Flashback to 2018 when a talented Kansas team was clubbed by Villanova in the Final Four.
“I get tics whenever I think about it,” KU coach Bill Self said of that 95-79 national semifinal loss at the hands of the Wildcats, who then went on to win the title two days later. “I remember we started off the game off on a 2-0 run. That was about the highlight of that particular game.”
These Jayhawks have worked on this version of Villanova like they’re trying to rid themselves of that four-year old memory. The Jayhawks must defeat Nova’s post-up guards to win. Thus far in the tournament, however, no one has been able to stop Nova’s guards.
But they have to find a way. And they know it.
“Coach Self kind of forces it on you,” guard Christian Braun said of the defense that has held opponents to 34% shooting in the tournament.
In 2020, KU was ranked No. 1 when the pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament itself. Last season, positive COVID tests forced Kansas out of the Big 12 Tournament and depleted the Jayhawks in NCAA play on the way to an 85-51 second-round jackhammering by USC.
And now, here they are, 32-6 (as of this writing), and just one stop away from the big dance.
Talking with CBS Sports was sixth-year super senior Mitch Lightfoot, who has been around long enough to play on Kansas’ last Final Four team in 2018. He will leave not only with with two Final Four appearances, but also with two degrees.
“It’s not going to be hard, but it’s going to be worth it,” Lightfoot said when asked how his current self would address his younger self. “I get to play against All-Americans every day and for a hall of fame coach, but it’s worth it … I pinch myself sometimes that I get to do this day in and day out.”