Royals Sell Farm In Deal

Dec 12, 2012 -- 10:28am

By Chad Rader

The Royals certainly sold the farm on Sunday night.

In what likely can be argued as the biggest trade in Royals history, Kansas City dealt uber-prospect Wil Myers, their top pitching prospect in Jake Odorizzi, former top prospect Mike Montgomery and their fifth-round pick from 2011 (Jake Leonard) to Tampa.

When I saw that quartet, I expected Dayton Moore went all-in for David Price and Jeremy Hellickson, the ace and king.

Instead, the Royals received the queen and jack, in James Shields and Wade Davis. Not bad, an upgrade to its staff for certain, but in literally selling the farm system, Kansas City could have entered the free agent market for the $15 million for Shields ($10.2 in 2013, $12 million in 2014) and the $5 million wasted on re-signing Luke Hochevar. But in today’s market, that doesn’t land Zack Greinke. Edwin Jackson and Ryan Dempster aren’t half the pitcher of James Shields.

So as a Royals fan, doubting, second-guessing and skepticism races initially.

But then there’s an immediate side to like as well. Because like many, I’m tired of waiting for the perfect trade, or the future to arrive in 2014 or 2017. I wrote last month that Kansas City should trade Myers or Alex Gordon - though it was for a pitcher with 3-4 years left on their contract...

During the Damon-Dye-Beltran era, it become agonizing that Kansas City didn’t pull such a deal to land a few quality pitchers. Had Kansas City pulled something like this in 1999, we may be talking about the Royals playoff years at the turn of the century. Instead, Kansas City got into sell mode as 90+ losses rolled up and their contracts ran out.

The Royals never did play for today back then, but Dayton Moore certainly did with this trade now, in the biggest trade in Kansas City history.

BIGGEST ROYALS TRADE EVER?

Sure, we can look back and say obtaining Amos Otis or Hal McRae was the biggest deal, but those were single-player deals and little risk vs reward.

The Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota for Kevin McReynolds, Gregg Jefferies and Keith Miller deal didn’t live up to its hype, but Sabes only won more than seven games once in the next seven years.

The infamous Ed Hearn for David Cone would be similar to this, on a grander scale, as if the Royals held onto Cone, he could’ve helped the Royals during their last contending era.

Of course, the Greinke deal to partially set up this one. But the Royals weren't in contending position then. Otherwise, it rates second since it was the biggest selling chip Kansas City held since Carlos Beltran, and set up more of its farm system with the deal.

But no deal put the Royals future on the line for the chance to contend for today.  This will be one we’ll analyze for years, for better or worse.

As with any trade, time will tell.

Perhaps Myers becomes the next Clint Hurdle. Ordorizzi could be the next, well, Mike Montgomery – top prospect today, struggling the next year or two.

If Myers or Odorizzi turn out as average Major Leaguers and Kansas City makes the playoffs in 2013 or 2014, the Royals did just fine here. If Odorizzi and Montgomery turn into, well, Shields and Wade Davis, and Myers becomes Jay Bruce or Danny Tartabull or better, Kansas City better have made a two-year playoff run in 2013 and 2014. Otherwise, this will be a bust.

I'd say that Odorizzi will be at best, equal to Wade Davis, who the Royals can control until 2017. So KC advanced the timeline and learning curve on Odorizzi, in general sense.

Mike Montgomery wasn't exactly Steve Carlton last year in Omaha, so who's to say that Danny Duffy or John Lamb aren't the same value in another year or two?

So we're back to Myers and if he'll be great, or, well, remember the learning curve of Alex Gordon? Or Eric Hosmer currently at the MLB level? Tampa had two can't misses in Delmon Young and Desmon Jennings, and Young is just starting have a few solid years - MANY years after his hype in Tampa and two teams later.

That’s the beauty and beast about prospects. They’re the next great thing, but more times than not, they’re the next great bust. Juan LeBron was rated alongside Carlos Beltran. Joe Vitiello and Kit Pellow tore up the minor leagues for Kansas City. George Brett and Frank White did not.

So we call can cry that Kansas City gave up too much, or should’ve done this, but in the end, how can fans complain too much, because it’s the deal Royals fans have been wanting – a frontline starter and another highly capable pitcher, as Davis once was heralded as high as any Rays pitcher in the last decade. Kansas City now owns the longest postseason drought in MLB, and Royals fans surely want that to end in 2013, not 2015, or 2017, or whenever the future is supposed to arrive.

It’s the deal Kansas City made, and likely, Tampa was one of the few suitors Moore could align with, as teams rarely deal frontline starters with reasonable contracts, and the Royals wanted a frontline starter, not another young “possibility”. And Tampa knew it, upping the stakes in recent weeks. Not many teams deal top starters, no matter how great Wil Myers is supposed to be. And if they were, the pitcher would be more than $10-$12 million per year.

Plus in free agency, the Royals weren’t getting Greinke or Anibal Sanchez, the Mets were looking for too much for an 37-year-old R.A. Dickey and on and on it goes.

So here’s the Royals rotation for 2013:

James Shields (Last 3 years – 227 IP, 14.7 wins, 211.7 strikeouts)
Ervin Santana (Last  3 years – 210 IP, 12.3 wins, 1.27 WHIP)
Jeremy Guthrie (Last 5 years - 198 IP average, 10 wins average)
Wade Davis
Bruce Chen

A good start considering the Royals best starter the past two years is now the team’s No. 5 starter. Plus the top three average over 200 IP each. How many years now has Kansas City loved their bullpen in April and May, then their exhausted in July and August?

Of course, this rotation sours if the Royals do what I bet they do, and stick in Hochevar as the No. 4 or No. 5, and keep Davis in the bullpen, where he flourished in 2012, with a 2.43 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 70.1 IP. He also started 29 games apiece in 2010, and 2011, finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2010. So the Royals obtained a very good second pitcher, with flexibility on the staff. Which is great, but he needs to be a starter since the other top two candidates are now Rays, and Hochevar.

Which turns all crosshairs to Shields. He definitely rates as top-of-the-line, certainly by Royals standards. He posted 16 wins and third in the Cy Young voting just two years ago, 220+ strikeouts in the past two seasons, and 200+ IP in the last six years. His WHIP has been in the league’s top 10 the last two years, and four of the last six. So there are no complaints about Shields’ durability, ability to strike out batters and control.

And Shields last three year’s strikeout totals (187, 225, 223) would rank No. 9, No. 3 and No. 4 in Kansas City’s all-time top 10.

Overall, Kansas City built a pitching staff literally overnight, and not a bunch of maybes or what ifs, but proven pitchers and three with strikeout ability (Shields, Santana, Davis). Are any Justin Verlander? No. Will this staff be like San Francisco’s? No. But it will be very solid, with solid defense and solid hitting.

Could Dayton Moore have done better? Maybe. Or perhaps the asking price was too high around the league and this was the best he could do, at least, for a proven frontline starter, and not trading for another pitching prospect in return.

Kansas City sold the farm, but Royals fans now have their best hope for a playoff spot in, well, how long were those Saberhagen and Cone trades? Yes, its been too long.

So for once, Kansas City can quit talking about the future, and talk about today. We’ll know the overall results of the trade in 4-6 years from now, and the could’ve, would’ve, should’ves. Let’s just hope by then, Kansas City had a few playoff series we can reflect on too. Because Dayton Moore certainly is betting the farm on it.

Guide to All-Star Week

Jul 05, 2012 -- 11:58am

By Nate Bukaty

If you’re anything like me, you couldn’t be more excited to have an event like the Major League All-Star Game coming to Kansas City. And, if you’re anything like me, you want to get involved with as many of the activities around town associated with the All-Star Game as possible. To that end, I thought I’d compile a list of the events that you can be a part of this coming week, with links to how you can be a part of all of them. Hope this helps you prepare for All-Star week.

The events begin on Sunday morning with the All-Star 5K & Fun run.

This is a great event. All proceeds go to three different cancer-fighting organizations. It’s personal for me, because one of my best friends, Sean Biggs, was diagnosed with stage 4 intestinal cancer a few months ago. I’m sponsoring a team in his honor, called the Biggstrong team. If you’d like to sponsor our team, just type “Biggstrong” into the search window at the top of the All-Star 5k page, and it’ll take you to our team page. If you’d like to run, on-line registration is now closed, but you can still sign up in person at the P&L. Here’s the link to the info on where/when you can sign up.

There are a couple of different events to be a part of on Sunday afternoon/evening. The Futures Game takes place at 4:00 at the K, followed by the celebrity softball game. Tickets are still available for this event, and ticketsforless.com has them starting at $19. This is your chance to see future Royals Jake Odorizzi, Will Myers, and Yordano Ventura.

Also on Sunday night is the Big KC Salute to Baseball.  All sorts of Royals stars will be at this intimate event, including Hal McRae, Frank White, Bret Saberhagen and Jim Sundberg. Even other stars like Reggie Jackson will be there. The cocktail reception begins at 5:30, and the program starts at 8.

Of course, MLB FanFest begins on Friday (tomorrow), and goes all the way through 6pm on the night of the All-Star Game. Monday might be the perfect day to go down and check it out, but it opens every day at 9 am, so swing by whenever you get the chance.

The Home Run Derby is Monday night, beginning at 7 pm. Zac Brown band will be performing a mini-concert on the field prior to the Derby, and our own David Cook will sing the National Anthem.

On All-Star Game Tuesday, I’ll be a part of an event that should be entertaining and informative, if you’re interested in the economics of baseball, and how they relate to small market teams like the Royals. Bud Selig is going to be the keynote speaker. He’ll take questions from the audience, and discuss the economics of baseball. I’ll take questions and give a reaction to Commissioner Selig’s comments afterwards. Tickets to the event are $75, and it takes place in Union Station, beginning at noon. Lunch will be provided.

And it all culminates with the All-Star Game itself, on Tueday night. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30. Phillip Phillips will perform prior to the game, while Luke Bryan will sing the National Anthem, and Kellie Pickler will perform “God Bless America.”

If you don’t have tickets to the game, yet you want to be a part of the city-wide celebration, there are five free watch parties around town. Here’s the list of locations:

 

•   Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District – Jay McShann Pavilion

Buck O’Neil Way (17th Terrace & Vine Street)

 

•   Crown Center

2450 Grand Boulevard, Kansas City, Mo.

 

•   Guadalupe Center
1015 Avenida Cesar E Chavez, Kansas City, Mo.
Catch the game in Spanish! No outside food and beverage.

 

•   Kansas City Zoo

6800 Zoo Drive, Kansas City, Mo.
Doors open at 4 p.m.

•  Zona Rosa – Town Square

8640 N. Dixson Avenue, Kansas City, Mo

 

I hope this list helps you enjoy the All-Star experience to the fullest! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let’s all make the most of it!

 

 

25 Since 85: Memorable Royals Home Openers

Apr 13, 2012 -- 8:14am

By Chad Rader

With the end of the world ahead in December, 2012, I wanted to get down all the Top 25 since 1985 for the Kansas City area down. Just in case civilization returned after the “end of the world”.

Others: Of course, the two biggest Opening Days in Royals history were the franchise opening in 1969 with the Kauffmans throwing out cermeonial balls at Municiplal Stadium, and in 1973 with the grand opening of Kauffman Stadium. But for the sake of cranking this out and me getting to the game today, we'll keep this to the last 25 years... and just seven.

 

 

7. Dirty Sox (1987) - The White Sox faced off against KC, and took a 4-1 lead by the 4th. George Brett led off the bottom of the 4th with a solo shot, but a Harold Baines RBI double pushed the lead to 5-2 in the 7th. In the bottom of the inning, a 2-run Kevin Seitzer double got the Royals within 5-4. KC got two runners on in the 9th against Bobby Thigpen, but couldn't push the winning run across for a 5-4 downer.

6. Believe It (2003) - Runelvys Hernandez threw allowed just two hits in six shutout innings, and Kansas City won, 3-0. A 2-run second sparked by a Ken Harvey double and Angel Berroa single gave Royals fans an early lead to root for. Most importantly, it kickstarted KC's unforeseen 9-0 start and 17-4 after 21 games en route to a thrilling year.

5. Starting It Off Right (1985) - Kansas City led off its title season against Toronto, which took an early 1-0 lead on a Buck Martinez sac fly. But in the 7th, Willie Wilson laced a 2-run double to plate Darryl Motley and Onix Concepcion. Starter Bud Black and Dan Quisenberry kept the Jays in check for a 2-1 W. Irony? The home plate umpire was ... Don Denkinger.

4. Bell Rung (1988) - George Brett got the Royals off on the right foot, drilling a Jimmy Key 1-1 pitch for a 2-run homer and a 2-0 lead in the first. But George Bell, who cranked 47 HRs and 134 RBI in his MVP year the season before, smacked Bret Saberhagen's first offering in the 2nd for a 2-1 Royals lead. Bell rung up Sabes again with one on in the 4th, and Toronto led, 4-2. KC scored to pull within 4-3, but up stepped Bell in the 8th and boom, another homer off Sabes for a 3-home run day for Bell, and a 5-3 Toronto win.

3. Comeback Kids (2000) - KC entered the year with a young, exciting team, and returned home at 2-2. But Royals fans saw Minnesota build up a 6-0 by the fifth inning against starter mac Suzuki. KC scored a run in the 6th, before a big 7th when Jermaine Dye belted a 3-run homer, followed by a 12-pitch at-bat from Mike Sweeney, who cranked a game-tying homer for a 6-6 tie. Sweeney wasn't done. In the 8th, Johnny Damon and Carlos Febles led off with hits, and a Dye grounder broke the tie at 7-6. Sweeney then broke open the overcast day with a 3-run jolt, and an exciting 10-6 comeback win.

2. Sound the Horn (1990) - Talk about big hype - Kansas City had both Cy Young winners on its roster, with Bret Saberhagen, and KC trading for the NL Cy Young winner, Mark Davis. But the season open summed things up, when Sam Horn blasted a 3-run homer off Sabes in the second for a 3-0 Baltimore lead. The Royals rallied for a 4-run 6th, on a 2-run Frank White homer for a 6-3 lead. But Horn struck again, with another 3-run jack off Steve Farr for a 6-6 tie. A Cal Ripken single broke the deadlock in the 11th, and the O's escaped with a 7-6, 11-inning win. Horn's 4-for-5, 2-homer, 6-RBI lives in Royals fans memories, especially since Horn finished with 62 career homers.

1. Rally To Remember (2004) - Royals fans exited early to beat traffic, down 7-3 in the 9th. But two walks and a Benito Santiago RBI double led up a game-tying blast by .... Mendy Lopez. A single set the table for Carlos Beltran, cranking a two-run game winning home to send Royals fans into a frenzy for a 9-7 Opening Day win.

 

25 Since '85 - Most Memorable KU NCAA Tourney Moments

Apr 02, 2012 -- 3:05pm

With the end of the world ahead in December, 2012, I wanted to get down all the Top 25 since 1985 for the Kansas City area down. Just in case civilization returned after the “end of the world”.

So to lead off the weekly series, we’ll kick it off with the Most Memorable KU Moments in NCAA Tournament history.

First, the others receiving votes:

Marquette Massacre: From start to finish in the 2003 semifinal, KU dominated the Dwyane Wade-led Marquette team Kansas made it a laugher – the fourth-largest romp in Final Four history, 94-61.

Terrapin Two-Step: Maryland laid out Kansas in the 2002 semifinal, which many regarded as the winner would win it all. Which was true, as the Terps won the 2002 crown. In the semifinal, Juan Dixon was left wide open for baseline three’s, while Drew Gooden, Wayne Simien and Nick Collison look puny next to Lonnie Baxter, Chris Wilcox and the Maryland frontline. A KU comeback cut the final score to 97-88.

No Kan Do - Kansas overcame sluggish starts and large halftime deficits to get to the title game, but an 18-point pithole to No. 1 Kentucky was too much. In a game like the 1991 title game, KU never really was in the game until a mad surge at the end before the Jayhawks fell short, 67-59.

 

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25. Grant Hill dunk: The start of the Duke dynasty came out the hands of the KU, as the Blue Devils toppled the great UNLV team in the semifinal. KU made its incredible run to the title game, but just didn’t have enough vs Hurley-Hill-Laettner. The highlight still lives on, with Grant Hill’s dunk off a Hurley pass.

24. UTEP One Step: The biggest toe-stub in KU history at the time was at the hands of UTEP in 1990. KU was the No. 1 seed, faced a UTEP team that coach Don Haskins threw together a stall plan right before the game. It worked, and KU lost, 66-60.

23. Hinrich Ankle Stymies Stanford – Kirk Hinrich sustained a horrific ankle injury the day before, and KU looked lethargic against No. 16 seed Holy Cross. But against a Stanford team led by Casey Jacobsen that many touted would beat the Jayhawks, KU – and Hinrich – came out ready. Despite heavy treatment and a wrapped ankle, Hinrich came off the bench at full speed and Kansas romped, 86-63.

22. Collison Dominates Duke – Though just a Sweet 16 game in 2003, KU’s hatred for Duke amped up a showdown with the heralded J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. But Redick was held to just 2-for-16 shooting, while Nick Collison dominated with 33 points and 19 rebounds to bump Coach K and Duke, 69-65.

21. Hungry Like the Wolf – The 1986 team was just one step away from sealing a trip to the Final Four, but faced a tough North Carolina State team led by Charles Shackleford and Chris Washburn up front. The duo combined for 37 points, and the Wolfpack led, 57-52, with under nine minutes left in front of a home crowd at Kemper Arena. But Danny Manning got hot with 10 straight points, the Wolfpack duo was held to just four points in the final nine minutes and KU came back for a 75-67 win to go to the Final Four.

20. Billy’s Bobble – The Jayhawk class of Jacque-Jerod-Pierce-LaFrentz-Pollard never got to a Final Four, their closest threat in 1996 when the No. 2 seeded Jayhawks got by with an 83-80 win over Arizona in the Sweet 16, and face No. 4 Syracuse. KU held Syracuse to just 35.7% from the floor and outrebounded the Orangmen, but Otis Hill and John Wallace combined for 30 points. KU shot a horrid 34.4% themselves. Unmemorable moments included Billy Thomas wide open for a layup, only to lose the ball out of bounds. KU looked for a three to tie the game, but frantically passed the ball around and clanged. The worst though, is the legendary dance by Al McGuire with the Orangmen afterwards

19. Ram Tough – Pundits liked to poke at Bill Self for big losses, but Roy racked ‘em up as well. In 1998, with two All-Americans leading No. 1 seeded KU, the Jayhawks had no answers for guard Tyson Wheeler (20 points) and Cuttino Mobley (27 points) in an 80-75 second round loss to Rhode Island. And no, Lamar Odom didn’t play for URI.  But LaFrentz and Pierce combined for just 64 minutes. Which led to Roy scrapping “the North Carolina” rotation system and his offense afterwards.

18. Monkey Off Back – Bill Self was labeled as the greatest coach to not make a Final Four, and got the monkey – er, gorilla – off Bill Self’s back in the regional final in 2008. He had to wait until the wire against upstart Davidson and Stephen Curry, as the Wildcats buzzer-beating attempt keeled off the iron, and Self slumped to the floor in joyful exhaust, 59-57.

17. The B’s – Bucknell. Bradley. KU boosted Bucknell T-shirt sales with its first-round loss in 2005, then duplicated the feat in 2006 to Bradley. The Bucknell 64-63 loss ended with a full-court heave to Wayne Simien, who tried his Christian Laettner impersonation with a turnaround … that missed. A year later, a new wave of ‘Hawks came in, and got the treatment from Bradley, trailing by 14 in the second half before a comeback fell short, 77-73. These two losses were notoriously heard about for years, as rivals poked at KU when the chance could – until the letter N-O-R-F-O-L-K were put together in 2012.

16. Mid-Major Nightmare – KU and Bill Self’s claim to fame were losses to mid-majors, and it really shone brightly in 2010 with a second-round loss to Northern Iowa (69-67), then with the bracket busted in 2011, all KU had to do was beat VCU in the regional final. In both games, KU trailed mightly. By 12 to UNI, by 17 to VCU.  Both the B’s and Mid-Major Nightmares would rank higher, had KU not had its 2012 tourney run to the title, and put some of these in the rearview mirror.

15. Roy’s Boys – Kansas fans didn’t really  know what they had with Roy Williams, but enjoyed a great season in 1990 off the probation in 1989. In 1991, KU was a No. 3 seed and advanced to face an overhyped Indiana  team led by a typical overhyped Hoosier, this time, Damon Bailey. Bailey (20) and wing Calbert Cheaney (23) certainly scored their share, but no one else did. KU’s no-name team didn’t surprise Indiana – they blew them out, 83-65. Terry Brown’s 23, and Alonzo Jamison’s 14 points and 10 boards led the way for KU.

14. Boiling Comeback – KU looked horrible against Purdue in a second-round game in 2012. As a No. 2 seed, KU trailed by 11 in the first half, as the Jayhawks couldn’t hit the ocean from the beach, and Robbie Hummel was hitting everything, en route to 26 points. The storyline was there – KU with another giant loss, Hummel back from injury leads Purdue to the Sweet 16. But then KU dug deep and clamped down on Purdue. Like a Back to the Future movie, the headline erased from another KU upset to a KU comeback win. KU led for 45 seconds in the game, but the most important seconds behind transition baskets by Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor for an incredible 63-60 win.

13. Spittin’ Down the Mississippi – Roy had Bob Knight’s number, none more memorable than in the NCAA Tournament. Again, Bailey and Cheaney headlined the Hoosier lineup. KU had five players in double digits, but the only two points for Calvin Rayford were on a pick-pocket of Bailey, and started a decisive 10-0 run. Roy’s superstition of spitting into the Mississippi helped as the game was in St. Louis, and the Final Four was played in New Orleans.

12. Like Clockwork – The main talk of the 1986 Sweet 16 win over Michigan State wasn’t a play or player. It was the clock at Kemper Arena. A malfunction allowed for 10 extra seconds allowed, which proved big. KU overcame an 80-74 deficit with 1:04 left, when Archie Marshall’s tip-in with :09 left forced overtime. The Jayhawks took over in OT for a 96-86 win, but Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote flat out said: “"If those 10 seconds had run off as they should have, the game would have been over.”

11. Pupil v Mentor –Roy vs Dean finally came in 1991, when KU faced North Carolina in the Final Four semifinal. The game was most notable for Dean Smith questionably getting ejected after a second technical, but Kansas owned the game behind 16 points from Mark Randall and Adonis Jordan, and 14 from Richard Scott off the pine.  Kansas and Roy were into the NCAA finals after the W.

10. 40 Minutes of Hell? –Arkansas’ hyped press and “40 Minutes of Hell” got them to the Final Four in 1990 and one step away in 1991. The Razorbacks actually held a 47-35 halftime lead, but KU tied the game at 56-56 at the 15-minute mark. KU pounded the ball inside while Todd Day and Lee Mayberry went cold outside. Kansas ran away at the end, and Oliver Miller laid on the floor exhausted in a 93-81 Kansas win, and Roy Williams’ first trip to the Final Four.

9. Clash of the Titans –In what could go wrong, did go wrong, KU faced Duke in a colossal matchup in the 1986 Final Four. Duke at 37-2 vs KU at 35-3. The two faced early in the year – a Duke win – and the rematch was felt to be the title game (though Louisville later had their say). KU’s inside duo of 7-foot-1 Greg Dreiling and 6-foot-11 Danny Manning combined for just 10 points. Dreiling fouled out before the 5:00 mark, and Manning was saddled with foul trouble the entire game. Super sub Archie Marshall injured his knee with 8 minutes left in the game. Still, Kansas and Duke were tied at 67-67, before freshman Danny Ferry stuck in a rebound with :23 left to boost Duke to a 71-67 win.

8. Swatted Away –KU’s trip to the NCAA Final was its first encounter with the one-and-done’s in the NCAA Final, and it turned sour early when a freshman lit up the court – but not Carmelo Anthony. Gerry McNamara cranked three after three, six total in the first half as Syracuse built an insurmountable 18-point lead. But Kansas clawed back behind missed free throws by the Orange, and pulled to 80-78. Missed free throws by KU doomed the ‘Hawks, going just 12 of 30 from the line. But KU had a chance to tie the game when Kirk Hinrich passed the ball to a wide open Michael Lee in the corner. Until freshman Hakim Warrick made up nearly 18 feet from the block, and swatted Lee’s shot. A late Hinrich attempt missed, and KU fell short, 81-78.

7. Punch to the Gut –Roy still refers back to them. Dick Vitale will refer to them every once in a blue moon. All KU fans above the age of 30 pause for a minute … then sigh. The 1997 KU team was a beloved one. Academic All-Americans in Jacque Vaughn and Jerod Haase. A group of seniors in Haase, Vaughn, squirrely Scot Pollard and B.J. Williams. Future NBA lottery picks in Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz. Bench players with smart kids in Ryan Robertson and T.J. Pugh. KU entered the tournament at 34-1, and everyone’s pick to win the tourney. They faced a gritty Arizona team, which barely got past the College of Charleston in the round of 32, and finished 5th in the Pac-10. But the guard-laden team was filled with future NBA’ers in Jason Terry, Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson, along with its leader, Miles Simon. Haase got hurt in the opening minute and didn’t return. Vaughn and Pollard were plagued with foul trouble. Arizona outquicked KU to every loose ball and built a 13-point lead with over 3 minutes left. A furious comeback with three’s from Robertson, Billy Thomas and Pierce scoring pulled KU to 83-82 with :19 left. Bibby hit two free throws, KU missed on three-point attempts by Robertson and LaFrentz  … and KU still is stunned by this one. Meanwhile, the Wildcats went on to become the first team to beat three No. 1 seeds en route to its improbable title.

6. Roy Revenge II –In the 2012 Regional Final in St. Louis, KU would face its old coach again, Roy Williams, and North Carolina. Yeah, the Tar Heels were missing their injured point guard, but KU didn’t let up. Tied 47-47 at half, KU ran a triangle-and-two which Roy still may not have figured out they ran. Kansas went on a 12-0 run to end the game and walk away with an 80-67 laugher, and put Bill Self back into the Final Four after two heart-breaking losses in the previous two NCAA tourneys.

5. Bucking the Lead –Much like it had the entire 2012 tournament, Kansas found itself behind after a dismal offensive showing in the first half. This time, it looked deadly, as KU fell behind by 13 to Ohio State, the No. 2 seed out of the East. But a little flurry before half – including a Travis Releford layup to beat the buzzer – left KU down by 9. From there, KU put the clamps down on the Buckeyes, double-teaming All-American Jared Sullinger (5-for-19 shooting) and OSU missed its first 10 shots of the second half. KU hits its free throws down the stretch, Aaron Craft committed a lane violation on his intentional miss with :2.9 left, and KU moved to the title game with a 64-61 win.

4. Battle of Kansas –Both KU and K-State enjoyed unforeseen runs in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Kansas barely got into the tourney as a No. 11 seed, and enjoyed a path of upsets ahead of them to see No. 3 NC State and No. Pittsburgh bumped before them, to reach the regional final. Meanwhile, the Wildcats stunned No. 1 seeded Purdue, 73-70, setting up a Kansas Klash in the Silverdome in Detroit. The Jayhawks lost twice to K-State in the regular season, particularly behind the duo of Steve Henson and Mitch Richmond. But Richmond was held to just 4-of-14 shooting for 11 points, well below his 23 ppg entering the game. Manning scored 20, while Milt Newton went nuts with 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Newton, Kevin Pritchard and Scooter Barry fueled a 20-8 run down the stretch to open the lead for good, and send KU back to Kansas City.

3. Revenge vs Roy – KU fans built up a strong dislike for Roy Williams after his departure for North Carolina, and got their first crack at UNC and Roy on the biggest stage – in the Final Four. Kansas didn’t waste any time, opening a 40-12 lead on Tyler Hansbrough and the highly-touted Tar Heels. UNC fought back, pulled within five points with under 9:00 to go, but KU got the train back on the tracks and walked away with an 84-66 win, leaving Mass Street flooded with fans in ecstasy.

2. Manning and the Miracles – This is tough to decide between No. 2 and No. 1. But either one is deserving. KU’s incredible, unseen run to the title in 1988 hardly needs to be recounted, as Manning and the Miracles avenged their three losses in Allen Fieldhouse in 1988 with three straight wins over those opponents – K-State, Duke and then Oklahoma in the final. Manning’s 31 points and 18 rebounds will always be remembered, but Milt Newton’s dispy-doo reverse layup, Clint Normore’s three-pointer as the shot clock wound down in the first half, and Scooter Barry’s clutch free throws also will rank among highlights for KU fans. None more though than Manning and Brown hugging and a frenzied Kemper Arena celebrating a title.

1. Mario’s Miracle – This takes the top spot, in the fashion it came. A miraculous nine-point comeback in the final 2:12, capped by Mario Chalmer’s three-pointer that we all can close our eyes and see. KU capitalized off Memphis’ missed free throws, while Kansas hit 14-of-15 for the highest percentage in NCAA Final history. A Darrell Arthur 18-footer, then a Sherron Collins steal and three-pointer got the comeback started – and believable that it could happen. Memphis had chances to kill the clock, or hit its free throws, but did neither to lead to one of the most memorable shots in NCAA history. KU ran away with the overtime for a 75-68 win and a title.

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