Cory Mccartney
Friday April 4th, 2008

Kansas (35-3) vs. North Carolina (36-2) Saturday, 8:47 p.m., CBS Alamodome (44,000)

It's two of college basketball's most-storied programs. It's "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" vs. Carolina Blue. But the biggest subplot in Kansas-North Carolina is the man who has basked in each team's respective spotlights. Roy Williams led the Jayhawks for 15 seasons before leaving in 2003 to take over at his alma mater; a departure many KU fans still haven't forgiven or forgotten.

But, of course, it won't be Williams who will be running the vaunted Tar Heels' secondary break Saturday in San Antonio against the team he took to four Final Fours. His Tar Heels storm into the Alamodome having won their first four tournament games by an average of 25.5 points behind Tyler Hansbrough, who is coming off a 28-point, 13-rebound performance against Louisville.

Kansas is the only team that isn't coming into the Final Four off a blowout. The Jayhawks edged pesky Davidson 59-57 in the Elite Eight, but don't read too much into the margin of victory: Kansas is deep and talented with four players averaging double digits. Is finally making a Final Four going to be enough for Bill Self?

Kansas' Russell Robinson Sr., 6-foot-1, 205 Stats: 7.4 ppg, 4.1 apg

The most unsung of the Final Four floor generals, Robinson doesn't deliver eye-opening offensive stats. He makes up for it with his abilities as a lockdown defender (a la his shutting down of Villanova's Scottie Reynolds in the Sweet 16) and distributor, recording 71 more assists than made field goals. But he'll have his hands full against the lightning-quick Lawson.

North Carolina's Ty Lawson So., 5-11, 195 Stats: 12.8 ppg, 5.3 apg

The maestro of the Tar Heels' offense, his value to the team's transition game was on full display when he missed six games with a sprained ankle and Williams had UNC focusing on its half-court game. But with Lawson fully healthy, North Carolina's offense is once again operating at cheetah-like speed because of Lawson's ability to create fast breaks on his own. He's a tough task for any defender.


Kansas' Mario Chalmers Jr., 6-1, 190 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 47.6 percent from three

Chalmers can deliver form outside but he is, without a doubt, the Jayhawks best perimeter defender. With his long limbs and quickness, last season's Big 12 co-defensive player of the year can be disruptive. Chalmers is also an efficient and clutch shooter (52 percent shooting from the field). If it comes down to a final shot for KU, look for Chalmers to take it.

North Carolina's Wayne Ellington So., 6-4, 200 Stats: 16.6 ppg, 41.4 percent from three

When Ellington's on, the pressure's off Tyler Hansbrough. Case in point: his 36-points vs. Clemson early this year. When the sharpshooter's off, the Heels rely too much on Psycho T. Ellington was a combined 9-for-27 from the field in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Ellington's defense may be his biggest liability.


Kansas' Brandon Rush Jr., 6-6, 190 pounds Stats: 13.1 ppg, 42.9 percent from three

Hampered by a knee injury suffered in a pickup game last May, Rush has caught fire the last six games, averaging 17.5 points and has hit 20-of-40 three-pointers in that span (though he wasn't exactly shooting lights-out against Davidson, finishing 4-for-14 from the field). He has the ability to drive the lane or create his own shot off the dribble, and he's invaluable with his defensive prowess.

North Carolina's Marcus Ginyard Junior, 6-foot-5, 218 pounds Stats: 7.1 ppg, 42.9 percent from three

Ginyard isn't going to bring much offensively, having reached double digits in scoring nine times all season, but as the Tar Heels' best defender he's the other half of what should be the most pivotal matchup in the game. Rush has a slight size advantage on Ginyard, but if Ginyard he can disrupt Rush's rhythm, it could pose trouble for the Jayhawks.


Kansas' Darnell Jackson Sr., 6-8, 250 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg

Jackson made strides this season in establishing himself as a legit scoring threat in the paint, but in the tourney he's largely been an invisible man, hitting double figures just once -- with 10 points against Portland State in the first round. Despite his slip in offense, he remains aggressive on the glass, but if Kansas is to advance he will need to contribute on both ends of the floor.

North Carolina's Deon Thompson So., 6-8, 240 Stats: 8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg

Thompson is a capable scorer and has increased his production in the tourney, averaging 11.7 points on 68.8 percent shooting. But his deficiencies as a defender have made Brandan Wright's departure to the NBA all the more difficult for the Heels to deal with and could allow Jackson the opportunity to regain his offensive touch.


Kansas' Darrell Arthur So., 6-9, 225 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg

"Shady" is coming off a rather lackluster performance in a slow-paced game against Davidson, with seven points and five rebounds in 31 minutes. He does have the size to bang inside with Hansbrough and could pose problems, though struggles when defending outside, which could become an issue of Psycho T is hitting that short jumper that ended Louisville's season in the Elite Eight.

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough Jr., 6-9, 250 Stats: 22.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg

What can you say about the National Player of the Year that hasn't already been said? He's tenacious. He's intense. He's virtually unstoppable down low. Basically, he's a nightmare for defenders and as he goes, so do the Tar Heels. Hansbrough is going to get his points, though KU is bound to try what every other team has done and throw two and three bodies at him.



Bill Self has a pair of spark plugs on the bench in 6-11 senior Sasha Kaun, who came in against Davidson to score 13 points and earn all-Midwest Regional honors, and big-bodied point guard Sherron Collins (5-11, 205) could come in to guard Lawson if Robinson struggles.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels may have the best sixth man in the nation in 6-5 swingman Danny Green, who scored 15 and 11 points in his last two tourney games. Alex Stephenson (6-9, 235) played just nine minutes against Louisville but could also see major minutes against the Jayhawks' big frontcourt.



This is new territory for Self, who has finally shaken the "Best Coach Never To Make a Final Four" tag. But what's he going to do with it? Self hasn't waited this long to waste the opportunity and he has the luxury of an experienced, veteran group that shouldn't be frazzled by playing on the sport's biggest stage.

North Carolina

Williams is no stranger to the Final Four, with this, his sixth appearance, tying him with Adolph Rupp and Denny Crum for fourth-most all-time. He's cut down the nets once before (2005). There's little doubt this will be an emotional game, but after the opening tip, it will be business as usual for his team, which is second in the nation in scoring offense.


SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.