KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Frank Mason III didn’t deserve his college career to end like this.
The tenacious bulldog of a senior guard shouldn’t have to feel like his life is over. He shouldn’t have to fight back tears and congratulate another team on a Final Four berth. But alas, here we are. Mason’s slightly inaccurate Wikipedia page was changed minutes after the final buzzer, reading: “Frank Marvin Mason III is an American basketball player who played for the University of Kansas. He was the starting point guard for the Jayhawks.”
As sad as that is, Mason's middle name isn't actually Marvin: it's Leo.
In other words, we’ve arrived at the end. A wrongful end, but the end, nonetheless.
Mason’s myriad accomplishments is nothing to shake a stick at.
Off the court, he’s the inspiration for two rap songs, a unifying not-safe-for-work social media hashtag and the name of an actual bulldog. On the court, he was named Big 12 Player of the Year and is likely to take home multiple National Player of the Year distinctions during the Final Four weekend.
But Mason has said time and time again that he doesn’t care about accolades. He wanted the Final Four. He wanted a team trophy. He wanted a ring and a banner. Not for him, but for the team.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Mason said on Friday of possibly making a Final Four. “But it’s not all about me. It’s about my team. I think it would mean more to everyone else than me. [I] just wanna see my teammates happy, fans and family, so whatever to do to make that happen, that’s what we need to do.”
Over Mason’s four years, happiness wasn’t the resounding emotion at season’s end.
Kansas has faced early exits in the NCAA tournament at the hands of Stanford, Wichita State, Villanova, and, now, Oregon. All four years had similar stings, but this last one has pain that shoots the strongest.
After the devastating loss to Villanova, there was at least one more year. This go around, it’s over. It’s done. Frank Mason III’s eligibility has officially run out. And it’s a shame.
Five players sit ahead of Mason on the Kansas all-time points leaders list: Danny Manning, Nick Collison, Raef LaFrentz, Clyde Lovellette and Sherron Collins. Mason joins only one of them — LaFrentz — in having not made a Final Four.
“Frank had the best year of anybody I’ve ever coached,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the loss. “And he’s as tough as anybody I’ve ever coached. He loves his place as much as anybody I’ve ever coached and I hurt for [him].”
It’s hard to summarize Mason’s contributions to Kansas basketball. Recency bias is certainly at play here, but it’s not far off the mark to immediately consider him as one of the greatest of all-time to don the crimson and blue, possibly the best to not play the final weekend of the NCAA tournament.
This season alone, Mason averaged 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.2 rebounds. He’s the first player in Big 12 history to finish a season averaging 20 points and five assists. Mason played more than 1,300 minutes this season: a feat that only three Jayhawks have done. The other two — Danny Manning and Tyshawn Taylor — did so with 38- and 39-game Final Four and National Championship appearance seasons compared to Mason’s 36-game season.
Because of these efforts and more, he could become Kansas’ first consensus National Player of the Year.
“I gave it my all every day and I’m a Jayhawk for life,” Mason said at the end of locker room availability.
No. 0 has definitely proven that. But unfortunately for Mason and co., absurd statistics and inhuman athleticism can fall victim to the merciless NCAA tournament. The NCAA tournament takes pity on no one and rarely plays favorites. There’s no remorse. It’s unforgiving and heartless. With only one winner, in the end, everyone else goes home with shredded hearts, tear-stained cheeks, and unachieved goals.
One player can’t do it all, but Frank Mason III sure tried.
His 753 season points accounted for 25 percent of Kansas’ scoring efforts on the season. And his 21 points in the Elite Eight made up more than a third of the Jayhawks final score.
You can’t say Mason doesn’t have the heart. The tears he shed on Senior Night prove just how much the otherwise un-outwardly emotional leader cares about Kansas.
It’s wrong that Mason’s college career ends like this. It’s a damn shame that the best collegiate player in America isn’t suiting up on April 1.
— Edited by Casey Brown