Built to last

Kansas researchers are looking for the truth about clutch -- in saliva

Originally Published: February 21, 2014
By Igor Guryashkin | ESPN The Magazine

Joel EmbiidCooper Neill/Getty ImagesResearchers believe the secret to the Jayhawks' 2013 success can be found in a lab.

FIVE HUNDRED YARDS from Allen Fieldhouse -- deep inside the dull-brown bowels of the University of Kansas' Robinson Health and Physical Education Center -- is a lab that holds the story of the Jayhawks' 2013 trip to the Sweet 16. In a freezer set to a constant minus-80 degrees Celsius are saliva samples, taken weekly for 27 of 30 weeks, from 16 of coach Bill Self's players during a season cut short by a Michigan team marching its way to the championship game. Removed from the freezer, thawed and then placed in a centrifuge at 3,000 rpm, the samples are removed of impurities, and stories are spun for each player. Every finals exam, every fight with a girlfriend, every head-coach chew-out is laid bare; every week the thing that contributed to failure or success on the court is an open book.