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Kansas did to Villanova what the Wildcats did to the Jayhawks in 2018.
The Jayhawks blitzed Villanova from the opening tipoff on the way to an 81-65 win to advance to Monday’s national championship game of the men's NCAA tournament. Ochai Agbaji finished with 21 points after scoring 12 of Kansas’ first 19 points of the game.
KU was up 10-2 on Villanova at the first TV timeout. That was the closest the game was until late in the second half.
Villanova got the lead down to six with approximately six minutes to go but David McCormack made sure that the Wildcats weren’t going to cut the lead any further. He got a putback on an offensive rebound to extend the lead to eight and blunt any momentum that Villanova thought it had.
In 2018, Villanova outscored Kansas 47-32 in the first half of their Final Four matchup on the way to a 95-79 win. And Kansas fans are certainly hoping that what happened on Saturday night propels the Jayhawks to a national title after Villanova went on to beat Michigan two days later.
Villanova was outmatched from the start thanks to the absence of all-Big East guard Justin Moore. He tore his right Achilles in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight win and likely would have spent time guarding Agbaji. Could he have prevented Agbaji from starting 6-of-6 from 3-point range? Maybe. But it was clear that Villanova missed him. Agbaji didn't miss his first shot of the game until late in the second half.
The Wildcats also struggled inside against McCormack. He finished with a season-high 25 points as Kansas made it clear that he would feature heavily in the post.
It was a smart idea. McCormick was 10-of-12 from the field and forced Villanova to leave other Kansas players open on the wings when he got the ball down low.
Kansas looking for second title with Bill Self
Kansas is in its 16th Final Four and fifth under Bill Self. The Jayhawks have won just one national title in Self’s 18 previous seasons at Kansas despite winning over 81% of its games with him in charge.
That lone national title came in 2008 after the Jayhawks upset Memphis on a late shot by Mario Chalmers. That season was the third of 14 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles from 2005 to 2018 in an unprecedented run of league success.
If you can find a knock against Self in his time with the Jayhawks — outside of Kansas’ role in the FBI investigation into college basketball, of course — it’s the team’s NCAA tournament performance. Kansas lost in the second round of the tournament in 2019 and 2021 and has exited the tournament five times on the first weekend since that 2008 national title.
With Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski retiring at the end of the season, a second title for Self at Kansas will tie him with Villanova’s Jay Wright and Iona’s Rick Pitino for most among active coaches. And it will be another reason why Kansas has stood by him in the wake of the NCAA investigation as a result of the FBI’s pay-for-play findings and Self's role in the funneling of recruits by Adidas to the school.
The NCAA sent Kansas its notice of allegations in 2019 and the Jayhawks were charged with a lack of institutional control and three Level I violations for the basketball program. Self also received a head coach responsibility charge from the NCAA.
Little has happened since those allegations were formally levied. Kansas has been in a drawn-out fight with the NCAA and Self is the highest-paid college basketball coach in the country. While a win on Monday night isn’t going to affect Kansas’ fight with the NCAA regarding those rules violations, it will cement Self as the greatest coach in modern Kansas basketball history and further entrench Kansas supporters in what's already a bitter fight with the governing body.