AUSTIN, TEXAS — Shaka Smart is routinely late to post-game press conferences. It’s become a running gag among local media members who set unofficial over/under bets so often they could be a niche line for FanDuel.
“How long do you think it will take for Shaka this time?,” someone asks. “Well, he’s probably not visiting with recruits,” another says.
This time, though, Smart wasn’t late. He wanted to get this over with. The first-year head coach at the University of Texas just suffered his worst loss of the 2015-16 season: 86-56 to Kansas.
It was Big Monday on ESPN.
It was senior night for the Longhorns.
There are many ways to describe what happened, but they all roll back to the same basic point: The Jayhawks were utterly sensational. It’s an anomalous year for college basketball in which there is no truly elite team to beat, but when Kansas is clicking, it looks every bit like the top-ranked squad that it currently is. This is a group with Final Four written all over it, maybe more.
Bill Self’s team, which clinched an astounding 12th-consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship with the win, shot 64 percent from the field, going 11-of-16 from beyond the arc. (At one point, Kansas was 10-of-13 from three-point land, with one miss being a mid-court desperation shot before the half that still had a chance to go in.)
Texas shot 30 percent and started the game 0-for-14. It was 15-0 Kansas six-and-a-half minutes through the first half. The Horns never stood a chance.
Smart knew this — maybe not the exact numbers, but he knew how bad it was, and he wasn’t about to take time to soak in the moment. Five minutes after guard Javan Felix, center Prince Ibeh and forward Connor Lammert, all of whom played their final home game in burnt orange and white uniforms, solemnly answered questions with their heads sunk low, Smart entered the media room. Other than the murmured sounds of leftover fans leaving the Frank Erwin Center echoing through the concrete hallways, the place was silent.