The Jayhawks escaped heartbreak and won an overtime thriller to advance to the Final Four.
Returning to the Final Four for the first time since 2012, a team that was once proclaimed soft and vulnerable to Big 12 challengers is now in position to cement a timeless legacy in KU’s already hollowed history. With the opportunity to avenge their 2016 Elite Eight loss, Kansas heads to San Antonio to face the highest scoring offense in Division I.
With fans drawing parallels between the 2008 National Championship run that culminated in the same city, Svi Mykhailiuk paid homage to Mario Chalmers with his three-pointer to force overtime on Sunday night. Coming off the best defensive performance of his career, Svi is poised to add to his growing resume that now includes the most three-pointers in a single season. Svi will have to keep pace with the Wildcats, as Villanova and Kansas both shoot 40 percent from behind the line.
Malik Newman has transformed from a frustrating role player in the beginning of the season into a hero that carried KU to victory after the end of regulation. Newman was once expected to enter the draft after his freshman season at Mississippi State but is now forever part of the KU hoops family as he continues to ravage opposing defenses in the tournament. He is just two games away from becoming a true legend at a school with unbeatable tradition.
The leader of the team who was overshadowed by his own back court in the Elite Eight, Devonte’ Graham is due for his signature shining moment. Bill Self has called him one of the best leaders he has ever coached, and Graham’s leadership will be essential in the Lone Star State. Udoka Azubuike, while still plagued by foul troubles, is a critical element for KU to remain multi-dimensional.
Similarly, Silvio De Sousa has gone from a freshman playing limited minutes to a key force that allows Kansas to maintain an imposing presence while Azubuike gets needed rest. Lagerald Vick, while never doubted for his offensive abilities, must reduce his turnovers (he committed five of KU’s 18 against the Blue Devils). Mitch Lightfoot has not seen action as of late, but fans should not be surprised to see him draw critical charges and block shots if he enters the fold.
With Villanova favored by five points and analysts picking against them all season long, Kansas will have to continue to exceed expectations and silence the doubters. The Jayhawks have thrived under the pressure and will hopefully rise again to the challenge. As Self perfectly summed up in his post-game locker room speech, “you’re gonna be loved by this place forever. All you can do is add to it.” Fans are surely excited for the next addition.