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Back to 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament coverage

2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Keegan

Keegan: Victory completes transition

Kansas fans go wild against North Carolina in the first half on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas fans go wild against North Carolina in the first half on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

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2008 NCAA Tournament

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— The transition from Roy Williams to Bill Self ended once and for all Saturday night inside the Alamodome, where the team with the better transition game won.

Williams no longer should have to hear anything but thank you for 15 years of exceptional service from anybody who bleeds crimson and blue. As for Self, he no longer must be measured against the man who drove that 15-year run.

The national semifinal scoreboard screamed the only meaningful measure of Self's five years on the job: Kansas 84, North Carolina 66.

Williams, nothing but gracious in defeat, put a period at the end of that sentence he had to serve in the eyes of some KU loyalists for leaving Kansas for his alma mater, and he did so with humble words.

"I apologized to them," Williams said of what he told the players after the loss, "because some way, somehow, I didn't have my team as ready to play as Bill did, and that's not easy to say."

Now Self goes onto the national-title game, bringing the program all the way back to where it was when Ol' Roy packed his bags after a loss to Syracuse in New Orleans. With a victory over Memphis on Monday night, Self can bring the program a national title, an accomplishment that eluded Williams until his second season at North Carolina.

After the buzzer sounded in a game that was like a three-game series - KU dominating the first and third games, North Carolina the middle one - Williams shook the hands of all the KU players and told them, "Go ahead and win it. It's your tournament now."

In blitzing to a surreal 40-12 lead, Kansas put on a nearly flawless exhibition of how Self demands his teams play. All the qualities the Oklahoma-born coach demands his players strive for were on display: toughness, fury, speed, relentless pursuit of loose balls, defensive intensity. Kansas was the far tougher team. At times, it seemed as if some North Carolina players were getting punched in the mouth and waiting for big brother Tyler Hansbrough to come to the rescue as he always does. It didn't happen. Kansas defended him too well and had a wild card in freshman Cole Aldrich playing him to a standstill in the first half.

North Carolina, the No. 1 overall seed, played the nation's best fast-break basketball, or so it thought until encountering Kansas.

"That was our pace," said sophomore guard Sherron Collins, who did such masterful job of steering the ship through rough waters late in the game. "That whole buildup to the game, that whole, 'How you going to stop them? How you going to run with them?' Well, how are they going to stop us? How are they going to run with us? We run, too. That played into our hands. Everybody was worried about how we were going to run with them and we ran them ... "

Into the offseason. But not without some agony, some self-doubt and a blistering Carolina comeback first.

In a sense, the game went as Self's KU career has. In his first year, Self took KU to the Elite Eight, losing an overtime game to Georgia Tech. Then there were the two first-round losses, then an Elite Eight, and now this.

The score of Saturday's three games rolled into one: 1. Kansas 40-12; 2. North Carolina, 47-24; 3. Kansas, 20-7.

It was Collins, as aggressive a player and natural a leader as the team has, a Self-type player to the bone, who triggered the final run, hitting a three-pointer from the top of the key to push the lead that had dwindled to five points up to eight with 5:25 left.

"There was tension," senior guard Jeremy Case said of when the lead was trimmed to five points. "Coach Self did a great job of telling everyone to take a deep breath and just understand that we're OK. We had to keep attacking, and that's what we did, keep attacking instead of getting up on our heels like we were for a little bit."

Collins, Rush (25) and Darnell Jackson carried the Jayhawks (36-3) home, staving off what could have been a loss that would have made Bucknell and Bradley combined seem trivial by comparison.

Afterward, the players credited Self with an inspirational pregame speech.

"The thing is, he hadn't made a pregame speech in a while," Case said. "The games have been so intense he didn't really need to. We were already hyped. But it was great. He talked about the pride that we have and the tradition of both schools, and this was ours, and we've got to go out and take what we deserve."

The uptight play that was evident against Davidson was nowhere to be found when KU came out on fire.

"I think the pressure was on the Elite Eight game against Davidson because we hadn't made it past that before, and that game right there, it really just knocked the shackles off of us and made the team relax," Case said.

Just as in 1988, the year of Kansas' last national title, the road began in Nebraska and then moved through Michigan on the way to the Final Four. Larry Brown, the coach then, was sitting in the Kansas section Saturday night, watching his former understudy beat his U.S. Olympic team assistant coach. Now it's John Calipari, who also trained under Brown at KU and has grown very close to him, against Self for the ultimate prize Monday night.

"I can't believe we're about to play for the national championship," Case said.

Believe it.

Comments

bbeckum 6 years, 6 months ago

Gee, where are all the Bill Self haters and basketball experts that have been so critical of coach and team all season?

1977kufan 6 years, 6 months ago

Super article, Tom. I completely agree with you, we should thank Coach Williams for 15 years of coaching at KU. At the same time, articles need to emphasize the give and take of basketball at the University of Kansas and virtually every other university. The University of Kansas (and especially Bob Frederick) gave Roy Williams the opportunity to go from an unknown assistant to a coach that would obtain a considerable amount of money and esteem in the "transition" to his alma mater. The history, tradition and players at the University of Kansas did as much for Roy Williams as Roy Williams did for the University. Until I read articles that emphasize this point, then I will feel that journalism is approaching what the real story is in the Roy Williams - University of Kansas discussion. We all should sincerely thank Coach Bill Self and the entire coaching staff for everything that they have accomplished for the University. THANK YOU!!!Now let me turn to something that is very important -- what is the status of Darrell Arthur's eye? Although he kept playing after the injury, he really looked like he was hurting around the eye when DJ gave him that "bear hug" at the end of the game!

Jacobpaul81 6 years, 6 months ago

It has nothing to do with Roy Williams. I could care less, one way or another about Williams. I wanted him to leave the first time around.It has to do with Kansas defeating the east coast bias. The ACC and UNC is so great crowd. Its about beating the tar out of Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale, Pate Forde. Guys who spend the whole freakin season talking about a North Carolina team, that apart from last second wins over Clemson, Duke and Davidson, didn't play anybody all season long! It's about a Big 12 team sticking it to the Media Darlings. I'm so tired of hearing about Tobacco Road. But that's all the press ever wants to talk about. Memphis and Kansas. No east coasters left!

halogenlamps 6 years, 6 months ago

For the love of God, can't the media just let the whole Roy leaving KU thing go? Keegan tells us to let it go, but he, like curmudgeonly old Mayer, just cannot seem to stop writing about it. I think they are more bitter about it than they like to admit, which is why they have to mention it in so many articles. Just let it go, guys! We are tired of reading about it.

Christopher Johnson 6 years, 6 months ago

Collins did some great things, but he had 7 turnovers. That's a guy I don't mind taking a shot or two, but not a guy I want "leading" my team and handling the ball when the pressure is on. Ku needs to find other guys to get the ball up court and find Collins to feed him the ball on a drive. Collins is good driving from the three point line in but a disaster when bringing the ball all the way up the court. He also needs to learn when to jumpstop and shoot (needs to do that at least 75% of the time) because guys on defense are figuring out how easy it is to take a charge from him. Green camped in the lane for longer than two seconds with his feet completely planted waiting on Sherron to charge right into him, and Sherron still didn't have the vision or intelligence to pull up for a jumpstop or dish it off. He ran right into the trap and turned it over. He does it all too often. Collins has amazing quickness, but he's still a bull in a china closet. I'm so excited about what I think he'll do for us in the future, but right now we have guys that can make better decisions with the ball in their hands than Collins can. I want the ball in Chalmers or Rush's hands down the stretch. Russ Rob won't score the points needed, but you know he'll find the open guy. Sherron has the highest chance to turn it over. He's good, but many people don't get it (Keegan) that its not his team YET . . . it will be, but this isn't his year.

Dyrk Dugan 6 years, 6 months ago

it was a great win, a must win for Self and his stamp on the program. and KU got it. they not only got it, they ran the 'Heels off the floor and tackled it.i've said it since he was at Kansas....Roy needs absolutely overwhelming talent, and the tourney to fall just right for him to win it. And it's still a proven point. in '05 he had great players inherited, added Marvin Williams, and did not play a higher than a 5 seed until Illinois. And even then, he was going against a 2nd year major college coach, who had inherited great players....and UNC could darn near relish an underdog role.this year, this KU team was every bit as good as Roy's boys...and a lot tougher and faster. Roy's teams, just like when he was here, don't like to be pushed around. And Bill Self likes to push. Congrats Jayhawks and Coach Self.....go get them Tigers!

jhox 6 years, 6 months ago

I admittedly haven't been as strong of a Roy hater as a lot of the KU fans I know. My only problem with him was his allowing the UNC job to be a distraction during final 4 week in 2003. Bill Self has handled that much better, making an all but definitive statement that he's really not interested in the OSU job. If he gets offered the moon by T-Boone, and goes back on that statement, I can feel like at least he did his best to keep it from being a distraction to his team.We should be thankful for Roy's years at KU, just as he should be (and appears to be) for KU giving him his shot. We were coming off of a National Championship year when he signed on but, let's face it, recruiting had been struggling under Brown. Roy elevated that to another level and now I believe Bill Self has picked up where Roy left off and taken recruiting to an even higher level from the standpoint that we're no longer afraid to recruit the East.We're very fortunate to have Bill Self, and we're doing him a disservice to continue putting so much focus on Roy Williams. Unlike Roy, who always considered Kansas a second tier job to UNC, Bill Self considers Kansas the destination job. Because he really believes in what he's selling, he's been able to recruit the East coast successfully. Roy was always content to leave recruiting East coast stars to UNC and Duke, because he had an unjustified inferiority complex about Kansas in relation to those programs.As it stands, we're better off with Bill Self. Now let's focus on doing whatever it takes to retain him. Imagine the recruiting doors that will be open for him after all of the "nice guy" publicity he's gotten during the final 4. All of the interviews have shown the genuine guy that he is. He will be even more of a recruiting machine from here forward. Regardless of how the game Monday night turns out, we will win multiple national championships with Bill Self at the helm. The old king is dead to us. Long live the new king! Let's give him the love he rightfully deserves.

Joe Ross 6 years, 6 months ago

I think Coach Self may talk to OSU and T-Bone. I think because of the caliber of coach he is he's earned the right to test the waters and see what his market value is. In my heart of hearts, though, I believe if he's given numbers from OSU he'll come back to Lew Perkins and give Kansas an opportunity to match. Let's not get carried away prematurely though. Kansas is a dream job. If Roy's alma mater was OSU, I doubt very seriously he would have left. There are other considerations besides the chance to coach at your alma mater that would factor in in leaving vs. staying--the chance to coach at a school that's easy to recruit for. The chance to coach where you have a shot at the title. The chance to coach at a school with a longstanding tradition. The chance to coach at a place that makes coaching FUN--apart from the paycheck. These are all heavily weighted in Kansas' favor, and Self knows this. He's no fool. He didn't decide to coach to get rich, I assure you. He decided to coach at a place where we could reap the benefits of coaching: fun, progress, a chance to make his mark on basketball, etc. It was one of the factors that allowed Roy to leave, and it will be the biggest factor that will compel Bill to stay. (If this doesn't make sense to you, put UNC and OSU in a balance and decide for yourself which comes out heavier.) Every coach wants to leave a legacy. Bill's realizing his will NOT come at OSU.With the victory of Kansas over UNC, the Roy Williams era is vanquished in Lawrence (though his legacy remains). Bad feelings are 98% snuffed out. Believe this because this next statement is the truth: it wasnt until Self defeated Williams that the sun had set on the Williams era, but now it certainly has. Self has reached the pinnacle of games in the NCAA, and he did it at Kansas. He is no longer in Williams' shadow. He knows this.For all the green that can be thrown at him, OSU can not offer this to Coach. I say he'll talk with them and return to Kansas with numbers, and Lew will reward him with a renegotiated contract.On a final note, we should now embrace Roy and give him his due for what he did here at Kansas. I know why everyone has angst, but consider that even with Dean's wooing, the bigger contract, and the chance to move home and coach at his alma mater, he DID turn them down once. That should tell you Ol' Roy aint all that dadgum bad.Thanks for your time Roy. We appreciate it. Now we are firmly in the palm of Coach Self and EVERY Jayhawk fan is happy about that!

BCRavenJHawkfan 6 years, 6 months ago

This is really amazing to see how we have had virtually a different player come through with something to push the team forward starting with the BigXII tournament.I really hope this next game has four of our guys in double figures.

tailg8prty 6 years, 6 months ago

Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, then shame on me. I've heard all of this before. So far it is coach's speak. Of course he is going to make comments that deflect any interest in the OSU job. But after being burnt once I just plan on the worst and hope for the best. We need to keep Coach Self here. I think Coach Self is the type of guy who wouldn't leave a school just for money. Granted he played at OSU but so what? They are a top 50 program right now. He has a chance to be a legend with his picture hanging up in the hallways that he walks down everyday to his office. If money was all that Coach Self cared about then he would be in the NBA making a heck of alot more than a college coach makes.As for the game, I hope we have our legs under ourselves Monday night. They spent alot of energy last night and hopefully they will be able to play the way we all know they can play. GO JAYHAWKS!! BRING A NC HOME!!

actorman 6 years, 6 months ago

One of the things we can be proudest of as KU fans is that not only has every KU coach since the tournament began taken at least one KU team to the Final Four, but five of the six (all but Ted Owens) have taken us to the championship game! Is there anyone else, even almighty Kentucky, who can make a claim like that?

janeyb 6 years, 6 months ago

Saturday I had just said UNC must not have scouted us very good because Collins is the most easily trapped player on the team--and damn--next possession they started trapping him. To beat the trap you have to be willing to let someone else have the ball. At this point Collins isn't. Thank goodness Self pulled him and spanked him and other than one selfish pull-up jumper he played much better and let one of the other guards handle the trap. He has great potential, but is still just a sophomore. He needs to just catch the ball and drive. Let more experienced guards worry about the logistics of getting down the court when there is a trap. Go Jayhawks!! Number 1!!!

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