Late Night impressions from courtside while escaping for a few hours from the state of the other sport:
Thomas Robinson still is built like a statue.
“He’s strong,” teammate Marcus Morris noted. “That jersey’s way too tight.”
Tyshawn Taylor, the best player on the floor Friday night, still can get to the rack in a blink and looks as if he’s ready to play with more poise and less emotion.
Marcus Morris still knows how to give an interesting take on a number on the box score that raises his eyebrows.
“I had three turnovers?” he said, incredulous. “That might have been my brother.”
Elite athletes play a much more enjoyable style of basketball when they have been coached daily by the guys with whistles than when they’re running up and down the court improvising.
One of the ushers who spends timeouts looking into the stands to make sure nobody has designs on stepping onto the court smiled after it was all over and said, “I hope the players enjoyed themselves because that’s the last time they’re going to be allowed to play like that.”
The plays that produced the chills played on the video board and the video department drew high praise from coach Bill Self. He was talking about the dunks and three-pointers, postgame celebrations and words from KU legends.
He wasn’t talking about the video of his pre-game speech for the national-title game against Memphis, but it’s time somebody says what needs to be said about that: It was brilliant for its simplicity. He told the players they didn’t have to do anything different from what they had done all year. He told them they already had the most victories of any Kansas team and therefore had nothing to lose. He expressed his gratitude to them, and he did it so calmly, so confidently, that it surely put the players in the perfect state for a game packed with so much pressure played on such a big stage.
Was that Self’s goal going into that speech, to leave his players confident and relaxed?
“I don’t know if I had a goal going in, back then,” Self said after Late Night ended. “The thing about it is, when you do something like that — and that’s the only time I’ve ever done anything like that, except Carolina (in the semis) — the reason you do it isn’t really to help your team, it’s to use it recruiting, going forward.”
When he talks about that team, the love and respect he has for it swells.
“I really believe this in my heart, even though that was I guess a scripted speech, it was 100 percent on target, the nuts and bolts, that we didn’t have to change one bit of what we had done all year,” he said.
Self said when he was told CBS wanted to tape his pre-game Final Four speeches, he balked.
“I said, ‘No way.’ Then when your coaches say, ‘Oh, yes, you will do that. We’ll be able to use that,’ you do it,” he said.
The tone of it captured Self. He’s not a self-promoter, doesn’t have a corny bone in his body and promotes himself simply by being Self. His what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach appeals to generations, which is to say recruits, recruits’ parents and successful grandfathers who happily donate to his program.