The Kansas Jayhawks became the final of the four contenders in New Orleans hoping to take the 2012 NCAA Tournament title. To get here, they've taken an interesting path through familiar faces and close games to find Bill Self and company standing among the Final Four.
First, the Jayhawks took the University of Detroit out in the first round rather easily with a 65-50 win against the No. 15 seed. As the No. 2 seed, those victories are supposed to happen that way, but tell that to both Missouri and Duke who fell at this stage to Lehigh and Norfolk State, respectively.
A workmanlike Purdue played well against St. Mary's and earned the chance to take on Kansas in the second round, and the game came down to the wire as expected. Matt Painter's teams always played hard, efficient basketball and have made it to the second round, at least, in each of the last six seasons. The final score fell Kansas' way but not before a hard-fought 63-60 victory.
The next opponent was also close, as the red-hot North Carolina State Wolfpack met the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16. While the Wolfpack was the No. 11 seed and, consequently, the underdogs, they had already made their way through the ACC tournament and then through No. 3 seed Georgetown, so it was clear they were playing well at the perfect time. However, Kansas prevailed 60-57 behind Thomas Robinson's 18 points and 15 rebounds and Jeff Withey's incredible 10 blocked shots.
Finally, North Carolina presented the Elite 8 match-up and a familiar foe in Roy Williams. The former Kansas head coach said he was not interested in a home-and-home series with his former opponent because of the emotions there, and it was clear this was a very important game for both teams beyond just what was at stake on the court. However, Kansas took control in the second half and never looked back with an impressive 80-67 win.
Now they will face Ohio State for the right to play in the title game. This match-up will be the biggest yet since North Carolina was hampered by injuries, but KU has stepped up every time. Perhaps this is a magical season for Bill Self's team after all.