Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


It’s all about Kansas this year

Go ahead and marvel at Marquette junior Dwayne Wade. His triple-double in the Golden Eagles’ trouncing of Kentucky last Saturday might have been the single best college performance of the season.

Shower Texas sophomore T.J. Ford with player of the year awards and call him the best point guard to play college ball in recent years. His leadership and poise in the Longhorn’s run through the South bracket single-handedly carried a team with no senior guidance to the Final Four.

Stare in awe at how a player as young as Carmelo Anthony can take over college basketball games the way he has in Syracuse’s march to New Orleans. His play over the last two weeks has more closely resembled that of a fifth-year senior than a true freshman.


But come this weekend, all of this is going to be about as significant as an invitation to the NIT.

This tournament belongs to the Kansas Jayhawks. A team robbed of a No. 1 seed when the brackets came out on Selection Sunday and the team that stood tallest when the dust settled in the most competitive region in the tournament.

Take your shots at the Jayhawks. They always choke in the tournament. Roy Williams can’t win the big one. They won’t win without Wayne Simien.

But talk is cheap, and this year Roy’s Boys are the real deal. The one-two punch of seniors Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison is rivaled by no other team left in the field, and the two are beginning to look more and more like the senior tandem of Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter that carried Maryland to the national title last year.

You want experience? Every significant player on the Jayhawk roster had a taste of the Final Four last year when Kansas nearly came back to beat Maryland in Atlanta. And simply being there this year isn’t satisfying enough.

And if the Final Four has taught us anything in recent years, it’s that experience bodes well when the title game finally tips off.

Maryland used their run to the Final Four in 2001 as a catapult to hurdle them over Kansas and Indiana en route to the championship.

The year before that, Duke utilized the experience of Shane Battier — who played in the 1999 title game — to capture the national crown, and in 2000 Michigan State built off their 1999 trip to the Final Four in garnering Tom Izzo’s first and only title.

And while this certainly isn’t an exact science, the experienced Jayhawks hold a gigantic advantage over Marquette, Okalahoma and Syracuse — three teams that have absolutely no Final Four experience on their roster.

Kansas has proved that they are the best team in the nation throughout the entire season. It’s not just a coincidence that they came out on top in the Big 12 — the nation’s toughest conference — when the regular season concluded, and it isn’t by chance that they cruised past two top-10 ranked teams as they skated through the West Region.

And on top of all of this, Hinrich, Collison and Roy Williams are simply on a mission this time around.

Getting back to the Big Dance and taking care of business is the reason these two seniors put the NBA and multi-million dollar contracts on hold. They’re not kidding around this year.

Hinrich’s 28-point performance, including six 3-pointers, in KU’s resilient win over Arizona last Saturday was almost as impressive as Collison’s 33-point, 19 rebound performance in the regional semifinal against Duke.

It’s simply impossible to effectively contain both players throughout the course of a single game. Overload the paint to suffocate Collison and Hinrich will have a field day from beyond the arch. Play a perimeter-oriented defense to stop Hinrich and Collison will destroy you down in the post.

And if the will and determination of these senior leaders isn’t enough, their coach is even more focused on bringing the title back to Lawrence, Ka.

This year marks Roy Williams’ fourth trip to the Final Four, where he holds a 1-3 mark and owns no national championships.

He’s tired of having this monkey on his back and knows more about the atmosphere of the Final Four weekend than any of the other coaches left in the field — Tom Crean, Rick Barnes and Jim Boeheim.

Three years ago, Williams had the opportunity to leave Kansas and take over the head coaching position at North Carolina.

But his work there wasn’t finished, and with a couple of freshman named Hinrich and Collison, he knew that he’d have another chance before his days with the Jayhawks were finished.

And now is the time for the 52-year old Williams who, now that the Carolina job has opened again, would love nothing more than to win his title at Kansas before leaving to fill the vacancy of his dream job coaching his alma mater in Chapel Hill.

And while nothing is set in stone, Kansas is going to come out of this weekend on top. Wade and Diener could give them a scare in the semis and fellow Big 12 conference member Texas knows them as well as anyone if the two should meet in the title game. But Kansas has the experience, the will and the determination.

Go ahead and unload the arsenal of criticisms that have been fired at the Jayhawks since the tournament started two weeks ago, but they’re not going deter the eventual national champions.

Certainly not this year.

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