San Antonio — Bill Self's post game speech was every bit a reminder to his team of what it had accomplished.
The Jayhawks finished the season 31-8. They won the Big 12 regular season and tournament championships and reached the Final Four under Self for the first time since 2012.
"Of all the teams that have gotten to a Final Four that we've had," Self said, "this one was probably the least expected one to do it."
Villanova, on the other hand, is still dancing.
The Wildcats knocked down a Final Four record 18 3-pointers en route to a 95-79 win over KU on Saturday.
"Today was a perfect storm early," Self said. "Unfortunately for us we were on the wrong end of it."
San Antonio — Although 30 years ago Larry Brown coached Kansas to a national championship, he downplayed his role with this year’s Jayhawks on Friday at The Alamodome.
“I’ve got a vested interest in Villanova and Kansas, because I love both of the coaches,” Brown said, before the Final Four showdown between the two programs, adding he has a lot of respect for Michigan’s John Beilein, as well.
“I’m just thankful I’m around and can enjoy it,” Brown added. “Proud of the kids and proud of the people that are involved in my life that I’m able to be here.”
When Brown used to coach the Philadelphia 76ers, Villanova coach Jay Wright said, he would spend time around the Wildcats’ staff and make various X’s and O’s-related observations.
Brown said he misses that part of being a head coach now more than any other aspect of the profession.
San Antonio — Malik Newman doesn’t hold any ill will for his midseason benching.
“I deserved it,” Newman said. “If you was watching us play, I definitely wasn’t providing enough for the team.”
Since being benched and having a “man-to-man” conversation with coach Bill Self in the middle of Big 12 play, Newman’s play has picked up dramatically.
Newman has scored in double-figures in seven straight games and he’s scored 20 or more points in five of them.
“It was a process, it was just me finding myself and doing a lot of soul searching,” Newman said. “Never doubted myself, I mean just trying to find the person that I knew I was. Trying to find out where he was.”
San Antonio — After deboarding the bus at the team’s hotel Wednesday night, Kansas coach Bill Self, back at the Final Four for the first time since 2012, said his players seem focused headed into a national semifinal versus Villanova.
“Today was good,” Self said of KU’s practice in Lawrence, before the team headed to Texas. “Considering two days off, effort was good, attitude’s good. But how could you have a bad attitude right now?”
While the players have taken pride in getting to college basketball’s grandest stage, Self said they also realize there’s work left to be done.
“You’ve come this far,” he said, “don’t you want to go ahead and finish the job?
The Jayhawks’ coach also provided updates on family members of international players hoping to attend KU-Villanova at The Alamodome this weekend, and discussed some of his thoughts on the Wildcats.
Omaha, Neb. — Less than an hour removed from his team advancing to the Final Four, KU coach Bill Self was asked if he could put into words the emotion he was feeling.
"It feels unbelievable," Self said. "That was a big-boy game, heavyweight bout. We fortunately caught 'em late with a pretty good right."
Self called the game, which KU won, 85-81, arguably the second best he'd been a part of at Kansas.
The only one he could definitively rank above it, Self said, was the championship game in 2008, when KU defeated Memphis 75-68.
Omaha, Neb. — Malik Newman isn't too concerned with how the oddsmakers view Sunday's game against Duke.
"At the end of the day, we just have to go out and play," Newman said. "The guys that put on the Kansas uniform and the guys that ride the bus over with us, as long as all of us believe, we feel like we can do it and we have a great chance of winning."
As for his own play, Newman had a little bit more to say.
The sophomore shared the story of the first time KU coach Bill Self called him, "soft," and noted it's been "a while" since he felt as good as he does right now.
"Right now, as of lately, I've been at an all-time high," Newman said. "I don't plan on looking back."
Omaha, Neb. — Svi Mykhailiuk played his first games at Kansas at age 17.
Reflecting on those early days ahead of KU's Elite Eight showdown against Duke, the senior opened up about the biggest struggles he faced as a freshman from another country.
"I'm going to be honest," Mykhailiuk said. "I wasn't ready my freshman year, like mentally,"
One difference between Ukraine and the U.S., Mykhailiuk noted, was in the way he was coached while playing basketball.
Specifically, Mykhailiuk had to adjust to the shouts of KU coach Bill Self, who got onto Mykhailiuk in a way he hadn't previously experienced.
"During the years I just learned he just wanted me to get better," Mykhailiuk said. "He's not, like, actually getting mad at me."
Omaha, Neb. — After an 80-76 victory against Clemson on Friday to advance to the Elite Eight, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said he considers it a great season for the Jayhawks. But he’s hopeful that the season can continue with a trip to San Antonio next week.
“It’s been great, but it would be nice to make it special,” Self said. “I think in order to do that, at Kansas, you have to go to the Final Four. I honestly believe that, I’ve always thought that, but we should play free and loose on Sunday, though.”
Despite the Jayhawks’ three wins in the NCAA Tournament, Self believes the Jayhawks haven’t played “great” yet.
“I don’t know what we’ll do different, but I know one thing: I’m going to tell my guys to let it fly,” Self said. “Whoever we are playing (Duke or Syracuse), you know we’re going to have to shoot 30 3s.”
Omaha, Neb. — During the NCAA Tournament it’s common for coaches and players to compare an upcoming opponent to a team they faced earlier in the season.
Asked Thursday at CenturyLink Center whether Clemson reminded him of any team Kansas took on this year, head coach Bill Self explained the No. 5 seed Tigers actually look similar to the Jayhawks.
“I think if I was going to compare them to anybody I’d compare them to us,” Self said, noting how KU almost always has starting guards Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick on the floor. “You could say the same thing about their threesome.”
Clemson relies on starting guards Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Gabe DeVoe for the much of its offense.
“They have three. But all three of those guys are like Malik — they can go out and get 30. Or they could be like Devonte’ and go get 35 or they could be like Svi and get 30,” Self said. “These guys can really score the ball and they’re good with the ball, and the other thing that they probably do better than us in that regard is they can go get their own shot when the offense breaks down.”
Omaha, Neb. — Shortly after his Kansas basketball team arrived at its hotel Wednesday night, coach Bill Self said his top-seeded Jayhawks are as healthy as they have been all season, ahead of their Sweet 16 matchup with Clemson.
What’s more, Self said 7-foot KU center Udoka Azubuike has been participating at full speed.
“Now, his timing may not be great,” Self warned of Azubuike, who recently sprained the MCL in his left knee, “but his health is good. If we take him out it’ll probably be because he picks up two silly fouls early, not because of any type of problems.”
The Jayhawks (29-7) take on the Tigers (25-9) at 6:07 p.m. Friday, at CenturyLink Center.