New Orleans — Kansas certainly has no argument with No. 1 Kentucky (37-2) being favored to win Monday’s national championship game, especially since the Jayhawks remember how UK beat them 75-65 Nov. 15 in New York.
“I think they're really talented. From every spot, they have guys that could be really effective, score a lot of points,” said Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor. “They create havoc defensively. When you talk about one through five, they probably got the best five, six, seven guys, on paper anyway. I think they're really talented.
“We have to defend, we have to be tough, rebound the ball, and we have to get good shots. I think if we do that, take care of the ball, limit their transition, I think we're right in the ballgame right there.”
Kansas coach Bill Self, who beat John Calipari’s Memphis team in the 2008 national title game, calls Kentucky a “terrific” team.
“They've been the best team in the country basically from start to finish with maybe the exception of a week here or a week there. They've gotten better. They're way beyond their years,” Self said. “Although they're young in age, they're certainly not young with experience. I think Darius Miller has been terrific for them.
“They've got a terrific team. They're one of the better teams that we've had in college basketball probably from a pure talent standpoint. They got six pros. Three of them probably lottery picks. They're really, really, really talented.”
Kentucky’s five starters all scored between 12 and 17 points in the earlier win over Kansas. Kentucky was 26-for-51 from the field, including 16-for-25 (64 percent) in the second half when it outscored Kansas 47-37. Kansas shot just 33.9 percent and got 22 points from Taylor, who was 15-for-17 at the foul line, and 11 points and 12 rebounds from All-American center Thomas Robinson.
“(Point guard Marquis) Teague is explosive as anybody. That would be a great matchup with Taylor, if they match up with each other,” Self said. “I think (Doron) Lamb and (Elijah) Johnson is a great matchup. They're similar guys. Both guys can get on a roll. (Michael Kidd-) Gilchrist and (Travis) Releford, if they match up together, is a pretty interesting deal. Gilchrist is obviously a better scorer and can post and do some things, but Travis is pretty good, too. He kind of knows his role. He's strong for his size. He's good at that.
“Of the big guys, (Terrence) Jones and Robinson, that's a heck of a matchup. You start looking at it like that, you could say, ‘These teams, there's some great matchups in the game.’ (Jeff) Withey/(Anthony) Davis is a great matchup. One difficult matchup is Miller off the bench. He can be their leading scorer. That's something we probably can't match. It will be interesting, very interesting. I don't think it's about matchups, I think it's about team concepts more so than matchups.”
Self says Kentucky should be favored — on paper.
“I haven't seen anybody pick us if they are watching. If anybody did pick us, it would probably be (ESPN analyst) Digger (Phelps), and that would be the kiss of death,” Self said. “It's just one of those things that you don't play the games on paper. The way that the game is playing out, probably rightfully so from an exposure standpoint, from what people are saying, that's great for these guys.
“I like our guys. I think we're talented, too. We've got a guy (Robinson) that has kind of battled Anthony neck and neck for the most part for national player of the year. We got guards that can play with anybody, in my opinion. We got a shot-blocker that's hot right now. We got a wing that can guard. We've got a lot of nice pieces, too. It's just that theirs are a little bit more heralded. From where we started, our path to get here was different than theirs. They're good, really good. But the thing about it is, this time of year, one game left, who would you be playing if they weren't really good, so ...”