football

Kansas ready for shot at National Title

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[rl]HavingadvancedtoMondaynight'sNationalChampionshipgame,No.2seedKansaswelcomestheopportunitytobattleKentucky,thetopoverallseed,forcollegebasketball'smostprizedpossession.
"Honestly,Ithinkwe'vebeengoingthroughthiswholetournamentfeelingnopressure,"KansasguardTyshawnTaylorsaidonSundayafternoon."Ithinkeverygamethatweplayedonpaper,theteamisbetterthanusandshouldhavewon,orpeoplesaidthat.That'sjustkindofhowit'sbeenforus.ButIthinkwithonegameleft,meandtheteamwastalkingaboutitlastnight,wegotonegameleft,that'sit.
"Wedon'tgooutandplaythatexactway,likeit'sourlastgame,Imean,40minutes,anybodycangetbeat,"headded."YouknowwhatI'msaying?T-Robsaid,there'snoSuperman'soverthere.Wecancomeoutandplayandwecanbeabetterteamfor40minutes,eventhoughonpaperthey'rebetter."
Onthegrandeststagecollegebasketballhastooffer,KansasandKentucky,twoofthegamesmoststoriedprograms,willbattlefortherighttobecrowedNationalChampions.
IftheJayhawkshopetonotonlyavengea10pointlosstotheWildcatsallthewaybackonNovember15,butcapturetheirsecondNationalChampionshipunderBillSelf,they'llhavetoputforththeirbesteffortoftheyear.
FollowingitsseasonopeningvictoryagainstMarist,KansastraveledtoNewYorktofaceaKentuckyteamthatmanyexpectedtoseriouslycompeteforaNationalChampionship.Tiedat28-28atintermission,UKoutscoredKUby10pointsinthesecondhalf,andcruisedtoa75-65victory.
Fiveplayers,DoronLamb(17),TerrenceJones(15),AnthonyDavis(14),MichaelKidd-Gilchrist(12)andMarquisTeague(12)scoredindouble-figuresforKansas.BackonNovember15,Self'ssquadsimplyhadnoanswerforDavis,the6-foot-10,220-poundforwardfromChicago,Ill.
AgainstKansas,Davis,asidefromscoring14points,pulleddownsixreboundsandswattedsevenshots.Afterhalftime,Daviselevatedhisgametoanotherlevel,andtheJayhawkshadnoanswerforUK'sfreshmanphenom.
Still,asgoodasDavisis,Kentuckyisfarfromaone-manshow.Lamb,Jones,Kidd-Gilchrist,DariusMiller,Teague,KyleWiltjer,alongwithDavis,allhavetheabilitytoexplodefordouble-digits.
WhileDavisandJonesgiveKentuckyanelitefrontcourt,Lamb,Kidd-Gilchrist,Miller,TeagueandWiltjerallhavetheabilitytostretchthedefensefrombehindthearc.However,uptothispoint,JohnCalipari'ssquadhasn'toverwhelmeditsopponentsfrombehindthearc.
Justtwoplayers,Lamb(73-of-157)andMiller(55-of-147)haveconnectedon50ormoreshotsfromdowntown.IftheWildcatsgetonarollfromtheoutsideandcontrolthepaintonbothendsofthecourt,theJayhawkswillhaveadifficulttimeemergingvictoriousagainstthenation'sNo.1rankedteam.
However,ifKansasplaysitsgameonMondaynight,theJayhawks,withoutquestion,haveachancetocapturetheirsecondNationalChampionshipunderSelf.
"They'reterrific,"saidSelf."Kentucky'sterrific.They'vebeenthebestteaminthecountrybasicallyfromstarttofinishwithmaybetheexceptionofaweekhereoraweekthere.They'vegottenbetter.They'rewaybeyondtheiryears.Althoughthey'reyounginage,they'recertainlynotyoungwithexperience.IthinkDariusMillerhasbeenterrificforthem.Butthey'vegotaterrificteam.They'reoneofthebetterteamsthatwe'vehadincollegebasketballprobablyfromapuretalentstandpoint.Theygotsixpros.
"Threeofthemprobablylotterypicks,"headded."They'rereally,really,reallytalented.But,youknow,thethingaboutitis,Ilikeourguys.Ithinkwe'retalented,too.We'vegotaguythathaskindofbattledAnthonyneckandneckforthemostpartfornationalPlayeroftheYear.Wegotguardsthatcanplaywithanybody,inmyopinion.Wegotashot-blockerthat'shotrightnow.Wegotawingthatcanguard.We'vegotalotofnicepieces,too.It'sjustthattheirsarealittlebitmoreheralded.Fromwherewestarted,ourpathtogetherewasdifferentthantheirs.They'regood,reallygood.Butthethingaboutitis,thistimeofyear,onegameleft,whowouldyoubeplayingiftheyweren'treallygood,so..."
LateonSaturdaynight,KentuckyopenedupasasixpointfavoriteinMonday'stitlegame,andsincethatsametime,theWildcatshavebeendubbedastheclearfavoriteagainsttheJayhawks.AsoflateonSundayafternoon,notonecollegebasketballanalysthadpredictedKansastocutdownthenetsinsidetheMercedes-BenzSuperdome.
Clearly,Kansas,fromtop-to-bottom,doesn'thavethetalentKentuckydoes,buttheJayhawkshaveplentyoftalent.ThomasRobinson(17.7),Taylor(16.5),ElijahJohnson(10.1),JeffWithey(9.1),TravisReleford(8.6)andcompany,whenplayingtheirbest,havetheability,talentandcoachingtorunwiththebestteamscollegebasketballhastooffer.
Furthermore,asidefrombeingtestedweekinandweekoutsincetheNCAAtournamentstarted,KansasmightjustbethebestdefensiveteamKentuckywillhavefacedthisseason.Certainly,havingashotblockerlikeWitheyisahugebenefit.
"Thethingaboutitis,guyslikeAnthonyandguyslikeJeffcoverupmistakes,"saidSelf."Likelastnight,weactuallydidanunbelievablejobonthedefensiveglass,andJaredgotsixoffensiverebounds,whichdoesn'tlookgood.ButseveralofthosewereoffofJeff'sblocks.Butcertainlyhavingaguythatcanerasemistakesisthebiggestpartofit.Becauseyoucankindofgamble,TyorElijah,Traviscangambleontheperimetersometimesandknowthatthey'reforcingthemintoasituationthatcouldleadtoarunoutforus.
"That'sabigadvantage,"headded."Ofcourse,Anthonydoesthesamething.He'sprobablythebestshotblockerinthecountry.Ifheis,andIthinkwe'vegotthesecondbestrighthere,twogreatshotblockersgoingateachother."
Whenthefieldof68wasannouncedinMarch,thegoalforeachandeveryteaminvolved,whetherrealisticornot,wastostringtogethersixstraightvictories.It'snotaboutwinningthebestoffiveorthebestofseven,butwinningthefinalgameonthefirstMondayinApril.
Feelingverylittlepressure,TaylorandtheJayhawkswelcometheopportunitytotanglewiththeWildcatswithaNationalChampionshipatstake.
Kentucky,accordingtotheexperts,istheoverwhelmingfavoriteandisexpectedtocutdownthenets.
Kansas,astheysay,isplayingwith"housemoney"andwilllooktorollthediceforthejackpotagainstKentucky.
"Imean,itdoesn'tbotherus,"saidTaylorwhenaskedifhegetsupsetwhenhehearsthisisKentucky'sgametolose."Theygothighexpectations,whichtheyhadagreatyear.Sotheexpectationsshouldbehighforthem.
"Ithinkwhatwethink,though,isthatwematchupwiththemwell,"headded."Wefeelconfidentgoingintothisgame.Ithinkthat'sjustwhatitcomesdownto.Wedon'tlistentowhatpeoplesayaboutKentucky,"headded."WejustdowhatwegottodoandIthinkwe'llbefine."
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The game: Calipari, Self discuss 2008 title game matchupClick Kentucky: Title game means different things to different playersClick Kansas: Jayhawks welcome rematch with Kentucky (audio)Click Here to view this Link.Here to view this Link.Here to view this Link.
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