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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Self tells Jayhawks to keep heads high after disappointing, season-ending Final Four loss

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) glances at the scoreboard during a timeout in the second half, Saturday, March 31, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) glances at the scoreboard during a timeout in the second half, Saturday, March 31, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

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Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, up close and in person, saw all he needed to see during Saturday's 95-79 Final Four loss to Villanova at The Alamodome to know what went wrong, why the Jayhawks could not set it right and how a slight lack of energy early and an amazing performance from the Jayhawks' opponent ended KU's season.

So don't expect him to relive the moment again any time soon.

“If I ever watch the tape again, which I doubt I do, I think I'll find out that we didn't have much aggressiveness in a couple spots,” Self said after Saturday's loss, referencing KU's perimeter defense in the early going of that season-ending loss. “You always want to put yourself in a position to win. But when it's the last game, but when it's the last game, certainly it stings and hurts no matter what.”

For about 30 minutes inside a subdued Alamodome locker room, the Jayhawks sat stunned, searching for answers to questions from a few dozen reporters, most of them inquiries about Villanova's record-setting 3-point night and how — and when — the Jayhawks would put their 31-8 season in proper perspective.

Such moments come with the territory when you're competing for the top prize in your sport. And although it's certain that none of the Jayhawks were enjoying themselves, each of them answered as best they could with class, kindness and a hint of confusion as to how this could happen to them.

When they were done, all they were left with was silence.

Junior guard Lagerald Vick sat low in his chair, legs spread, shoulders slouched, head between his knees, staring at the ground.

Sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, after sitting back and spitting out quality insight for a good 20 minutes, eventually sat upright but only to better position himself to put his head in his hands, where it remained for nearly as long.

The consensus opinion from inside the KU locker room was that Villanova deserved all the credit in the world for delivering a masterful game on the biggest stage.

The consolation prize for Kansas? A pat on the back from their head coach.

“He just asked us to keep our heads up,” Azubuike said. “Right from the jump, nobody even believed that we would be where we are right now, in the Final Four, fighting for a national championship.”

Added senior Devonte' Graham, who played the 142nd and final game of his stellar Kansas career on Saturday night: “He told us we should keep our heads up. We had an unbelievable season. You know, it's not the way you want it to end. But even if you (lose) by one point it will still hurt. It's going to hurt now, but we'll be all right.”

Putting his money where his mouth was, Graham proved that the healing process had already begun a little less than 90 minute after the final horn sounded, when he penned a heartfelt note to Jayhawk fans and posted it on social media.

“MAN MAN MAN,” Graham's postgame ode began. “It's been an UNBELIEVABLE RIDE. I just want to say THANK YOU !!!! To the best fans in the nation hands down! My coaches for this once in a lifetime opportunity & everyone who's ever sacrificed anything for this program! It's hard and I'm in tears right now but I couldn't have asked for a better 4 years of my life …. This University and this program is like no other !! All the memories, all my brothers, 4x champion, traveling the world... I never imagined being in this position and I honestly have nothing to hang my head about. Tough loss, but at the end of the day I'm going to always be a champion (because) I'm a JAYHAWK! ROCK CHALK! I LOVE YALL TO DEATH.”

Graham was not the only Jayhawk making progress toward getting past Saturday's loss.

Even Vick, with his head still planted and voice projecting to the floor, showed signs of feeling encouraged.

“I guess,” he said when asked if the joy of finally breaking through to the Final Four eventually would erase the pain of the season's last loss. “I mean, you want to make it farther than that, but it is an accomplishment.”

Added sophomore Malik Newman: “It's never good to end your season the way that we did. We definitely had some great moments, but tonight, I don't think we had any great moments. It's definitely going to be tough to swallow. If it was a one-point loss or a 20-point loss, at the end of the day it's just tough.”

With that, the Jayhawks now head into another offseason with an experience that will stick with all of them. For those who return, simply seeing what it took to reach this point and getting a taste of what the Final Four is all about will be fuel for a return trip in 2019.

Some of them said as much on Saturday night.

For the rest, whether like Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Clay Young, who are graduating, or any of the others who may leave early or are arriving for the first time — don't think for a second that KU's players in the high school class of 2018 were not paying attention to this like they were a part of it — the end of the road came swiftly and without disguise.

“Oh, I think it's hit them all,” Self said outside of the Kansas locker room. “I do. I don't think that's going to be something that's going to take a long time.”


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Villanova


By the Numbers: Villanova 95, Kansas 79.

By the Numbers: Villanova 95, Kansas 79.

Comments

Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Villanova deserved to win and Kansas didn't. 66 teams lost in the tournament before Kansas did so I say good job, guys. we are all proud. Mr. Vick, I was wrong. Please come back next year.

Armen Kurdian 1 year, 2 months ago

Actually, 347 teams were eliminated from contention for the title by the time the ball was tipped, so being one of the last four left ain't too bad.

KU definitely could have been more agressive, no traps, leaving their man, getting cut on the ball screens for the open shooters while on the reverse unable to set screens (it seemed like Nova had 7 or 8 players on the floor on defense). And there definitely seemed to be a lack of agressivenes...seemed like we were much slower than normal...at least on 80% of our possessions. Didn't seem like we actually got angry about being down. Not nearly enough contested shots while on defense.

But when you shoot like that, which KU has done to opponents as well, it's going to be a long day for the other team. Unlike last year when I fully believe we should have beating Oregon easily, after watching we would have had to have been at our best to have close to an even chance of winning.

So supremely proud of how far this team went this year, how much they overachieved, 14 straight titles, beating Duke, great comebacks, it was a fun year, more fun that I would have expected.

Hopefully Devonte's career will continue. I think Svi will definitely be a baller in the NBA.

Brad Watson 1 year, 2 months ago

Great job by all involved this year!..You had an off night...can not win them all...sometimes you lose....we love you guys...great effort this year ...you won championships....2 big ones in my book...well done....the rematch is .December 15th.......mark it down.!!!!!........now the focus needs to be on getting a new AD....one who is a former D1 football coach...and get looking for a new football coach....3-33 ...I can do better...so he needs to be replaced....Mr. Zenger should be able to land another good job...somewhere else...I like Mr. Zenger but...time has come for a change...and hopefully everyone benefits...Coach Self should play a major role in the new selections...I like Glen Mason...or Mack Brown as AD...my choice for head coach is Gene Chizik...a cocky confident guy...who knows how to motivate and recruit...and with his SEC ties...he has in roads in the South and Texas...and he wants to coach again...and is available.......give him a chance...I promise you he is better than our current occupant...a proven winner.and he has championship rings at Texas as an assistant and Auburn as head coach...13-0 undefeated season in that league..SEC title...regular season and championship game....and BCS NATIONAL TITLE ....also I think Coach Self would like him ...which is important........Beaty has not measured up unfortunately...he is a decent guy.. but he is is not worth the money. that he is being paid....and no fire in the belly.. and .speaking of money....how does the Ohio State basketball coach make 3 mil more a year than our coach....really?...Change is what our school needs ..quit putting it off...cut out the cancer now.

ALL WE WANT IS A RESPECTABLE FOOTBALL PROGRAM....THIS GUY CAN DO IT!!!!

ALL WE WANT IS A RESPECTABLE FOOTBALL PROGRAM....THIS GUY CAN DO IT!!!! by Brad Watson

Bryce Landon 1 year, 2 months ago

If you want to keep wallowing in the misery that is Kansas football, go ahead. I'll be donning the black and yellow of Iowa during football season; but I'll switch back to crimson and blue when basketball season rolls around.

Kenneth Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

You have to be kidding about Gene Chizek. He was terrible at Iowa State, and just a deplorable person.

Brad Watson 1 year, 2 months ago

Deplorable?...really?...you don't know him.....we aren't trying to build a football factory here....we just want to field a decent team...that is capable of an upset once in a while and maybe get to a bowl occasionally...Iowa State was his first head coaching job...he has learned ...like we all do...by mistakes we have made in the past...have you learned from any of your mistakes?.....I bet you have...look for the good in people...don't throw them under the bus...I think he would be perfect for a lot of reasons.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 2 months ago

In December, when Kansas blew a 13-point first half lead and lost by 10 at home to Arizona State, the media was singing the Sun Devils' praises and elevated them to the #2 team in the country. And I was so angry about the loss that I said I'd trade Bill Self for Bobby Hurley in a heartbeat.

But there was an article from CBS Sports where former Jayhawk player Josh Jackson predicted that Kansas would advance deeper in the Tournament than Arizona State would.

https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/former-kansas-star-josh-jackson-on-jayhawks-id-hate-to-be-them-right-now/

The dude was a freaking prophet.

Arizona State finished sub-.500 in the Pac-12 and technically made the NCAA Tournament, but was relegated to the First Four, and didn't even make it out of the First Four, losing to Syracuse.

Meanwhile, Kansas finished in first place in the Big 12 and got all the way to the Final Four before falling to Villanova.

This season has taught me to appreciate and respect Bill Self more than ever. At long last I realize how fortunate we are to have him coaching Kansas basketball. Any other team that had the issues we had this year would probably end up in the NIT at best, or missing the postseason at worst. But, in large part because of Self's coaching, this motley crew of Jayhawks went deeper into the NCAA Tournament than all the so-called experts predicted.

So I believe that, despite the ass-whooping we got from Villanova last night, we as Kansas basketball fans can and should follow the advice Self gave his players after the loss and hold our heads high too.

Here's to cutting down the nets in Minneapolis at this time next year!

ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 2 months ago

We'll see how long this lasts. A few bad games next year and I'll be surprised if you're not back to "Debby Downer" mode. I hope I'm wrong...

Bryce Landon 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, well, well, looky who we have here - the self-appointed Chief of KU Fan Police whose task it is to make sure all Kansas basketball fans think the same way. It's too bad East Germany doesn't exist anymore, because you'd have been a perfect fit with the Stasi.

Beat it, bitch.

Harlan Hobbs 1 year, 2 months ago

Thanks, Bryce, for such upbeat comments about Coach Self. There is none better in my book, both on and off the court. We are blessed to have him and his staff directing the program to an unbelievable, long term record.

I just hope that KU is his last coaching stop. I am confident that the only way he would leave KU is for a job in the pros, if that even interests him. His mentorship of young men is a special gift, and they all recognize it.

Mike Riches 1 year, 2 months ago

There's absolutely no shame in getting beat by the Golden State Warriors dressed up like Villanova...

Seriously, that was their best game of the season at exactly the right time. They were 100% ready. It felt like when we played Carolina in 08, just the other way around...

Hold your head up high is right Jayhawks. A season doesn't have to end with a NC to be great.

RJ King 1 year, 2 months ago

We watched in a SF bar and can't tell you how many folks mentioned the same thing. The comparison was striking. Also thought of the UNC game in 2008. And yes, only one team not crying at the end.

Len Shaffer 1 year, 2 months ago

I thought of that game too, and I remembered that at one point UNC had cut the lead from 28 (at 40 to 12) down to 4, before KU pulled away.

I was hoping that KU would do the same thing and take it a little bit further to complete the comeback, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. We can all take solace in a wonderful season, but the one thing I don't get is how you can come out a little flat for a Final Four game. They likely wouldn't have beaten Nova anyway, but they wouldn't have gotten blown out like they did.

Russ Freeman 1 year, 2 months ago

A leader until the end - I was at the game Saturday night, and when Devonte was subbed out the last few seconds of the game, he went to the bench and sat next to Malik and Udoka. Each of them put a towel over their heads. When the final horn sounded, Devonte got up and helped both of the other two players up so that they could get in the handshake line. I don't think anyone was hurting more than Devonte was, but he was still leading his teammates. A small moment that I won't forget.

And Bryce, this fall I will be cheering for the Kansas Jayhawk football team. As a graduate and a lifelong fan, my interests are not divided. I am hopeful that the football team gets turned around, under Beatty or someone else. But my loyalty to my university will not waver. Rock Chalk.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 2 months ago

I am not a KU alumnus. I am a Kansas native and the son of KU alumni who took me to many Kansas basketball games and a few KU football games. So I have always loved Kansas basketball and always will.

But I have neither the time nor energy to emotionally invest myself in a moribund football program that hasn't shown signs of life since the Mark Mangino era and has gotten even worse than it was under Gill and Weis. There's competent football here in my adopted home state of Iowa, so why shouldn't I be a Hawkeye football fan? Kirk Ferentz alone has more bowl appearances (15) than Kansas in its entire history (12), and more bowl victories (7) than Kansas (6).

So until the Jayhawks get their act together and can win at least four games in a season, until they can win at least two Big 12 games in a season, until they can win a game away from Lawrence, during football season, I say, "ON IOWA!"

RJ King 1 year, 2 months ago

Russ, thanks for sharing that tidbit about Devonte after the horn. It wasn't shown, or we missed it on tv. Perfectly in character. It is said that it's not the good times, but the bad times that expose who we truly are.

This team was the Little Engine That Could ... until they couldn't. I won't forget them either.

Tom Jones 1 year, 2 months ago

All class, KU.

Sometimes you're the windshield.

Sometimes you're the bug.

Ryan Zimmerman 1 year, 2 months ago

Seeing the "Fire Bill Self" comments on Twitter and some message boards is laughable. There are two... TWO... active coaches that have multiple championship wins, and both are hall of famers: Roy and Coach K (and most likely Jay Wright now).

People expect to rack up championships and of course that's what we as fans want, but it's not so simple or common. So many factors involved, the hot hand, the matchups, ...everything.

We did more this year than anyone anticipated after that early season slump. A Final Four is more than I had dreamed and am happy with it and to see these guys surprise so many

RJ King 1 year, 2 months ago

Chalk up the comments to immaturity. Knee-jerk reaction. Lack of self-control. The need for drama. Alcohol?

It could be worse. A "Fire Bill Self" tattoo across the forehead perhaps?

Kenneth Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

On the positive side, after the disastrous start, getting down 18 points, 22-4, actually they played well, scoring one more point than Villanova, which was historic in raining in threes throughout the whole game.

And, it probably would have ended better had the NCAA not screwed up the Billy Preston situation, where they came up with an undefined and unanswered investigation that went on for months, partially due to the committed taking a vacation for about five weeks during the Christmas holiday, causing the Preston family to finally say “enough”, and leaving the Jayhawks for the pros.

Even being shorthanded as a result, the Jayhawks were successful in achieving an unprecedented 14th league championship, and went deep in the NCAA tournament, so they have much to be proud of.

But wait til next year! With four, maybe five, top notch recruits, and three transfers ready, they should be dynamic, given that Azabuike and Newman don’t go pro.

Kenn Johnson (KU MS '70). Author of Kansas University Basketball Legends (2013) and More University of Kansas Basketball Legends (2014), and published by The History Press, and available at KU Bookstores and Amazon.

Mike Greer 1 year, 2 months ago

Let's roll back the calendar to mid January for a moment. Now let's see a show of hands, how many thought the Jayhawks would win number 14? ✋️✋️✋️✋️✋️ Not bad, about half. How many thought, back in January, the Jayhawks would win the Big XII tournament? ✋️✋️✋️ Seriously, ok maybe about 30%. Now how many thought the Jayhawks would make it out of the first round of the NCAA tournament? ✋️✋️ And how many really thought, not just hoped, the Jayhawks would be in the Final Four? ✋️ So really, based on where we were around January, it was one heck of a great season that exceeded expectations.

Great season Jayhawks! Rock Chalk!

Lloyd Kinnison 1 year, 2 months ago

Thank you Bill. Self and 2017 Jayhawks. For great BB season! We

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