Stanford's size and deliberate play frustrated second-seeded KU from the start. The young Jayhawks never recovered, leading to another untimely March exit that sends the 10th-seeded Cardinal to Memphis to face No. 11 Dayton on Thursday.
Here are five key points from Stanford's 23rd victory of the season:
The Jayhawks were listless from the start. The poor outside shooting from its round-of-64 win over Eastern Kentucky on Friday wasn’t as much of a problem against Stanford. In fact, Kansas’ first four field goals came from the perimeter, though all inside the 3-point arc. And when Conner Frankamp buried two 3-pointers in the first half -- including one at the buzzer to give the Jayhawks their first lead -- it appeared things might open inside for KU. Not so much. Stanford largely owned the paint -- and as a result, the pace of this game.
Andrew Wiggins played 34 minutes, but he was primarily missing in action throughout. Was this the same guy who scored 41 points against West Virginia just two weeks ago? Wiggins rarely looked to shoot, going 1-of-6 from the field for four points. He appeared lost against the Cardinal’s changing defensive looks, generally disengaged and reluctant to even attempt to carry the Jayhawks, who desperately needed someone to step up. Others on the floor struggled as much as Wiggins, but his lack of aggressiveness was most damaging.
Stanford point guard Chasson Randle took over when necessary. He sparked the Cardinal’s early run and a 13-2 burst in the second half after Kansas built a five-point lead, its largest of the game, right out of the locker room. Kansas freshmen Wiggins and Wayne Selden, Jr. struggled on Saturday to speak about Randle when asked in the practice-day news conference. It was understandable. They had yet to receive scouting reports. It was much more troublesome on Sunday to see Randle -- Stanford’s driving force -- race past athletic KU defenders to finish in the paint.
Kansas coach Bill Self tried everything he could. For a second straight game, he used Frankamp, the freshman sharpshooter, more than usual. He got a spark off the bench in the final minute of the first half from freshman Brannen Greene. Self tried freshman Landen Lucas in the second half. He showed full-court defensive pressure. None of it worked to sustain energy. The urgency just wasn’t there for KU, potentially a problem for any team that relies so much on freshmen. And now another star freshman, 7-foot center Joel Embiid, injured and unavailable in St. Louis, won’t get to play in this NCAA tournament.
Stanford, with its big wings and the imposing Stefan Nastic to guard the rim, is now in position to make a run to the Final Four. Up next is Dayton after it slayed Ohio State and Syracuse, so the Flyers won’t be intimidated in Memphis by the Cardinal’s pedigree. But Stanford is a tough matchup for any opponent because of its diversity. Despite Stanford's size and versatility, Randle, the 6-2 junior, showed in St. Louis that he’s the catalyst for this group. As he goes, so goes Stanford. And Randle’s proving to be a reliable weapon in March.