DAYTON, Ohio -- When Kansas lost to Duke last year in the NCAA tournament championship game, the Jayhawks left Indianapolis and the Hoosier Dome with few regrets and only a trace of disappointment.
But when the Jayhawks left the University of Dayton Arena last night after their shocking 66-60 loss to ninth-seeded Texas-El Paso, there were tears. Lots of tears. Not only from the players, but also from the head coach.
"I can't say how much I feel the hurt for these guys," said Roy Williams, his eyes red, his voice cracking. "They accomplished so much. They won the Big Eight by three games. They won the conference tournament. But the nature of the game is that people will say this season has been a disappointment because of this loss. I'm disappointed right now, but I'm not disappointed in these kids."
In becoming the second No. 1 seed not to advance to the regional semifinals since 1987 -- Oklahoma was beaten by North Carolina in 1990 -- the Jayhawks ended what had been a wonderful season with a hard-to-believe loss. The trip home would wind up in Lawrence, Kan., not at the regional semifinals in nearby Kansas City, Mo.
Williams was out-coached by Don Haskins, who inserted an untested four-corners into the offense at Saturday's practice. And the Jayhawks, considered by most as one of the favorites for the Final Four next month in Minneapolis, were outplayed by their lesser-known opponents.
Was Kansas looking ahead, as everyone else seemed to be? And, in doing so, were the Jayhawks overlooking UTEP as another minor bump on the road to the championship?
"Everybody was talking about Kansas City," said Adonis Jordan, the junior point guard who was locked up by Prince Stewart and held to a season-low two points. "We let this one slip away."
It was a jarring defeat for the Jayhawks and Williams, among the rising stars in the coaching business. As he spoke at a post-game news conference, he tried to hold back the emotion. But it, like the game, was a losing battle.
"They have worked hard every game," he said. "They set their goals high -- to win the regular-season championship, to win the conference tournament, to win 25 games, and that's important because I'm not the one playing. They are."
Junior forward Alonzo Jamison had a more difficult time than Williams, or just about any of his teammates. Sitting on the podium, his eyes swollen from tears, he looked as if his world had fallen apart. Someone wanted to know how he felt about the way the Jayhawks had played.
"I'm proud of this team," he said.
And then he cried.