Five months ago, the Kansas Jayhawks were facing more adversity than usual heading into the season. Josh Selby, Markieff and Marcus Morris bolted for the NBA, three-point assassins Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed graduated, and three recruits, Ben McLemore, Jamari Traylor and Braeden Anderson, were all deemed ineligible for the entire year.
And yet, they're here.
No one outside of Lawrence, KS saw this coming and I'll venture to say very few people in the city imagined they'd be here.
The truth is, Bill Self is an absolute magician: there's no other way to describe it. The closest job anyone in America has done to Self's is Rick Pitino with oft-injured Louisville, but he had the luxury of returning most of his key contributors from a year ago. I'm convinced Bill Self could coach pieces of scrap metal to at least one victory in the NCAA Tournament. He's borderline great, if not already.
We've seen it in the tournament: Kansas hasn't outscored the opponent by much. Yeah they have a first-team All-American in Thomas Robinson and two guys who have gotten better as the year progressed in Jeff Withey and Tyshawn Taylor but the way they win is by locking teams down defensively. In each of their five victories, the Jayhawks have held opponents under the 70-point threshold. And Self knows what defense wins.
Across the way is another coaching artist in the college game, John Calipari. This will be his second title game appearance although the first one did not go so well against, you guessed it, Kansas. Calipari is now looked at like Dean Smith pre-1982. Will he be the best coach to not win a national championship? Can his career be vindicated in some way? Thirty years ago, Smith got his first title when North Carolina literally stole the game away from John Thompson's Georgetown Hoyas. Coincidentally enough that game was also played in the Louisiana Superdome. History makes me laugh sometimes.
And if there's a year to do it, it's this one. They're so much better than everyone else, it's almost unfair. Kentucky's Anthony Davis is the AP Player of the Year and likely No.1 pick in this year's NBA draft if/when he comes out. MIchael Kidd-Gilchrist went for 12 and 9 vs Kansas in November and he's another tough matchup. Then you remember they still have Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb from last year's Final Four team and, if I had to coach against them, I'd seriously consider giving up.
Yet for a program now known for getting commitments from one-and-dones, it is Darius Miller, a senior (yes they exist on Calipari rosters) that could hold the key to a UK victory. I looked up Miller's three-point percentage for the year and I could have sworn it was higher than 37%. That's because a year ago he shot a sizzlin 44% from downtown. Even if he isn't hitting tonight, UK can still win with relative ease but if it is going in, Kansas doesn't stand a chance.
Two blueboods in college basketball going at it for the national championship is all CBS needed for them to think of lustful, high ratings for tonight's game. Do them a favor and catch UK vs KU tonight at 8:00 central time on CBS.