New Orleans — Since his lost to Kentucky in mid-November in New York, Kansas coach Bill Self knows what lies ahead for his team in Monday's national championship game.
"I haven't studied 'em yet, but I've watched 'em enough all year long. They're terrific. They're great. They got guys that can make plays you can't coach. They got pros, all that stuff. But I think we got good players, too," Self said after Kansas held off Ohio State Saturday after UK beat Louisville. "Our players keep getting better. These guys, at least the second half, were very confident. We have to come out and play like a confident team. We can't be a team that is in any way, shape or form defensive or not in attack mode. We have to go take it, because I guarantee Kentucky will play like they're going to take it.
"I think Kentucky is a great program. I think they have great players, a great coach," said Kansas' Elijah Johnson. "I feel like earlier in the year they got us when we were vulnerable. We wasn't a team yet, still trying to figure everything out. A big atmosphere in the (Madison Square) Garden. I don't know if that was our best basketball. So I'm just curious to see what coach draw up and I'm ready to listen to him. I think he got the plan. He been here. This is his second time in the last couple of years. Obviously what he said worked. I don't want to fight him on that. I don't think the starters want to fight him. We're going to listen to him.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino said UK would have to play its "B" game to lose.
"We got to make other teams not be rhythmic, take away what they want to do. With Kentucky, you got to take away layups. It sounds easy to say, but transition or second shots, you got to take away lobs," Self said. "We actually defended them very well the first time we played them the first half. It was a tied game, if I'm not mistaken, and then they just wore us out the second half.
Our guys look forward to it. You play at a place like ours or the other teams in the Final Four, there's obviously many others. These guys want to play against the best.
"They watched Kentucky all year long, listen to people talk about them. They already cleaned our clock once. I think it's exciting for these guys to do that, play against 'em, hopefully make it a non-rhythmic type game. That's what we do, who we are. We certainly have to do that on Monday."
Self got his national championship when Kansas beat Memphis, which was coached by John Calipari.
"Common thread? The thing about it is the Memphis team that year was obviously as good a team as anybody in the country. We were fortunate to win that game. They controlled the game late, then we made a lot of plays down the stretch the last couple minutes," Self said. But Cal gets a lot of credit for recruiting. But the thing that I think is sometimes lost is, you know, he's one of the very best coaches there is in the country. I mean, he can coach.
"And he takes guys that are so highly recruited, been told how good they are, you know, basically, like these Cats, too, but even at a higher level. And he gets them to buy into 'we' instead of 'me.' They're unselfish, they're tough, they're physical and they guard.
That Memphis team is very similar. The Memphis team was really good, no question about that. But I think this Kentucky team is better than the Memphis team"