Although it still stung, Kansas coach Bill Self found a pleasant surprise while rewatching KU’s Final Four loss to Villanova

photo by: Nick Krug

Villanova forward Omari Spellman (14) pulls up for a three against Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during the second half, Saturday, March 31, 2018 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Kansas coach Bill Self and Villanova coach Jay Wright have differing thoughts when watching the replay of last year’s Final Four meeting between the two programs in San Antonio.

And they might not quite be what you would expect.

Self, who said Thursday that he had not watched the replay of KU’s 95-79, season-ending loss until he started putting together the scouting report for this weekend’s clash with the Wildcats, said he watched bits and pieces of it on Wednesday.

“I watched it enough until I got sick and then I put it away,” he said.

He then watched it in its entirety on Thursday morning, and what he saw shocked him.

“I couldn’t believe how hard we played,” Self said. “You would think we played awful. We did not play awful. They played great. We guarded them right, they made shots. We did exactly as game planned for the most part, and they just outperformed us in some areas and things like that.”

Wright, in a phone interview with the Journal-World on Thursday morning, had no problem saying that his team played extremely well, but had a slightly different way of looking at it.

“As we watch the film of that game to get prepared for this game, there’s nothing we can take from that game that will help us in this game, except we just shot the lights out,” Wright recalled. “It was one of those games you dream about, even to the point where it was ridiculous. It wasn’t normal for us and it was just one of those nights.”

Villanova made a Final Four record 18 of 40 3-pointers in that win over the Jayhawks last March, a mark that included four Wildcats making at least three shots from behind the arc.

Given their style of play and personnel, a hot 3-point shooting night was not out of the question. But after looking back at it, Self said his team nearly did as well as could be expected.

“You look at (the tape) from a critical standpoint, you say, ‘Well, they just made a play,’ or ‘They just did this or they did that,'” Self said. “I mean, our ball-screen defense was good. We took away the roll man. We built out quick. Bottom line is, they got guys that can make plays. That’s what happened last year. We did not play great by any stretch, but it wasn’t us playing as poorly as it was them playing very well.”

Lessons from Lucas

Former KU forward Landen Lucas, who spent the past several months playing professionally in Japan, is back in Lawrence working out while looking for his next opportunity.

And after attending last weekend’s game at Sprint Center, Lucas spent some time with KU’s big men this week, talking mostly about defense.

“He’s been talking to the bigs and helping us out with us and what he was going through when he was here, post defense and things like that,” junior forward Dedric Lawson said Thursday. “He’s been very helpful. He’s a very smart player. I didn’t know him, so just talking to him and just talking basketball with him, he’s a very smart player and I see why coach Self loved him.”

Said Self of Lucas’ return: “It was good to have him back. The thing about it is, Landen (can) offer things from a team (perspective). You know, what wins. I think that kind of thing has been good.”

Adjusted schedule

With Saturday’s game against Villanova slated to start earlier than normal, the Jayhawks have adjusted their practice schedule this week to prepare for the early tipoff — 11 a.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse on ESPN.

The Jayhawks went a couple of hours earlier than normal earlier in the week and are slated for an 11 a.m. practice on Friday.

“I think ‘Nova, tomorrow morning, is practicing at 8, and then we are practicing right after they practice, so it is a little bit different probably for both teams having to play a game that early,” Self said. “But it is also good preparation, because everybody could possibly get a game later on in the season at the same time.”

Self does not think the early tip will impact the energy inside of Allen Fieldhouse.

“It will be a good atmosphere,” he said. “I would think it would be exceptional, and I’m sure the best one we have played in front of this year.”

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