For the second time in as many days, a No. 1 seed is headed home earlier than expected from the 2023 NCAA Tournament after Kansas, the reigning national champions and the top seed in the vaunted West Region, joined fellow No. 1 seed Purdue in getting bounced from the Big Dance following a stunning 72-71 loss to No. 8 seed Arkansas on Saturday .
Kansas' loss guarantees at least two No. 1 seeds will not advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 2018 NCAA Tournament after Purdue on Friday fell in the first round to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson.
Arkansas trailed for the vast majority of the game but kept things tight to the end and pounced at an opportune time, seizing the lead at the 50-second mark of the second half for the first time since the 8:54 mark of the second half. KU knotted things back up at 67 after Jalen Wilson drained a pair of free throws before Arkansas rallied to make five free throws -- all from Ricky Council IV, who finished with 21 points and made 10 of his 11 free throw attempts in the game -- in the final 30 seconds.
Putback gives Arkansas the lead @RazorbackMBB pic.twitter.com/acWYeohsHr— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 18, 2023
The Razorbacks were led by Davonte Davis' 21 second-half points as part of his massive 25-point, eight-rebound outing. Davis fouled out with KU leading by two with just under two minutes to play, but Arkansas came up with clutch plays down the stretch to close the gap to win and advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season.
Davonte Davis gets emotional after defeating No. 1 Kansas ❤️ @RazorbackMBB pic.twitter.com/Wa8OHa6jN4— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2023
"It's such an unbelievable win for our program," said Arkansas coach Eric Musselman after the game on CBS. "I keep telling people we keep getting better. Not many teams can get better this time of year. I've never been prouder of a team than I've been tonight."
Arkansas has made something of a habit of slaying giants under coach Eric Musselman with the win over top-seeded Kansas marking the second time in as many years it has toppled a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas was 0-10 all-time vs. No. 1 seeds before last year when it defeated No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. The win Saturday improved it to 2-10 all-time vs. No. 1 seeds with wins over them in consecutive years.
Three different Arkansas players fouled out in the game and two others finished with four fouls as the Hogs had to persevere to the end. Kansas wasn't without its own limitations, either, with Ernest Udeh Jr. and Dajuan Harris both battling ankle injuries. KU was also without head coach Bill Self, who after a recent hospitalization missed his fifth consecutive game.
Here are takeaways from the game.
1. KU missed its Hall of Fame coach
Kansas had no troubles against No. 16 seed Howard in Round 1, but without the services of Hall of Fame coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks were missing one of their best weapons on the bench. Self missed his fifth straight game Saturday as he continued to recover from a hospitalization and procedure he underwent during the Big 12 Tournament. Without him, KU failed to defend its title with assistant coach Norm Roberts serving as the interim.
"It was a tough game. A battle," Roberts said. "It was tough not having coach here. But we don't make any excuses. We have to line up and get it done, and we came up a little bit short today."
2. Devo Davis goes nuclear
For a second consecutive NCAA Tournament game -- and for the second straight year -- Davonte Davis (who goes by Devo) went nuclear for Arkansas. Coming off a 16-point, six-rebound outing in the first round vs. No. 9 seed Illinois, Davis poured in 25 points and eight boards in outdueling Kansas' guard-heavy roster that carried it to a Big 12 title.
"The play of Devo Davis in taking the ball to the basket in middle pick-and-roll, his defense all game, then once he fouled out, we were able to hang on and win," Musselman said. "It's really hard to win a game in this tournament. It's really hard to beat the defending champions. We did it. I'm proud of us."
Davis making it look too easy @RazorbackMBB pic.twitter.com/u5R5KmkJ4r— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 18, 2023
Davis also came up big in the tournament for Arkansas last season with a 14-point outing in the first round and a stellar defensive effort in the Sweet 16 as the Hogs took down No. 1 seed Gonzaga. In that game he added six points, three boards, a pair of assists and one steal.
"Davis played out of this world," Roberts said. "Really made a lot of shots. We knew he was good at doing that."
3. KU guts out ailments
KU starting point guard Dajuan Harris turned his ankle stepping on a photographer just before halftime. KU reserve big man Ernest Udeh Jr. turned his ankle in the game, too. And starting guard Kevin McCullar gutted through a back injury that has off and on plagued him in the postseason. With KU less than 100%, it was more vulnerable than expected, and taken into account along with the absence of Self, perhaps this should not have been as out-of-left-field as it seemed.
KU entered the game as the shortest favorite for a No. 1 seed in Round 2 in more than two decades, which seemed to reflect the limping status of the reigning champs. With no Self and a less than 100% KU roster, the talented Razorbacks -- flush with NBA talent and length -- took it right to the Jayhawks by slashing the interior of their defense and attacking.
"They've got long athletes who affected [Gradey Dick]," said Roberts about the potential lottery pick freshman. "I don't think we screened as well as we wanted to for him. Give them credit. They did nullify him a little bit."
"No one feels bad about anything that Kansas goes through," added KU star Jalen Wilson, the Big 12 Player of the Year, about the adversity the team faced. "They had great energy. It always comes down to one play. It's just disappointing to end like that with how well our season was."