Keegan: Kansas reverted vs. BU

? The curtain came up on the NCAA Tournament for Kansas University’s basketball team Friday night, and the clock rolled back. All the way back to November. All the way back to Maui. All the way back to the stage-fright days.

The Jayhawks were young and unsure of themselves again. They were reacting again, not attacking. They were way too uptight and way too loose with the ball.

In short, they were not ready to play, and who would have thought that of this team at this point, one game after drilling Texas in the title game of the Big 12 tourney?

Freshman guard Mario Chalmers, the team’s best player over the last half of the season, was not afraid to acknowledge as much after Bradley drove the Jayhawks into their second consecutive one-and-done tournament failure, 77-73.

“It was nerves,” Chalmers said. “For the freshmen, it’s a big stage, and we really haven’t been on this big stage before, and it took us awhile to adjust to it.”

Chalmers’ night went pretty much the way of his season: He was scoreless in the first half and rallied the Jayhawks with 15 second-half points.

“I feel kind of mad because I think we should have come out better prepared and done a better job for the seniors,” Chalmers said. “All year, everything we’ve done has been for the seniors. I feel bad for the seniors.”

Whenever a college basketball team loses a big game, I feel for the coach, unless that coach happens to be a jerk, in which case I delight in his misery. Bill Self doesn’t happen to be a jerk, but he is a college basketball coach, which means the wrath of a segment of the understandably disappointed fan base will be sent in his direction.

Such sentiments can be summed up in one word: nonsense.

Two consecutive shocking first-round meltdowns does not mean Self has forgotten how to coach in the postseason.

He’s the same guy who led three different schools – Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas – to the Elite Eight and coached this season’s young team to 15 victories in 16 games coming into Friday night’s unthinkable outcome.

Along the way, he compared coaching this team to a box of chocolates, as in you never know what you’re going to get when you reach into it. This time, there was a mousetrap in there.

This team was a coachable bunch, a group of players who improved, but never knew how to overcome its lack of experience in this sense: They were better at doing things the second time around. The first games against chief conference rivals Kansas State and Missouri were losses, the rematches paybacks. The first game against Texas was a disaster, the second a memorable display of smart, tough, winning basketball.

In the tournament, the only second chance is a second year. It’s neither what they wanted nor what they expected.

In the first half, athletic Bradley turned the tables on KU, winning the points-off-turnovers battle 17-0. The Braves finished the first 20 minutes with an 11-0 blitz that gave them a 10-point lead in a half in which KU turned the ball over 11 times, forced just six turnovers and didn’t make a three-pointer.

“We’re going to learn from this and come out playing hard from the start next year,” Chalmers said.

Next year arrived way too soon.