Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Notebook: Jayhawks savoring Final Four berth

March 31, 2003

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The euphoria of reaching the Final Four for the second straight season hadn't subsided Sunday in Lawrence.

"I told the kids to enjoy the heck out of it today and we'll work on Marquette tomorrow," said KU coach Roy Williams, whose Jayhawks gained an encore trip to the Final Four by beating Arizona, 78-75, in the NCAA West Regional finals Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.

The Jayhawks (29-7), who returned home via charter in the wee hours Sunday morning, will begin preparations today for Marquette (27-5).

The Golden Eagles and Jayhawks will tangle in a national semifinal Saturday. Texas and Syracuse will meet in the other game. The winners will play in Monday's national title game.

"I've told the kids to enjoy the journey. We'll work awfully hard (this week) to try to make our dreams come true," Williams said.

Williams, who is making his fourth trip to the Final Four in 15 years, was a popular national interview target Sunday, speaking on both CBS and ESPN.

He was asked how KU plans on clamping down on Marquette guard Dwyane Wade, a 6-foot-5 junior who scored 29 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had 11 assists in Saturday's 83-69 Midwest Regional final win over Kentucky.

His triple-double put an end to Kentucky's 26-game winning streak and gave the Golden Eagles their first Final Four berth since 1977, when the late Al McGuire led Marquette to the school's only national title.

"I don't know you can put clamps on Dwyane Wade, he's such a good player," Williams said. "I've watched them (on TV) as a fan, not as a coach. I am a fan of college basketball. I think I'll just call Tommy (Crean, head coach) and say, 'You give me a scouting report and I will give you one,'" KU's coach quipped.

Williams is a friend of fourth-year Marquette coach Crean, who spent four seasons as an assistant at Western Kentucky, one season at Pittsburgh and four seasons with Tom Izzo at Michigan State.

"He's one of my great friends in coaching," Williams said. "He's a guy I respect a great deal."

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Travel day: KU's players and coaches will travel to New Orleans after Wednesday's practice. Travel plans were being finalized Sunday night. The Jayhawks will practice at a to-be-determined time Friday at the Superdome. That practice will be open to the public.

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Game time confusion: ESPN and TNN reported Sunday the time of the KU-Marquette game would be 5:05 p.m. Saturday, with the Syracuse-Texas game to follow at 7:35 p.m. However, CBS, which televises the games, indicated Sunday that those game times were not official. The Associated Press also reported Sunday that KU would play the early game, but later sent a correction indicating game times were not official. CBS will make the game times official today. Monday's final is firmly set for 8:18 p.m. KU officials had not been informed of the game time late Sunday night.

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Haase happy: Saturday's outcome was especially sweet for Jerod Haase.

"It can't help but bring back memories a little bit," said Haase, an administrative assistant at KU. "I'm thinking about today's game, but you can't help but think about the last time we played them.

"Hopefully we'll all feel better after today's game."

Needless to say, Haase, who started for KU's 34-2 team that had its season end, 85-82, against Arizona in a 1997 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 battle in Birmingham, Ala., felt a whole lot better after the Jayhawks' victory.

"Oh yeah, (there's) a little revenge," Haase said of his feelings in a giddy KU locker room, "but at the same time, that's about the least important part of this. These guys have done a great job and it's nice to see coach going back to the Final Four in back-to-back years. To do that, it's unbelievable."

Haase said the No. 2-seeded Jayhawks definitely earned a repeat trip to the Final Four by beating No. 1 seed Arizona and No. 3 seed Duke Thursday and Saturday.

"I am amazed. It's probably fair to say this is coach's best coaching job," Haase said of Williams. "You look at the pieces of this puzzle, it's certainly not as talented a team, but we're really a team. Coach has done a great job. The guys have done a great job."

Denied a Final Four as a KU player, Haase has been "proud" to have been part of two Final Fours as a member of Williams' staff.

Is he a coaching good-luck charm?

"Let's play that angle," Haase said with a smile. "If I'm good luck, coach may keep me around awhile. Last year was nice to go to the Final Four. I'd get the opportunity to go to the Final Four, just to go to meetings, but it's a lot more fun, to go with the team."

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