SAN ANTONIO — They missed short shots and long ones. Even free throws were far from gimmes.
Just like that, Kansas followed the lead of all the other No. 1 seeds and bowed out of the NCAA tournament before the Final Four — only the Jayhawks are stuck with the added agony of stumbling while staring down the easiest path to a national championship that any team ever faced.
Kansas actually didn't even come close against No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth, getting behind early and hardly threatening on the way to a 71-61 loss in the finals of the Southwest regional on Sunday.
"We're crushed," coach Bill Self said. "We tried real hard and just came up empty against a team that was better than us today."
The Jayhawks walked off the court blank-faced, hands on hips, occasionally peeking at the wild celebration around them. Marcus Morris tried holding off the tears, but had to pull his jersey over his face by the time he reached the edge of the court.
He probably didn't want to see the stat sheet, either. Kansas made only 35.5 percent of its shots and 9.5 percent of 3-pointers, both season lows. The Jayhawks hit 15 of 28 free throws (53.6 percent), narrowly better than their season-low.
"Probably the best game they played ever, probably the best game ever as a school," Markieff Morris said. "We let them beat us. We missed a lot of shots we normally make. We missed a lot of free throws that we normally make."
A victory would've sent Kansas into a Final Four matchup against eighth-seeded Butler, then no better than a No. 2 seed in the finals. Had the Jayhawks won it all, they would've shattered the record for the highest sum of seeds faced by the champion.
But instead of strolling into Houston next weekend as the heavy favorites, Kansas became the third No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 11, joining Connecticut in 2006 and Kentucky in 1986.
The difference in this upset: the Huskies lost in overtime and the Wildcats in the final seconds, while the Jayhawks were drummed. Their last lead was 10-9. They were down by a season-high 14 at halftime and trailed by 16 before rallying to within two, yet never got nearly that close again.
"Seeds are so overrated," Self said. "It's about matchups. Their players could play for us any day."
Kansas reached the regional finals on an 11-game winning streak. In the tournament, the Jayhawks hadn't trailed by more than two points, and won by at least 14, in victories over teams seeded 16th, ninth and 12th.
As much as they claimed they would respect VCU as much as a Duke or North Carolina, the Big 12 champions still knew they were facing the fourth-place finisher from the Colonial Athletic Association. The lack of respect may have oozed out during a pregame meeting of team captains, when — according to VCU's Joey Rodriguez and two of his teammates — one of the Morris twins said, "The run ends here."
The soft road and perhaps a bit of overconfidence may have conspired against the Jayhawks (35-3).
Kansas opened strong and had the majority of the crowd on its side. But once a few things went right for VCU, everything went its way. The Jayhawks allowed spurts of 11-0 and 10-2. Along the way, the Morris twins each missed a pair of free throws, typical of the sloppiness that also included turnovers and missed shots, some that never should've been taken.
A 17-4 rally early in the second half made things interesting, but Kansas couldn't sustain its surge.
The final minutes were a perfect example of what went wrong.
When Marcus Morris missed two short shots and Markieff rebounded the second miss, VCU's Jamie Skeen snatched the ball right out of his hands. Next time down, Tyrel Reed shot an airball on a baseline jumper. Then Marcus Morris threw up a 3-pointer that was way too hard and punched it out of bounds when he went for the rebound.
By the time Tyshawn Taylor made a layup with 24 seconds left, the Jayhawks were down by eight.
Thousands of Jayhawks fans stood in stunned silence, arms crossed, while the small group of VCU supporters chanted "Hey, Hey, Goodbye."
Self's teams have underachieved before, getting to the Final Four only once in his eight seasons.
What's next for the Jayhawks?
Much depends on whether the Morris twins return for their senior year. Kansas already has to replace two senior starters in the backcourt, Reed and Brady Morningstar.
"We didn't accomplish what we set out to accomplish, so it's hard for me to say it's a special year," Self said. "It won't sting from lack of trying or lack of effort. It will sting because these opportunities — I wish they came yearly, but they don't come yearly. And you've got to make the most of opportunities when you get them and we didn't do that."