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KU fans and players gear up for a Final Four rematch against Villanova

A group of basketball players and coaches gather in a huddle with arms reaching high toward the center. They are standing on a basketball court logo that reads "Final Four, New Orleans."
David J. Phillip
Kansas players and coaches huddle on the court during a practice session for the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament Friday, March 30, 2012, in New Orleans. Kansas plays Ohio State in a semifinals game on Saturday.

The Villanova Wildcats knocked the University of Kansas Jayhawks out of the championship in 2016 and 2018.

Villanova’s seventh trip to the Men’s Final Four doesn’t quite measure up to the appearances made by the other three schools — Kansas, Duke and North Carolina — in New Orleans, but for some Kansas fans, the Wildcats’ recent championship runs still sting.

Villanova knocked off the Jayhawks twice in a three-year stretch from 2016 to ’18, either in a regional final or at the Final Four. Added to ‘Nova’s upset win over the powerful Georgetown Hoyas in 1985, the Wildcats and Jayhawks are tied with three NCAA championships.

For KU head coach Bill Self, that 2018 meeting in San Antonio was especially disheartening. KU lost by 16 points (95-79) and were blown off the court by a Wildcat team that attempted 40 three-pointers and made 18, each marking the most by a KU opponent in the NCAA tournament.

“The way that they played that game certainly has played a role in my mind,” Self said Friday.

Mike Humberd, a Jayhawks fan from the Black Forest area of Colorado outside Colorado Springs, remembers that game, too. Humberd customarily travels to Boulder, named informally “Allen Fieldhose West” when KU plays road games at the University of Colorado. But he also tries to find a way to the Final Four when the Jayhawks make it.

To Humberd, the only thing worse than the result in ‘18 was missing KU’s most recent NCAA championship back in 2008, also in San Antonio.

“A little misunderstanding with my wife that I don’t know if we’ve ever forgiven at this point,” said Humberd who strolled down Bourbon St. in the French Quarter alone on Thursday before the rest of his family joins him for Saturday’s semifinal.

Still, Self says he doesn’t classify this rematch as a “revenge” game. He pointed out only one current player -- Mitch Lightfoot -- was around in 2018.

This season, Villanova averages 9.1 three-point field goals per game.

This is KU’s 16th trip to the Final Four, the fifth most in NCAA history. North Carolina has the most with 21 and Duke, the Tar Heels’ opponent in the second semi, is at the Final Four for the 17th time. Kentucky and UCLA are the other two schools with more appearances than KU.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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