned a great deal as an NCAA tournament in 1988.
But in March, all you need is a dance ticket to do magic.
Bob Devaney Sports Center, home of KU's conference opponent Nebraska, hosted the first and second rounds of the 1988 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region.
The 6-headed Jayhawks made the 3.5-hour trip to Lincoln, Neb., To open the tournament in familiar territory. Their first opponent was the 11-headed Xavier Musketeers. Kansas came away with a 13-point win.
No. 6 Kansas 85, No. 11 Xavier 72
Following his conquest of Xavier, KU's 14-seed Murray State faced a team prepared to make its second surprise of the weekend after knocking off 3-seed N.C. State complete. A brave effort by the Racers led to a close KU victory. Sweet 16 bound.
No. 6 Kansas 61, No. 14 Murray State 58
Next was a date with 7-Seed Purdue in what assistant coach Alvin Gentry would call a cheap matchup. This was certainly favorable for Manning, who scored 38 points with another 13-point victory.
No. 6 Kansas 77, No. 7 Purdue 64
Survive. Advance. Kansas was in Elite Eight, where he would play for the fourth time in less than two months against Kansas State. The team hoped that this meeting would end differently than the last two.
Pontiac, Mich .; March 27, 1988
The only thing worse than losing is the loss of a rival.
When KU and K-State met in late March, the Jayhawks had already experienced the misery of arriving against their rivals from Manhattan twice this season.
The rivals' three previous rallies laid the foundation for the fourth in Michigan. Only this time the stakes were higher. No, that was not just for boast or conference positioning – an opportunity to play in the Final Four was on the line.
After two points at half-time, the Jayhawks overtook K-State by 13 points in the second half and moved back into the Final Four.
Kansas left no doubt which team was the best. All that was left was the nation's best team. But two more hurdles remained.
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The bright lights and the media rush can be unnerving. It's easier to get distracted when you're on the biggest stage of college basketball.
Manning was one of the older Jayhawks who had their second Final Four appearance in three years.
"We knew the Final Four was an exciting time," he said. "After experiencing it in 1986 in Dallas, our seniors and upper-class types had a feel for it."
But this year was different. It was the 50th anniversary of the Final Four. The lights were even brighter.
The host was Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo. Just 40 miles from KU's campus.
The distractions were intensified.
Manning knew it was part of his role as a leader to focus the team.
"We knew there would be a lot of energy and excitement near our campus," he said. "We wanted to make sure we did not get caught up in it, it's hard not to do that, but as a top class, that was a kind of deal."
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Even Manning admits he was amazed at what had come so close to the campus.
"Suddenly you go to open training and it's pretty sold out, it's an open practice and people can not come in," he said. "Then it's like this, Wow, an open practice, no play, an open practice." Then it starts to meet you. "
Manning admits it was hard to stay focused.
But the upper-class message to the rest of the team was simple: "Let's make sure we get into our game mode. Let us make sure that we use our preparation time and understand what we need to do. "
KU had the whole task: Stop the Duke Blue Devils with their two seeds.
The theme of salvation went on.
Six weeks before the national semifinals, Duke became the third team to be in the safe The Blue Devils used overtime to give the KU the third home loss of the year.
But the Jayhawks were not intimidated because they had to face teams they had not been successful in during the regular season
"You have always been comforting once you've played somebody and the second or third time from the point of view that you have a good sense of what they like to do and understand the staff," Manning said. 19659003] With 21 turnovers, KU did not play a perfect match, but Manning's outstanding play and contributions from Milt Newton, Chris Piper and Kevin Pritchard brought the Jayhawks past Duke for the desired He result.
No. 6 Kansas 66, No. 2 Duke 59
Eight weeks earlier, KU was in danger of missing the tournament. It was just a victory away from basketball immortality.
A team stood between KU and its second national title in school history: the mighty Oklahoma Sooners.
The Sooners High Octane Offensive was over 102 points per game, a strong comparison to the 75.3 averaged by the Jayhawks.
At 35-3, Oklahoma spent most of the year nationwide in the top five. OU completed a 2-0 victory in Kansas during the regular season, including the 73-65 victory within the limits of Allen Fieldhouse. The Sooners dominated the Big 8 Conference and won their regular season and tournament championships.
Another opportunity for salvation. Again, KU was not intimidated.
"For us, we watched the band after losing to [Oklahoma] earlier this season, both times," Manning said. "We felt like [we had a chance] when we went about their pressure because they come out and a very active team is defensive – they turn you over and score in the open court."
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With a day between the national semi-final and the national title game, the Jayhawks had to rely on their knowledge of Oklahoma's team and staff prepared for it.
"Make sure you fulfill your role, do your job … I think people had that attitude in the field." Manning said. "You like to play Oklahoma because they're going to play fast, it's going to be an up-and-down game, they'll score some points and we'll score points, and they're always fun games to play."
In the first half, both teams played fast and scored many points. After 20 minutes playing time, the teams found themselves back where they started. Bound.
Halftime: No. 1 Oklahoma 50, No. 6 Kansas 50
For a team that scored more than 75 points per game on average, 50 goals in the first half are impressive, but that was not it The Kansas brand of basketball.
In Brown's midterm speech, he encouraged the Jayhawks to play their game.
"We played at the pace they like to play," Brown recalls Manning. "Now let's play at a pace that's beneficial to our team."
"We look around a bit" Hey, we're pretty good at going up and down, but OK, we'll see how it ends. "
You could say it went pretty well.
"For us, there were certain games: We came to the free throw line, we took care of the basketball, we got 50-50 balls … situations in which we get the chance to score because of this effort and energy and on the other side. It was guys who played as a team. "
No free throws were greater than the two Manning, who defeated Kansas with 83:79 with five minutes to go and it would be the last points of the game.
Final: No. 6 Kansas 83, No. 1 Oklahoma 79
The Kansas Jayhawks were national champions in 1988.
"Bedlam ruled in Kansas City"
When the buzzer rang, the Kemper Arena was a place of madness.
The Players from Oklahoma were shocked and did not seem to be bringing their season to an unsuccessful conclusion.
The Sooners' final heave slid off the board and fittingly fell into the hands of Manning, who scored 31 points, 18 rebounds and five steals in the championship game With the ball in his hands, an avid Manning was swarmed by his teammates, Kansas cheerleaders and photographers.
Brown, in another state of disbelief, was umar of the rest of his coaching staff He led, his team believed, and they were all champions.
Then came the phrase that still defines the season: Danny and the miracles. But Manning did not see it that way.
"That nickname … sort of rubbed me another way because basketball is a team game and everyone has to sacrifice for a whole."
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Yes, Manning was brilliant throughout the tournament, averaging 27.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2 , 3 blocks and two steals per game, but a look at each box score from this run will show that the posts from the rest of the Kansas team was not insignificant.
Manning did not hesitate to distribute the loan among his teammates.
"It was Chris Piper, it was Archie Marshall, it was Milt Newton," he said. "We came together and our journey was on the same path."
He continued, praising Kevin Pritchard, who was "a person who missed a late part of the season but came back for the tournament and we really pushed forward in a situation to play for a national championship."  From Manning's point of view, the team was able to reach the top because they were all accountable to each other on the field. There was only one requirement to claim more from you Teammates: Play hard.
"Can you believe that?"
Kansas City; April 4, 1988
rest. Reflective. Introspective.
The Madness of After Kansas reached his locker room, the arena came to a halt.
Manning told the scene, "After the game, it was probably the coolest part, we just sit in the locker room and wait to do media whatever we have to do before we go back to the hotel and you're sitting there and just remember. "
It was a departure from the usual locker room after a championship win. For these people the journey was as important as the destination. After overcoming adversity to write history, this team needed time to truly enjoy the moment.
"It's true that this is the last time we'll ever be together," Manning said. "This is the last time we will ever play a game together."
Their world, as they knew it, was over. Nine weeks ago, the world was above them. This time, they were at the top
As the media entered the Jayhawks' dressing room, the madness took shape again. The proximity of the Final Four to the KU campus was once a distraction, but now it enhanced the championship experience.
Back to the hotel and it's a mob scene, "Manning said. People are everywhere in the hotel – family, friends, our fans – and you go to the hotel and it's just a crazy fun atmosphere.
"Almost everything you can say is, Wow, can you believe that?" "
Yes, 30 years later, the Kansas Jayhawks' story of 1988 is still hard to believe.