Danny and the Miracles


It’s getting to be that time of year — the NCAA Tournament is right around the corner; thus, I am going to look back at one of the teams that helped make March MAD.

The 1987-88 Kansas Jayhawks were led by their coach, soon to be vagabond Larry Brown, and Mr. Everything Danny Manning. They started the year in the preseason top ten, but quickly dropped in the polls with two losses in the Maui Invitational. They grinded through the rest of their non-conference games, and entered conference play at 10-3.

When the Big 8 schedule began in late January, the Jayhawks hit rock bottom. They lost 5 out of their first 6, including home losses to Kansas St. and Oklahoma, the former halting a 56-game winning streak at famed Fog Allen Field House.

The Jayhawks would somewhat right the ship, winning 8 of their last 10, with losses at Oklahoma and another home loss versus non-conference foe Duke. Kansas would finish the regular season at 20-10 and win one game in the Big 8 Conference Tourney before losing once again to Kansas St.

At 21-11, Kansas received a #6 seed in the NCAA Tourney and played Xavier in the first round of Midwest regional in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Jayhawks defeated the Musketeers 85-72, and got a break when Murray State upset #3 seed N.C. State in the first round. Kansas then dispatched the Cinderella Racers in a grind-it-out affair 61-58.

The Jayhawks would then move on to face another lower seed in the Sweet 16, as #7 seed Vanderbilt had beaten Pittsburgh the round before. Kansas pulled away from the Commodores, winning 77-64, and got another shot at in-state rival Kansas St in the regional final.

The teams had already met three times, with K-State winning two of them. But this time Manning and the Jayhawks would finish off the Wildcats 71-58.  He averaged nearly 25 points and ten rebounds through these games and was named the Midwest region MVP.

The win earned the Jayhawks a return visit to Big 8 country in nearby Kansas City, about 40 miles from the Kansas campus.

The 1988 Final Four also included #1 seeds Oklahoma and Arizona, and# 2 seed Duke, who would be making their first of five consecutive Final Four appearances. Kansas would be getting another shot at Duke (having lost to them in the 1986 Final Four), and this time Manning would not let them lose. He willed his team to a 66-59 victory by scoring 25 points, hauling in 10 boards, swatting away 6 Blue Devil shots, and  grabbing 4 steals. Up next for the Jayhawks was long-time rival Oklahoma in the final. Oklahoma had beaten Kansas twice already, and were an 8-point favorite

“The Miracles,” as Manning’s teammates were nicknamed, included two midseason additions from the football team (Mike Maddox and Clint Normore); the only Barry brother not to play in the NBA (Scooter); and two future NBA executives, Kevin Pritchard and Milt Newton. Newton was a perfect 6 for 6 in the championship game and scored 15 points, while Pritchard added 13 and 4 assists. Hard-nosed Chris Piper chipped in with 8 points and  7 boards.

But the championship game belonged to Manning. He scored a game-high 31, with 18 rebounds and 5 steals. Though the first half of the game was played at Oklahoma’s pace, Kansas managed to keep the score tied at 50. In the second half, Manning scored 17 of Kansas’ 33 points while leading the Jayhawks to 83-79 victory over the Sooners.

This March, when all the college superstars are hitting big shots to advance their teams in the Tourney, don’t forget about the college mega-star that helped add the Madness to March.


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