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Posts tagged with 2017-18 Season

KU big man Udoka Azubuike still mulling over decision to stay or go

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike signs an autograph for a fan following the Kansas basketball banquet on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Lawrence.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike signs an autograph for a fan following the Kansas basketball banquet on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Lawrence. by Nick Krug

At one point during Tuesday's postseason banquet, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self took a minute to praise sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, not only for his solid season and all of those dunks, but also the hard work and fight he put in to come back from a knee injury before the Big 12 tournament in time to help Kansas reach the Final Four.

“Dok, we are all very proud,” Self told his 7-foot center in front of the entire room. “You have grown up and you are one bad man.”

“That was great,” Azubuike said after the banquet. “That was nice, seeing that come from him.” Asked if he had heard any such compliments from his head coach before, Azubuike grinned before answering.

“I have,” he said. “Something like that, probably in games, some games when I was playing good.”

With the season now behind him and Self at least temporarily having to wonder if he has coached Azubuike for the last time, the way he has seniors Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk and underclassmen Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick, who decided to leave early to turn pro, the KU coach said he was uncertain about where Azubuike's head was at regarding his future.

“I think it could be in the next week or so, but I don't think it'll be tomorrow or anything,” Self said of a possible Azubuike announcement. “I don't know exactly where he is right now.” That makes two of them.

“I'm still thinking about it,” Azubuike said of the decision to try to declare for the NBA Draft or return to KU for his junior season. “I'm still thinking about what I'm going to do. I haven't made my decision.”

Azubuike said he spent some time last week talking it over with his family but believes now that the rest is up to him.

“Yeah it is. It definitely is,” he said when asked if it was a tough decision. “Like I said, I spoke to my family about it and all that, and right now it's pretty much my decision. I've just got to start thinking about it probably the next couple of days or the next week, I'll make my decision about what I'm going to do.”

One thing that is certain is that the knee injury that plagued him throughout March has continued to improve since the end of KU's season.

“It's getting better, way better than it was,” Azubuike said. “Way better. Right now I can sleep without the brace on so that's good news for me. It's pretty much just staying in the brace right now. That's pretty much it.”

Reply 8 comments from Surrealku Joe Baker Brian_leslie Scubasteve Clara Westphal Plasticjhawk Robert  Brock

Breaking down Malik Newman’s chances in the NBA

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) pulls up for a shot against West Virginia forward Lamont West (15) during the first half, Saturday, March 10, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) pulls up for a shot against West Virginia forward Lamont West (15) during the first half, Saturday, March 10, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Now that we know for sure that KU sophomore Malik Newman is leaving school and headed to the NBA, it's time to take a quick look at his chances at the next level.

Kansas coach Bill Self said throughout Newman's time as a Jayhawk that he was a prototypical 2 guard, with the skill set needed to play that spot and no other. That certainly showed throughout his one season on the floor, but one of the best things about Newman's time at Kansas was that it appeared as if he continued to get better week after week.

Some of that improvement may have been hard to see because of the enormous expectations placed on Newman from opening day on, but I think a big part of his season was about progress and moving forward to the point where he was finally comfortable with his game and how it fit into the way Self and Kansas basketball operate.

Obviously, that moment of comfort came during the postseason, when Newman was sensational and played the best ball of his college career.

While those skills that he showed in the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA Tournament certainly were present within him before that point, his ability to unleash them on the biggest stage and with such consistency will be what ends up getting him drafted.

Everybody that thinks they belong in the NBA has basketball skills. You don't even get to knock on the door if you don't. But what the NBA folks like to see is those skills put on display in adverse situations and few players this past month showed that off better than Newman.

That, to me, is the reason he gets drafted and gets a legit shot at making his NBA dream a reality.

The guess here is that Newman will end up going in the early to middle part of the second round. Maybe in the 38-45 range.

That could easily change, of course — for better or worse — based on what Newman does and shows at the NBA Scouting Combine May 16-20 in Brooklyn. But it seems like that's a pretty good range for him to fall in unless he just absolutely tears it up at the combine.

Here's a quick look at the bottom-line skills that should get Newman drafted.

• Shooting ability — As one of KU's best 3-point shooters all season, but particularly in March, Newman has shown an ability to knock down shots of all kinds. His 3-pointers made the biggest splashes for KU, but those mid-range pull-up jumpers he took — and pretty much hit every time — are NBA shots and his ability to get up shots quickly off of his own dribble sure looked like pro moves, as well. I don't know if Newman will be as effective driving the ball to the rim as he was down the stretch for Kansas, but don't bet against it. He might not look like the strongest dude on the planet, but his strength played a huge role in him both getting into the paint and finishing at the rim when he got there.

• Rebounding — Newman, at 6-3, 190 pounds, finished as KU's second leading rebounder for the entire season at 5 boards per game and 197 for the season. While it might be hard to see him carrying that over in the bigger, stronger NBA, his ability to do it in college shows something to the pro scouts and that's that Newman is the type of player who is willing to find other ways to impact a game on a night when he might not be shooting the ball that well. Make no mistake about it, he'll either make it or not in the NBA based on his ability as a scorer, but sometimes, like a good special teams player in football, you need to find that other area to make an impact in order to give yourself a chance to find your footing. And if Newman can get on the glass with his next team the way he did during the second half of the season for Kansas, he'll give himself every opportunity to stick and allow his offense time to get comfortable and come around.

• Attitude — It's a small thing and doesn't always play that big of a role when you're talking about the best players in the world, but Malik Newman's mind is right where it needs to be to make this jump. For months after finally becoming eligible at Kansas, Newman wore heavy criticism from fans and analysts who had huge expectations for him and his season. And for months, Newman quietly wore it, continued to work hard and, most importantly, continued to carry himself with that fun-loving spirit that made him fun to be around. It might have been obvious on the court when Newman was struggling, but he never carried that with him off the court. And that's not an easy thing to do. Credit his teammates and coaches for helping him keep his head right, but most of the credit goes to Newman himself, who simply believed in himself too much to let a slump or a slow adjustment chip away at his confidence.

Here's the other quick thing about Newman's chances of making it in the NBA: He's still got plenty of time to get better.

Remember, a big part of the reason players leave school early is because they're willing to bet that, if given the time and resources to work on their game all day and all night, like the job that they hope it will become, they'll be able to make progress at a much faster rate than they would in college, where class, tutoring and time restrictions on practice all get in the way of major progress.

Newman has the framework to become an NBA player, but he'll only make a long career out of it if he remains confident, works on his flaws and strives to put in 10 times the amount of work he put in during his time at Kansas.

Leaving KU will afford him the opportunity to do so, and, knowing how much Newman loves the game, I can't imagine for a second that he'll do anything less.

Reply 8 comments from Surrealku Harlan Hobbs Sasquatch2310 Eric TheCapn Stupidmichael Freddie Garza Allan Olson

Say What? Tait’s weekly appearance on Rock Chalk Sports Talk (including plenty of talk about Jayhawks turning pro)

The 2017-18 college basketball season ended on Monday night with Villanova as the last team standing.

The Wildcats rolled through the 2018 NCAA Tournament, knocking off all six of their victims by double digits and winning by an average of 17.6 points per game, including a 16-point win over Kansas in the Final Four.

While that loss ended KU's season, it did not end the reason to talk Kansas basketball. There's still plenty on interesting topics at our disposal, including current players possibly turning pro, recruiting and, of course, a look ahead to the 2018-19 season.

In my latest meeting of the minds with Nick Schwerdt, we address all of those things and more. Give it a listen!

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Jayhawks well represented on 2018 edition of One Shining Moment

None by NCAA March Madness

The season might not have ended the way the Kansas men's basketball team had hoped it would. But a quick glance at the annual tournament tradition that features some of the tourney's best moments set to the tune of "One Shining Moment" shows, yet again, that Kansas had one heck of a season.

In all, the Jayhawks appeared in the video montage somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-16 times. The exact number depends upon how you count, whether you consider cuts of the same play/sequence as one entry or two and also whether you count the times when KU was lurking in the background.

Still, even if you're a tough grader when it comes to those sorts of things, the Jayhawks got more than their fair share of air time during the One Shining Moment celebration.

And why not? Kansas made the Final Four, had some of the best players in the tournament and is an easily recognizable college basketball powerhouse. It's one thing to limit the KU love to one or two shots during the years when they lose to Stanford in the second round. But limiting it during a Final Four run would be crazy.

Included in the good shining moments for KU in this year's video were:

• An alley-oop dunk by Svi Mykhailiuk against Clemson.

• Devonte' Graham's alley-oop pass to Silvio De Sousa and the ensuing reaction by De Sousa in that same game.

• A close-up of Lagerald Vick pointing and smiling, presumably after a big 3-pointer.

• Nearly the entire possession — along with some reaction/celebration (think jumping and hugging Graham and Clay Young and a high-five and hug between Svi and Vick) after the game went final — when Malik Newman defended Grayson Allen on the final shot of regulation that sent the Elite Eight game against Duke to overtime.

• A close-up of Graham bouncing and smiling during a Kansas victory.

• A close-up of Newman slyly grinning, likely after his insane performance against Duke.

There were, of course, five or six highlight scenes — or lowlights, if you're a KU fan — of Villanova running past the Jayhawks in Saturday's Final Four game, as well.

Take the good with the bad, I guess. But there's plenty of good Kansas moments in there to make the whole thing worth watching if you didn't catch it live on Monday night.

Reply 1 comment from Lance Hobson

The 8 most memorable NCAA Tournament moments of KU’s run to the 2018 Final Four

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a three to force overtime with seconds remaining in regulation, Sunday, March 25, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a three to force overtime with seconds remaining in regulation, Sunday, March 25, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. by Nick Krug

Saturday's 95-79 loss to Villanova in the Final Four in San Antonio marked the official end of an impressive and somewhat improbable run through the 2018 NCAA Tournament by the Kansas Jayhawks.

When this year's bracket was unveiled back in mid-March, all eyes went directly to No. 2 seed Duke and No. 3 seed Michigan State as the favorites to emerge from the Midwest region despite Kansas entering postseason play on a hot streak and as the region's No. 1 seed.

Very few college basketball analysts and/or fans outside of the state of Kansas picked the Jayhawks to get through that region to the Final Four, but the Jayhawks, as they had done a few times already this season proved people wrong by making it happen with four tough wins over No. 16 Penn, No. 8 Seton Hall, No. 5 Clemson and No. 2 Duke.

That stretch — which played out in Wichita and Omaha — put Kansas back in the Final Four for the first time since 2012, the third time under Bill Self and the 15th time in school history.

Although the run ended there, in somewhat unceremonious fashion against Villanova on the sport's biggest stage, it's still worth noting what an incredible accomplishment it was for this team to even get there in the first place.

It's also worth noting that the Jayhawks are now officially off the hook in 2028. Had KU won this year and added to the run of big finishes in years ending with 8 — 1988 national championship, 2008 national championship — that group of future Jayhawks that are currently in third and fourth grade would have had an enormous amount of pressure on them a decade from now.

With that in mind, let's quickly recap KU's Top 8 moments of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

1 – Svi Mykhailiuk's huge 3-pointer to tie Duke

Forget marking this down as just one of the best moments of the 2018 tournament. This shot, the biggest of Mykhailiuk's four-year career, will go down as an all-timer for Kansas and be remembered for years to come. After missing two wide open looks in the couple of minutes before this, and with Kansas trailing No. 2 seed Duke by 3 with inside a minute remaining, Mykhailiuk, as he had done 235 times before in his stellar four-year career, stepped up without hesitating and buried a 3-pointer from the wing in front of the Kansas bench that helped send the game to overtime and KU to the Final Four. Svi's stare after the bucket and Self's words in the locker room, “biggest shot you've ever made,” told you all you needed to know about the big moment.

2 – Udoka Azubuike's mother arrives at the Final Four

Thanks to the Jayhawks' return San Antonio and the Final Four for the first time since 2012 and a new NCAA program that provided financial assistance for families of players, KU sophomore Udoka Azubuike was able to see his mother, Florence Azuonuwu, for the first time in six years. It was not easy to make it happen, and Azuonuwu had to rush through an emergency travel visa hearing in Nigeria and battle flight and airline issues all the way to the United States. But, a little more than 20 hours before her son tipped off in the Final Four, Azuonuwu made it to San Antonio and was able to take her seat behind the Kansas bench to watch Azubuike play basketball for the first time in her life. What a special moment for both the player and his mother.

3 – Malik Newman dominates overtime vs. Duke

Svi's shot might have been the biggest single play of that Elite Eight game, but Malik Newman delivered a dozen different daggers. Whether you're talking clutch free throws down the stretch or silky 3-point jumpers from the corner, Newman was absolutely unstoppable in this game and his teammates — particularly Devonte' Graham, Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick — did a fabulous job of getting him open and getting him shots in rhythm. After a six-point first half, Newman scored 13 in the second half and all 13 of KU's points in overtime to move the Jayhawks past Duke and into the Final Four. Nevermind his superb D on Grayson Allen in the waning seconds of regulation with the game on the line.

4 – 13,000+ fans pack Wichita's Intrust Bank Arena for KU practice

Kansas fans turning out to open practices at NCAA Tournament sites is certainly nothing new. But this was. Nearly 14,000 KU fans packed — 13,695 to be exact — packed the Wichita venue one day before the top-seeded Jayhawks opened play in the NCAA Tournament against No. 16 seed Penn. The most fans I can remember seeing at an open practice like this was four or five thousand and even that was wildly impressive. But this was unreal. Fans filled the upper deck, roared along with the band and KU fight song and screamed and yelled for everything the Jayhawks did for about 40 minutes. The wall of sound that filled the arena when the Jayhawks first took the floor for that practice is something I'll remember for a long time. Impressive stuff.

5 – Devonte' Graham takes over vs. Penn

No one ever doubted that this was Devonte' Graham's team. And no one Kansas player in decade had been looked to more during a single season to make a play or provide some inspiration than Graham. So it was only fitting then that, with the Jayhawks down 10 points in the first half of their first-round game against a team that many were saying could become the first 16 seed to ever knock off a No. 1, Graham absolutely took over and led the Jayhawks to victory. His steal and tip-in, followed by four quick points on drives to the rim, helped Kansas erase the deficit and take a seven-point lead into the locker room. From there, he merely kept going, finishing with 29 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in 39 minutes. It was as signature a Devonte' Graham as there ever has been and it came when this team needed it most.

6 – Udoka Azubuike checks into KU's Rd. 1 game vs. Penn

Speaking of that Round 1 game vs. Penn, there was another big moment in that first half and it had nothing to do with putting points on the board or the flow of the game. Instead, it featured a rather large man walking to the scorer's table to check in. After missing the entire Big 12 tournament because of a sprained MCL in his left knee two days before that tourney began, KU center Udoka Azubuike was back in uniform and ready to check back into a game for the Jayhawks. Azubuike played just three minutes in that game, — a move made by design so that he would be fresh and ready for Round 2 vs. Seton Hall — but the ovation he got when he got up off the bench to go check in and the impact he had, on pure size alone, when he was in the game, was enormous. Getting back on the floor gave Azubuike the confidence in that knee that he needed to deliver a big game against Seton Hall two nights later.

7 – KU clicking on all cylinders vs. Clemson

After a strong first half of KU's Sweet 16 clash with Clemson left the Jayhawks with a 14-point lead, Kansas merely kept rolling from there, ripping off a 9-2 run, with 3-pointers from Vick, Newman and Graham, that pushed KU's lead to 20 and forced a Clemson timeout. It looked, at that point, like Kansas might win by 50. And even though the Jayhawks got sloppy down the stretch and allowed Clemson to make this one closer than it needed to be, that trio combined for nine 3-pointers and proved to be too much for the Tigers to handle.

8 – Devonte' Graham checks out vs. Villanova

Unless you're the last team standing, not all memorable moments of an NCAA Tournament run are good. And there's no doubt that the Jayhawks' 95-79 loss to Villanova at last Saturday's Final Four will be remembered as a major disappointment for a long time. But there was one moment in this game, that transcended the final score and was more important than the outcome of any game or play ever could be. That was the moment when Devonte' Graham checked out of the game for the final time in his KU career. With tears in his eyes and his head resting on his head coach's shoulder, Graham's walk to the bench, one last time, will be something KU fans remember forever, just like the player taking the steps. Sure to have his No. 4 jersey retired in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters sometime in the near future, Graham finished his KU career ranked 13th in Kansas history in scoring (1,750 points), second in 3-pointers (296), fifth in assists (632) and seventh in steals (197). He also set single-season school records during the 2017-18 campaign for minutes (1,474) and played every minute in 17 of 39 games.

Reply 1 comment from Bryce Landon

KU Sports Extra - The End of the Line

The 2017-18 Kansas basketball season ended in stunning fashion on Saturday night in San Antonio, when top-seeded Villanova set a Final Four record with 18 3-pointers in a 95-79 victory over Kansas.

The win moved Villanova into Monday's national championship game against Michigan and ended KU's season at 31-8.

The Jayhawks capped the season by reaching their first Final Four since 2012 but fell one game shy of playing for a chance to bring another title back home to Lawrence.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Villanova


By the Numbers: Villanova 95, Kansas 79.

By the Numbers: Villanova 95, Kansas 79.

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Postgame Report Card: Villanova 95, Kansas 79

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) looks for a call after knocking a ball from Villanova guard Mikal Bridges (25) during the second half, Saturday, March 31, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) looks for a call after knocking a ball from Villanova guard Mikal Bridges (25) during the second half, Saturday, March 31, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 95-79 loss to Villanova in the season finale at the Final Four in San Antonio.

Offense: B-

Kansas coach Bill Self was adamant after the game that it was not KU's offense that cost them in this one. And it's hard to argue with him. After scoring 59 in its last two meetings with Villanova, KU got to 79 in this one, shooting 45 percent from the floor and 33 percent from 3-point range. Both numbers are a little under KU's season averages, but 79, on a normal night, would have been fine.

Defense: C-

Yes, Villanova was red hot from start to finish, and it's hard to blame the KU defense for all of that. Besides, doing so takes too much credit away from Villanova's amazing night. Still, KU could have been better — especially early — in terms of energy, intensity and trying to make Villanova uncomfortable. The way the Wildcats moved the ball — and shot it — it's hard to envision that approach, had Kansas done it, changing the outcome all that much. But on a night when KU needed its best defensive performance of the season, it got something below average, which merely added to the problem.

Frontcourt: C-

Udoka Azubuike's mom was in the building, which is a terrific story unto itself. But her presence did not inspire the kind of night many KU fans were hoping. In 26 minutes, three above his season average, Azubuike finished with eight points, five rebounds and a block while knocking in 4 of 6 shots from the field. But even the block was a forgettable moment, as Azubuike pounded it off the glass only to have Villanova's Eric Paschall scoop it up, recognize the shot clock was winding down and bury a deep 3-pointer that was the one that really made you think a comeback wasn't in the cards for Kansas.

Backcourt: C

Devonte' Graham finished with the big-point night many thought he might and shot 9-of-18 from the floor and 4-of-8 from 3-point range. All in all, he had a strong finale. Unfortunately, he got very little help. Malik Newman topped 20 points (21) for the sixth time in eight games but shot just 6 of 14 and 2 of 5 in the process. And Lagerald Vick finished with eight points and two rebounds and Svi Mykhailiuk 10 points and two rebounds on 2-of-8 shooting. Villanova had a lot to do with a lot of KU's shooting numbers, as their extended defense put constant pressure on the perimeter and never let KU find any rhythm. The Jayhawks' perimeter D, which came against a team that likely would've shot lights out against anybody on Saturday night, was not where it needed to be.

Bench: C

Silvio De Sousa (7 points and 7 rebounds in 10 minutes) really gave Kansas a spark in the first half when they desperately needed it. But the hole was too big by the time De Sousa did his thing. Marcus Garrett capped his strong freshman season with another sub-par effort, finishing scoreless with two rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes. And the rest of the KU bench merely checked in with the game out of reach as a way to give Graham, Mykhailiuk and Newman the final ovation they deserved.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Villanova


By the Numbers: Villanova 95, Kansas 79.

By the Numbers: Villanova 95, Kansas 79.

Reply 2 comments from Plasticjhawk Bj Cassady

Azubuike’s mother arrives in San Antonio

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike by Nick Krug

San Antonio — The Journal-World learned Saturday afternoon that Florence Azuonuwu, the mother of Kansas basketball player Udoka Azubuike, has in fact made it to San Antonio to watch her son in the Final Four.

Azubuike's story has been one of the hottest and most heartfelt topics of the week. The KU sophomore has not seen Azuonuwu for six years, yet, thanks to a new NCAA rule that provides financial assistance for families of players to attend the Final Four, Azubuike got that chance this week.

Tonight's Final Four showdown with Villanova — 7:49 p.m. on TBS — will mark the first time Azuonuwu has seen her son play basketball in person.

It sounds as if Azubuike, who has been swamped with media obligations, game prep and other Final Four activities since arriving in San Antonio, was able to greet his mother at the airport late Friday night.

Her arrival marked the end of a wild journey that turned around quickly and included her getting a last-minute travel visa in their home country of Nigeria and catching a series of flights to make it to the Final Four. Azuonuwu received help from several members of KU's athletic department along with a few Kansas political officials and overcame a labor strike by Air France to make her way to San Antonio.

KU coach Bill Self confirmed the news during a brief interview on TBS around 3:30 p.m. central time on Saturday. Self has marveled all week about the very thought of Azubuike's mom taking in her first game on the biggest stage in the sport.

"Can you imagine, you've never seen your son play basketball and the first time you do it is in front of 70,000 people at this thing. I can't even imagine what's going to be going through her mind.”

Said Self of the specifics of Azubuike's mother's arrival: "We got her here. She missed flights, it took her forever, but she landed last night about 11:30 and Dok was at the airport to meet her. He didn't want anybody to go except him and our little party that picked her up. But I got a short video of it that probably nobody will ever see of the first embrace. It's so special."

"I hope he's not too emotional, but this trumps the game, him having the opportunity to see his mother."

None by Matt Tait

Reply 3 comments from Zabudda Bryce Landon Alan Walker

Final Four factoids on a big day in San Antonio

Kansas' Sherron Collins points to the fans as he exits the court against North Carolina in the first half on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tx.

Kansas' Sherron Collins points to the fans as he exits the court against North Carolina in the first half on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tx. by thad-allender

San Antonio — It's game day, Kansas fans, and the countdown is officially on to tonight's 7:49 p.m. tipoff against Villanova.

While the next several hours could be some of the longest of your fandom lives, as you wait for Devonte' Graham, Malik Newman, Udoka Azubuike and the rest of the crew to do battle with Jalen Brunson and Jay Wright's Wildcats, we'll do our best here to help you kill some of the time with some Final Four facts and figures from KU's past and present.

• Let's get started with a little this day in history. Did you know that tonight's game will tip off exactly six years to the day after the Jayhawks' last semifinal game?

In that one, on March 31, 2012, Kansas knocked off Ohio State in a thrilling game in New Orleans. The Jayhawks trailed by nine at the break and had to scrap and claw for everything they got that night.

Led, as they were that entire tournament, by Thomas Robinson's 19 points and eight rebounds, KU advanced to the national championship game and a date with Kentucky on the final night of the college basketball season with a 64-62 victory over the Buckeyes.

• In that one, the Jayhawks, as the higher seed, were the home team and wore their white uniforms.

Tonight, as the lower seeded team in this year's Final Four matchup — Villanova was the No. 2 overall seed and KU the No. 3 overall seed — the Jayhawks will wear blue jerseys.

KU is 5-4 in blue uniforms in Final Four games dating back to 1988, when the Jayhawks beat Duke and Oklahoma in back-to-back games in blue.

KU wore blue in both Final Four games in 2008, which featured all four No. 1 seeds and Kansas as the fourth overall seed.

If the Jayhawks win tonight, they'll wear white again on Monday night, as both Loyola (11) and Michigan (3) are seeded lower than the Jayhawks.

• KU has won 12 Final Four games in its storied history, which ranks tied for fifth all-time. A win tonight would move KU past Indiana and into fifth place on that list all alone behind UCLA (25), Kentucky (20), North Carolina (18) and Duke (17).

The Jayhawks already are one of just six schools to reach the Final Four 10 or more times. This will be KU's 15th appearance in the Final Four, putting the Jayhawks in the same company as North Carolina (20), UCLA (17), Kentucky (17), Duke (16) and Ohio State (11).

• KU's clash with Villanova could not come at a more perfect time, as it serves as a nice appetizer for a home-and-home series the two schools have scheduled in the next couple of seasons.

Win or lose tonight, the Jayhawks will welcome the Wildcats to Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 15 for the first game of the newly signed series. KU will complete the series by traveling to Philadelphia the following year to take on Villanova on Dec. 21, 2019 at Wells Fargo Center.

Tonight's game will break a 3-3 tie in the all-time series between these two programs. The series dates back to 1968 and Nova has won the last two meetings, a 64-59 win in Louisville in the 2016 Elite Eight and a 63-59 victory in the second round of the Battle for Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas in 2013.

KU's most notable win of its three victories over Villanova came during the Jayhawks' run to the 2008 national title. Kansas defeated Villanova 72-57 in the Sweet 16 in Detroit on its way to winning the 2008 title right here in San Antonio.

• This game has been very good to the Jayhawks in recent memory. Kansas is 3-0 in its last three Final Four games, knocking off Marquette in 2003 to advance to the title game against Syracuse, North Carolina in 2008 en route to a title-game win over Memphis and Ohio State in 2012 before falling to Kentucky in a game that delivered John Calipari his first ever national championship.

The Jayhawks are playing in their 47th NCAA Tournament — 29th in a row, which is an NCAA record — and already have reached their 31st Sweet 16 all-time, 10th Elite Eight in the past 16 seasons and 15th Final Four in school history.

• Let's wrap this up with one of those off-the-wall nuggets that might not mean a darn thing for KU's game but could mean something to those Kansas fans that believe in signs and superstitions.

Last night, in the second of two NCAA women's tournament Final Four games that went to overtime, Notre Dame knocked off mighty UConn in a thrilling game that moved Notre Dame and head coach Muffet McGraw into this year's national title game against Mississippi State.

So what's the KU connection? Last September, McGraw joined Bill Self in being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, making newly inducted HOF coaches 1-0 in Final Four games this season.

Will Self make it 2-0 tonight and give both Hall of Famers a shot at bringing home the title?

Time will tell and we'll be there to bring you every ounce of coverage you could want. Enjoy the rest of your day and tonight's game and thanks for checking out all of our coverage this week from San Antonio and throughout the season and this year's NCAA Tournament.

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Welcome to the Final Four, where the scene is alive, dreams come true and memories are made that will last a lifetime

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) records a video of himself and Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) catching a lift on a golf cart to interviews with CBS on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) records a video of himself and Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) catching a lift on a golf cart to interviews with CBS on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. by Nick Krug

San Antonio — A lone photographer scurries above a locker in the three-foot gap between the top and the ceiling the way a pack rat might move around in one's attic. All in the name of getting that one great shot.

Golf carts roam from spot to spot and interview to interview, driving on carpet instead of plush fairways, carrying coaches and players instead of clubs. While that might sound a little absurd, it's actually necessary to keep everything running on schedule. The walks between rooms and media obligations are lengthy and the NCAA wants the players to be as fresh as possible for their showcase event.

Thousands of dollars worth of signage dot every corner of the arena, both marking the spot with a sense of pride and signaling to those who made it here that this is the big time.

Welcome to the Final Four, a spectacle unto itself that has grown, year after year, into one of the biggest stages in all of sports.

It's a place where some of the best basketball of the season takes place, but also a spot that has room for so much more.

The stories and their stars are different every year. But the vibe that runs through every site that serves as host is the same.

Hope. Joy. Satisfaction. Gratification. Heartfelt elation. Devastation. All of those emotions and so many more light the stage and make for a memorable weekend, no matter what happens on the basketball floor.

Naturally, winning two games here changes everything. But even those teams who go 0-1 or 1-1 come away with a great sense of accomplishment and memories that will last a lifetime.

For the top-seeded Kansas basketball team, which will face top-seeded Villanova at approximately 7:49 p.m. on Saturday night, this week already has been chalk full of moments that will last forever.

• Who could ever forget the tale of Udoka Azubuike's mother making the journey all the way from Nigeria to not only see her son play basketball for the first time but also to see her son in any capacity for the first time in six years? Oh, yeah, and the families of Angola native Silvio De Sousa and Ukraine senior Svi Mykhailiuk are coming from nearly as far to take it all in, as well.

Said De Sousa of the reunion with his family: “I'm excited, but I'm more excited about the games. I know that I'll always get to see my family, but I'll never know if I get to play in those games ever again.”

• The distance may be significantly shorter, but the moment is still special all the same, as KU point guard Devonte' Graham is thrilled to be welcoming his sister, Shamaria Massenburg, to the Final Four this weekend.

For four years, Graham has been telling his younger high-school-aged sister — whom his mother told the Journal-World she was going to make apply to KU when it came time to pick a college — that he would get her to the Final Four. After two close calls in the past two seasons, Graham finally delivered.

Not only will Saturday's game be the first time for Shamaria at the Final Four, it will be the first time watching her brother play at all this postseason.

A cheerleading competition during the first two rounds kept her from going to Wichita. And financial issues kept her away from Omaha last weekend. After beating Duke, Graham said he was going to find a way to make sure she was in San Antonio.

“She was just happy,” Graham said. “I've been trying to get her out here for the Final Four the last two years and I finally got to do it. I know she was excited. I could tell she was excited from the way she was texting me.”

• Speaking of reunions, former Jayhawk Billy Preston made his way to San Antonio this week, arriving Friday as a show of support for his former teammates and friends.

When Preston left Kansas amid serious disappointment after a freshman season that never got off the ground for professional basketball opportunities overseas, his teammates were bummed and said they felt like they were losing a brother.

Remember, even though Preston never played a real game with the Jayhawks, he was with them throughout the summer — Italy included — and did practice and sit on the bench for two months of the season before leaving. It's cool that he made the trek to reconnect with his guys in such a big moment. I'm sure he'd rather be playing, but just being here has to be validating in a sense.

• Although this will be this KU team's first game in a dome — freshman Marcus Garrett actually has played in this very building — the Jayhawks don't sound all that concerned about struggling with their shot in the wide-open arena. Beyond that, Kansas seems to have supreme confidence playing on neutral floors.

The Jayhawks are 17-4 this season away from Allen Fieldhouse and 10-0 on neutral floors.

“We are experienced and used to playing away from home,” said junior Lagerald Vick. “We just go out there with the mentality to win. We are always thinking about the next play and go out there and play for each other.”

• Speaking of Vick, few players have seen the kind of rise that he has enjoyed during the past couple of weeks. Not only has his game returned to the early-season form that made him arguably KU's best offensive player, but he also has elevated his defense and even handled himself like a pro during interviews, smiling, laughing, sharing stories and soaking up the whole experience.

“It's been good,” Vick said. “There's been a lot of media, a lot of exposure. It's been pretty fun. It's great being with the team and the coaches, just playing another weekend. Seeing the fans and being here is great.”

• As for finally reaching the promised land and getting to the college basketball player's dream destination, several Jayhawks said their experience at the Final Four this week has absolutely lived up to what they expected it would be.

“I think I've been way more excited than I have all year,” Graham said. “I feel like a weight's been lifted off of my shoulders, just getting over that hump and I'm just happy to be here.”

When asked how he would get over that feeling and focus on basketball, Graham said that he felt like he had already reached that point midway through the week.

“I feel like I'm over it now,” he said. “I'm just excited, anxious, really, to play. I saw the gym and how big it was and just imagined it full of people and it sent goose bumps through me. I'm definitely excited to get out there and even practice today.”

It was clear, early in the week, that Graham was soaking up every ounce of the experience and that finally making college basketball's big stage was not in any way a let down.

“It's pretty cool,” he said. “I took pictures of it, recorded it, definitely going to save it on my phone. Just the locker room, recording it and showing it to people, just to show them what it's like because it's not every day you get to experience it. … From getting off the plane and having the people there to greet us and all the Final Four cards and the police escorts. I think it's definitely up to what you dream of. I just feel like everything's exciting.”

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