Led by a police escort, Kansas’ team bus pulled in front of a secondary entrance of the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel — located just steps from the famed River Walk — at 6 p.m., Wednesday, well in advance of Saturday’s Final Four semifinal game against Villanova.
About 100 fans greeted the Jayhawks’ players and coaches — as well as former KU coach Larry Brown, who is part of the team’s traveling party this week — as they paraded through the lobby toward the elevators as the school’s fight song blared through the facility.
“I’m tired,” KU coach Bill Self told a throng of media during a group interview upon arrival. The Jayhawks, Self said, held a “hard” practice on Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse before flying charter to Texas and riding the bus to the hotel. A nice meal, presumably on the River Walk, was planned for Wednesday night.
“I know if I’m tired then I guarantee the players are tired,” Self added of his No. 1-seeded Jayhawks, who will carry a 31-7 record into a Saturday semifinal against No. 1 seed Villanova (34-4) at approximately 7:49 p.m. in the Alamodome.
Never miss a local story.
Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.
“It’s a long season. It’s stressful,” Self said. “As you can see just by this kind of stuff, there is some stress and some things involved that you have to minimize as much as possible, and it’s hard minimizing here.
“I think this is the most exhausting week for a player any time this year because look at all the responsibilities that they have to do. So whenever you’re not (practicing), you need to be off your feet, you need to be asleep, you need to be listening to music — and of course in our guys’ case, probably studying.
“We’re going to go to dinner tonight and after that basically it’s a business trip.”
KU players arrive in San Antonio for the NCAA Tournament Final Four on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Vahe Gregorian
Self offered more insight into the team’s physical state, and mental state of mind.
“One thing about when you are on an emotional high, when you crash you usually crash pretty hard from a fatigue standpoint and everything,” Self said. “We met on Monday briefly just to go over tickets and hotels for families and stuff like that. We met yesterday and all we did was walk over stuff — I mean walk — and we practiced hard today. I want our guys’ minds fresh and our legs as fresh as they can be. That’s more important than anything else.”
Self wasn’t belaboring the topic of possible team fatigue this time of year.
He also noted that he and the Jayhawks are excited to be in San Antonio, site of KU’s 2008 Final Four victories over North Carolina and Memphis, yet also the site of an Elite Eight loss to VCU in 2011.
“Today was good. I mean, considering two days off? Effort was good,” he said. “Attitude’s good. How can you have a bad attitude right now, this time of year?”
Self also expressed affection for San Antonio.
“Lawrence obviously is my favorite (city),” he said. “Wichita is good. Kansas City is good. Omaha I love. This is probably the best one right here.
“There’s a lot of memories. We haven’t always been good (here). We got beat by VCU here, too, in 2011. It was a little different scenario. Great memories, but we’ve got to make new memories.”
Self would love for sophomore center Udoka Azubuike to be able to make memories in front of his mother, Florence, this weekend. The coach said there has been progress made in getting Florence a travel visa and flight from Nigeria to the U.S. in plenty of time for Saturday’s game.
“We got it where Silvio’s dad will be here,” Self said of freshman Silvio De Sousa of Angola. Also expected on hand are the Ukrainian parents of senior Svi Mykhailiuk. “Svi’s mom and dad will be here, and Doke’s mother has to fly to some city in Nigeria to apply for her visa tomorrow morning. If the interview goes well, she’ll be on the plane tomorrow night. We’re hopeful. He (Azubuike) lit up like a Christmas tree whenever he was talking to her and saw the reality that this can happen.
“I hope he’s not disappointed (if she is denied the visa), because It will be disappointing after you kind of set him up to be excited. Can you imagine somebody coming from Nigeria that’s never seen him play basketball and walk into the Alamodome, 70,000 (fans, and Udoka saying), ‘This is what I do mom’? It’ll be a great experience for them.”
Self had a good one-liner in discussing Villanova, a team he said was “the best team in the country the last five years.”
“Jay is very demanding,” Self said of coach Jay Wright. “I know he looks like (George) Clooney, but he is a demanding dude. He won’t let those guys get by doing anything halfway.”
Aside from certainly running some ideas by former KU coach Brown this weekend, Self indicated he is interested in the opinion of Big 12 teams West Virginia and Texas Tech that fell to Villanova in the NCAA Tournament.
KU basketball coach Bill Self talks about the mindset reboot that a few of his players, including Malik Newman, had to make for the Jayhawks to make it to the Final Four. Rich Sugg
“We talked to one of those teams a lot. We’ll talk to the other one, see if there’s anything from a scouting standpoint they picked up,” Self said.
The bottom line is KU is two wins from a national title, and Self has told his players it’d be special to win it all.
“Somebody said yesterday, ‘You’ll be remembered forever for making a Final Four,’’’ Self said. “No you won’t. Not at Kansas. You’ll be remembered forever if you win it. So I tried to say certain things to make them (players) understand the job’s just starting.”
KU will hold a closed practice Thursday. KU’s shootaround, which is open to the public, will be 1 -1:50 p.m. Friday at the Alamodome.