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March 31, 2008

Midwest Notes: Self, Williams to square off

MORE: NCAA Tournament Central

DETROIT Kansas fans finally got what they've been waiting for since Bill Self took over as head coach in 2003: A return trip to the Final Four and a shot at former coach Roy Williams.

Williams fled Lawrence for the head coaching job at his alma mater, North Carolina, after losing the 2003 national championship game to Syracuse.

That led to Self's hire and some frustration over the fact that the jilted Jayhawks hadn't been back to the national semifinals since.

Self can officially remove the tag of "best coach not to make it to a Final Four," after downing Davidson in the Midwest Regional final Sunday. But now he matches up against his predecessor, Williams, on Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

"I can't speak for Roy, but it's a game against North Carolina's players and Kansas' players," Self said. "It's been five years since Roy went to Carolina. As Kansas fans, we should be proud of the time Roy gave us. Because excellence was definitely the standard while he was there.

"When fans get upset, that is a back-handed compliment, because they didn't want him to leave. I'm sure Roy knows that."

Williams was 418-101 over 15 seasons at Kansas with three Final Four appearances and no national championships.

BARR'S OPEN

With Kansas devoting much of its attention to stopping Davidson sophomore shooting star Stephen Curry in the regional final, opportunities arose for other Wildcats players.

Making the most of the open looks was sophomore guard Bryant Barr who poured in 11 points and shot 3 for 4 from three-point distance. Barr was Davidson's second-leading scorer Sunday.

Barr, of Falmouth, Maine, played just 18 minutes and scored just six points in the Wildcats' three previous tournament games.

STAYING IN SCHOOL

Curry said after the game he would return for his junior season, not make him self available to the NBA.

PLAYING HURT

Davidson coach Bob McKillop revealed after the game that senior forward Thomas Sander has been playing with a broken thumb since the first half of the opening-round win against Gonzaga and hasn't been able to practice.

"He gets shot up before every game," McKillop said. "You want to talk about toughness, my goodness."

Sander had eight points and four rebounds in the final.

ALL-REGION TEAM

Not surprisingly, Curry was named the region's Most Outstanding Player. Curry was joined on the All-Midwest team by teammate and senior point guard Jason Richards, Kansas junior guard Mario Chalmers, Jayhawks senior center Sasha Kaun and KU junior guard Brandon Rush.

DEEP INTO RECORD BOOK

Curry's first three-pointer in the final, at 9:45 of the first half, gave him 159 on the year, a new NCAA single-season record. He finished with 162 . Butler's Darrin Fitzgerald previously owned the season mark with 158 in 1987.

Curry has made a three-pointer in every game he has played in his college career, 70 in all, and has reached double figures in all 36 games this season.

WILDCATS VS. TOP COMPETITION

Davidson was 3-4 against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 this season, losing to North Carolina, Duke, UCLA and Kansas while beating Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin, all in the NCAA tournament.

FANS FLOCK TO FORD FIELD

Sunday's finale at the home of the Detroit Lions drew an NCAA regional record crowd of 57,563. The total attendance for the two-day session of 114,591 also established a record for regional play.

Detroit will host the 2009 Final Four.

MORE: NCAA Tournament Central

Gerry Ahern is a senior editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gerry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.



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