Self: Title win could cement KU’s status among basketball’s elites

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 7:43 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - Bill Self isn’t worried about his own legacy as he heads into his fourth Final Four with the Kansas Jayhawks. Instead, he’s thinking about what it means to KU overall.

“For it to be thought of as the equal of anybody else’s, we’ve got to cut down nets on Monday night,” Self said.

Not to take anything away from KU, he said. After all, their Sweet 16 win last Friday moved them past Kentucky to become the winningest program in NCAA Men’s Division 1 history. But stacked alongside their counterparts in this year’s Final Four, Self says he understands how people might find Kansas lacking.

“I don’t want to put our program down, but Villanova has won a couple (titles) here recently; Duke’s won a couple in the last decade or 11 years or whatever it’s been; Carolina has a couple in an amount of time,” Self said. “I do think, for our program - it’s without question one of the top programs in the country, nobody can debate that at all.”

Self won his first title with the Jayhawks in 2008. They’ve since returned to the Final Four in 2012, falling to Kentucky in the championship; and 2018, where they fell to Villanova in the semi-final.

The Wildcats, who also knocked out KU in the 2016 Regional Final, await again in this year’s semi-final. Jayhawks’ senior Mitch Lightfoot is the only player returning from the 2018 squad.

“It’s, like, fake almost,” Lightfoot said if getting rematch in his final college game. “We played them in the Final Four and lost to them in 2018. It’s only fair to go out there and play again and give them our best shot. I know they’re going to give us their best shot. They’re a great-coached team. They have great players. They have a very active fan base so it’s going to be a great game and I’m excited to be able to go out there and compete against them again.”

Lightfoot said he sees differences between the high expectations for this year’s team, and the 2018 team, which he felt had a lot of people doubting them.

“I’m not saying this team hasn’t had its ups and downs, but in 2018 it was more like we won the Elite Eight, and got to the Final Four, like ‘Hey, that’s amazing.’ I think this team has kind of the same idea, like ‘Hey, we made it to the Final Four - but let’s go make it happen beyond that.’ Nobody is satisfied with where we’re at,” Lightfoot said. “We’re excited for the opportunity to play Villanova, and hopefully be able to play in the national championship game.”

Self, too, is well aware of their history with Villanova.

“They knocked us out when we had a great team in the Elite Eight (in 2016), and then of course they beat us up pretty good in San Antonio in ‘18 so I do think it speaks volumes to how good their program is and how they do things,” Self said.

Regardless of the outcome, Lightfoot is encouraging his teammates to enjoy the experience.

“Everybody wishes they could play in the Final Four and this team has been able to make it happen,” he said.

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