Self's vision almost complete at Kansas
Bill Self's brand of basketball was met with some serious opposition during his early days at Kansas.Actually, for the better part of three years many KU fans disagreed about what Self was doing. They didn't run enough. They weren't as much fun to watch when they weren't scoring 80 points every night. They friggin' lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament two years in a row, for crying out loud.It's tough to overhaul a dynasty when it's already near the top of the mountain, but that's what Self did. It was like ripping Beyonce apart from Destiny's Child. The product was beautiful, and it sold lots of tickets, but sometimes change can make a good thing great.It was a rocky transition back in 2004, 2005 and 2006, but even then Self was building the Jayhawks for Saturday's 84-66 slaughter of overall No. 1 seed North Carolina in the Final Four at the Alamodome in San Antonio.Those simply were baby steps toward building a team of quick, gritty, in-your-grill bruisers who were tough enough to win a championship.Self always wanted to play up-tempo and score 80 or 90 points every night, but not at the expense of winning. Scoring at a sprint is fun, but losing stinks no matter what pace you play.That's a cold, hard fact that Kansas fans know all too well. They've seen the Jayhawks come close so many times, only to fall short. They saw four Final Four trips end without a championship during Roy Williams' 15-year tenure, and they saw some of Williams' greatest teams - and maybe even America's - not even advance to the tournament's final weekend.When Kansas suffered yet another season-ending loss, it played out like a CD on repeat. The Jayhawks never were quick enough to guard the perimeter, and some hot-shot long-range bomber was hitting his targets at about an 80 percent clip. Panic mode would set in, the Jayhawks would retaliate with a bunch of three's - and miss. Season over.That's the beauty of Bill Self's brand of basketball. Kansas likes to score a lot, but it doesn't have to in order to win games.With Bill Self's brand of basketball, Kansas plays as good of defense as any team in America. The Jayhawks are quick enough and mentally tough enough to guard the perimeter - a defensive revolution that began by bringing in Russell Robinson, with his confident smirk and New York streetball swagger - and they're big enough and strong enough to slow down opposing big men.That's why Kansas fans are celebrating on the eve of the national championship game. Kansas won its semifinal game in the 80s - only it was KU that scored in the 80s. The nation's most feared offense - that of Williams' North Carolina Tar Heels - mustered a season-low 66 points on 35.8 percent shooting against a KU defense that swarmed the Tar Heels like bees on honey.Kansas held an astounding 40-12 lead with 6:48 left in the first half. Kansas held the Tar Heels without a field goal for a nine-minute span during the first half.Self put it this way: "I thought to start the game, instead of having 10 hands out there, it felt like we had 14 or 16. I mean, our guys were all after every ball."The Jayhawks forced 18 turnovers (Mario Chalmers and Robinson had three steals apiece). KU then weathered a furious Carolina rally and still outscored the Tar Heels by a point in the second half.The Jayhawks stared Tyler Hansbrough in his wide, blank eyes and didn't blink. Few teams possess the toughness that Hansbrough has individually, but Hansbrough and his Tar Heel teammates hadn't the Jayhawks aren't an ordinary team. This isn't ordinary Kansas, either. This is new-school KU.Few teams have the audacity to try to run with North Carolina. Kansas didn't flinch at the challenge. The Jayhawks were good enough defensively to beat Carolina at its own game.After the game Saturday, Kansas' players were asked if they planned to change anything - perhaps slow things down on Monday against Memphis. The question seemed laughable considering the performance the Jayhawks had just given against UNC.No, the players said. Why should they change anything? Obviously what they're doing is working.That said, if the pace changes, the Jayhawks should be just fine. It's happened before, and they've won just the same.Either way, beating Memphis will be one heck of a challenge. Few teams are as good as Memphis.But this is Kansas we're talking about. This is Bill Self's Kansas, and there are few teams in America tougher than the Jayhawks.