Jayhawks flock: More than 30 former Kansas players are expected to attend tonight's game at Georgia Dome, including NBA players Jacque Vaughn and Scot Pollard. Many of the former Jayhawks played for KU coach Roy Williams but not all of them.
"I am aware of the former players that are here," Williams said. "We'll have four or five guys who played on the 1952 national championship team that will be here. I didn't coach those guys.
"I think it's important to me that the players, when they leave Kansas, feel like it is their program and will always be their program, so I am happy that they're back here and will be back here."
Williams also was expecting some of his former high school players from North Carolina to be in attendance.
Speaking of Jacque: Vaughn, a former Jayhawk and current member of the Atlanta Hawks, spoke to KU's team Thursday after the Jayhawks practiced at the Hawks' training facility.
"He had some motivational words," KU's Wayne Simien said. "He said he was proud of us. He said he never made a Final Four and wanted us to know former players are proud of us. He said he hoped we had a great time, yet remained focused on winning the championship."
KU's players attended Thursday's Hawks-Toronto Raptors game and watched Vaughn score nine points and dish two assists in an 85-83 loss.
"I know him a little bit from playing with him and against him in the preseason (in past years)," Simien said of Vaughn. "He's a good guy and good player both."
Keith keeps hair: Keith Langford's mother has won out.
KU's freshman guard was going to get a haircut earlier this week, but superstitious mom, Charlene Taylor, told him to keep his locks.
"You see the hair's still here. I didn't cut it," Langford said Friday. "I've still got my hair because she wanted me to keep it."
As far as tonight's game, Langford may spend some time guarding Maryland senior sensation Juan Dixon.
"I'm sure it'll happen," Langford said. "I've guarded a lot of good perimeter players this year and this won't be much of a change. He's good, very good, but so are we. I look forward to guarding anybody coach tells me to guard."
Langford was wearing a special T-shirt on Friday. A fan gave him a T-shirt with the letter K encased in a Superman logo. The shirt is a replica of a tattoo on Langford's shoulder.
"Somebody made it for me back in Lawrence and I'm just wearing it to show love," Langford said.
No dunk for Dougherty: KU assistant coach Neil Dougherty tried to dunk as KU's practice concluded at the Dome.
He was unsuccessful.
"In practice the guys always get on me. They want me to try to dunk," Dougherty said. "It started with a guy named Jacque Vaughn trying to get me to dunk at practice several years ago. I said, 'I won't dunk until we make the Final Four.' We made it, so I had to try it. I was just trying to survive. I didn't want to wind up on my butt."
Dougherty didn't fall, but didn't dunk either.
Indoor lighting OK: Shooters sometimes say it's difficult to hit jumpers in vast buildings like the Georgia Dome.
KU senior Jeff Boschee disagrees.
"It feels no different out there," sharpshooter Boschee said after Friday's practice. "The rims feel soft. It doesn't bother me one bit."
Good luck charms missing: So far, Williams hasn't pulled out stuffed monkey 'Stank-em' or had the Jayhawks do any spitting in bodies of water for good luck.
"Hey, whatever coach wants, I'd do it," Zerbe said. "He knows what's best for this team."
What's the team been doing?
"Mainly we're just kicking it at the hotel and having fun with teammates," Langford said.
Win it for Roy: The Jayhawks were hammered with questions from the national media about winning a title for Williams, thought to be the best coach to never have won a national title.
"We want to win it for him. It would shut everybody up," Collison said. "People still will write what they want to write whether it's true or not. If we win the title, everybody will be on top of the world, not just coach."
Would a national title shut up Williams' critics?
"I imagine," Hinrich said. "Coach takes a lot of crap and that's what it is, crap. He is a great coach, period. He works harder than anybody and wants it more than anybody."
Drew's a good one: ESPN's Dick Vitale had high praise for KU All-American Drew Gooden.
"I've not seen a better offensive rebounder in the last decade than Drew Gooden," Vitale said.
This and that: Some teams can puff their chests in pride despite not being here at the Final Four. Remember Ball State defeated Kansas; Butler topped Indiana; Texas Tech stopped Oklahoma; and N.C. State nudged Maryland. The Big 12, of course, has two teams in the Final Four. It's the 12th time in the past 18 years including each of the last four that one conference had at least two teams at the Final Four. Experience counts, as 80 percent of the starters of the four teams here are juniors or seniors. Barring injuries or surprises, the Final Four starting lineups will include seven seniors, nine juniors, three sophs and one freshman KU's Aaron Miles.
Money isn't everything: Williams was asked if only schools with "more resources" can advance to the Final Four.
"A lot of people think everything can be broken down to money. That's what it sounds like you are asking me," Williams said. "I don't know I would agree with that. I think at Kansas we do have some money. There's a lot of other schools that have just as much money. Our tradition is extremely important to us.
"The history of our program, the importance of our program to the people within the state. We're going to have 16,300 people at our opening practice much less every game.
"Yes, you do need more dollars to recruit those players and things, but I don't think it can be just broken down like that. I'm sure there's going to be a Cinderella to make a run on this. The more young teams get I still don't think that is a thing of the past."