Adjustments earn Bill Self his second national title in Kansas

NEW ORLEANS — Kansas spent the first 20 minutes forcing shots and passes, missing layups and pushing the problem instead of pushing forward.

The next 20 became a master class in coaching from Bill Self—with a spicy pinch of Remy Martin.

No more big game disappointments. Self had his elusive second national title.

Kansas, grounded by North Carolina in an ugly first half, beefed up defense to speed up their transition game and completed the biggest comeback in NCAA championship history with a 72-69 win over North Carolina on Monday night.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a team flip the script like we did at the NCAA tournament, whether it was in Miami with the Elite Eight or this game,” Self said.

The Jayhawks (34-6) started fast and faded even faster to fall into a 16-point hole in the first half. A national title drought that stretched into 2008 looked set to continue for at least another year.

Not so fast.

Self has shown a knack for second-half adjustments during a Hall of Famer career, throwing a whopper on the game’s biggest stage.


After trying to ram the ball into David McCormack in the first half, Self reversed his team’s postplay by putting 6-foot-7 guard Christian Braun on the low block. Braun got a few early baskets in the post, sparking an early run that breathed new life into Kansas.

With North Carolina big man Armando Bacot off the perimeter rather than protecting him, the Jayhawks found more lanes to shoot or step into the perimeter.

Kansas also returned to what it does best: running. The Jayhawks got off on layups and early offense during an initial 18-4 run and found the offensive rhythm that was lacking in the first half.

Kansas swarmed Bacot in the house after a dominating first half — 12 points and 10 rebounds — locking lanes and tilting passes to put the Tar Heels (29-10) on their heels.

“Things didn’t go our way,” said RJ Davis of North Carolina. “We missed and missed out on the recordings we normally do.”


Martin added the spice.

As the Pac-12’s top scorer last season, he left Arizona State after four seasons for a shot at a national title. Martin had a season of ups and downs marred by injuries, and his final collegiate game reflected his full year.

Martin forced the problem in the first half, shooting 1 for 5 and having Self yell at him to pass the ball. Good Martin showed up in the second half and took the Jayhawks’ already humming offense to another level.

“In the second half I was just trying to move around and shoot with confidence,” said Martin, who scored 11 of his 14 second-half points and finished 4-of-6-3.

Kansas gave North Carolina problems with some early pressure all over the court, and point guard Dajuan Harris increased his defensive intensity on Davis, who had 11 points in the first half. Harris helped keep Davis on four points in the second half and closed North Carolina’s attacking point, leading to forced shots from the Tar Heels.


The misses became transition opportunities for Kansas, which in turn made way for McCormack, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“They got a lot of transition buckets and a lot of points in the paint,” said Caleb Love of North Carolina, who had 13 points on 5-of-24 shooting. “They were penetrated and did what they wanted.”

It was quite a turn of an ugly first half.

Kansas looked like the crisper team early on, North Carolina like it was in some post-Beating Duke funk. It lasted a full four minutes, after which the Tar Heels put the Jayhawks on their heels.

Defensively, North Carolina cut lanes and forced difficult shots from Kansas guards. Even by the time they got to the edge, the Jayhawks were so confused they ripped up layups, leaving Self shaking his head.

North Carolina’s Leaky Black had Ochai Agbaji red for most of the half, harassing him at every turn — to the point that Kansas was late in looking for their star player.


The Jayhawks tried to take advantage of Bacot’s injured right ankle, but the big North Carolina man held his own in the alley against McCormack. Center Kansas had a few early baskets but tried to force the problem several times after that, eventually forcing difficult shots.

North Carolina’s offense wasn’t exactly crisp, but it was gritty: The Tar Heels had 18 second-chance points on eight offensive rebounds and led 40-25.

“I’ve definitely never been 15 minus in a national championship game,” said Braun, who had 12 points.

Nobody had and won. Self pulled all the right strings to get it done.


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Dais Johnston

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