KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas coach Bill Self is somewhat amused by all the talk about how Jayhawk fans might treat Roy Williams for Sunday night’s game with North Carolina.
After all, it has been a decade since Williams left KU to coach the Tar Heels. That’s also how long it’s been since Self left Illinois to replace Williams at KU.
“I mean, 10 years is a long time,” Self said. “I could go back to Champaign and they wouldn’t know for a month if I was in town.”
Grab a rebound, dagummit! — North Carolina coach Roy Williams has suffered with vertigo for years, and there are times when he goes to one knee and composes himself after what he calls a “blood rush” — something he says he’s been dealing with since he was 13. Williams said it’s a separate ailment from the vertigo.
It happened again on Thursday when he was imploring the Tar Heels to get a rebound against Villanova.
“It’s usually when I go a little whacko, start screaming and getting up and down,” Williams said. “Yesterday I was screaming because we need ... I just said, ‘Give me one rebound’ because (Villanova) kept getting every rebound and scoring.”
He said doctors have given him a clean bill of health.
“It’s never worried me, the doctors at Kansas checked me out ever way you can, so did the doctors at North Carolina,” Williams said. “The only unsettling thing is I’m not sure they care that much about me. They just don’t want me to die on their watch.”
Homecoming — Topeka native C.B. McGrath is making his first basketball visit to his home area this weekend since moving from KU to North Carolina with Williams a decade ago.
“It’s good to get back,” said McGrath, a former Jayhawk walk-on who later earned a scholarship. “But Kansas fans travel so well, I’ve stayed in contact with a lot of people from back home.”
Rebels’ unsung hero -- With so much attention focused on Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, it’s easy to overlook the efforts of 6-foot-9 senior forward Reginald Buckner.
Buckner helped keep the Rebels in the game during a back-and-forth first half of Thursday’s 57-46 win over Wisconsin, scoring nine points and grabbing 12 rebounds and most of the time being his team’s only presence in the post.
Several times, Buckner tracked down rebounds with one hand, snatching the ball out of the air like it was a baseball while holding off a Badger with the other hand.
“I’ve got big hands, yes,” Buckner said, laughing. “I just do what I can to help us win. I’m our only big man out there sometimes so I’ve got to battle all the time.”
Buckner will face off with a similar player on Sunday in La Salle’s Jerrell Wright, a 6-8 forward who gave Kansas State fits in the Explorers’ upset win.
“I know we’ve got a similar build,” Buckner said. “And I know we’ve got similar goals. We both want to win.”
Hairston’s hand -- North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston has been playing with eight stitches in his left, non-shooting hand since he cut the webbing between his middle and ring fingers against Florida State in the ACC Tournament.
Hairston, who averages 14.1 points, says the injury hasn’t been a hindrance. The hand is heavily bandaged when he plays but it hasn’t slowed him down. He scored 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds and three steals in the Tar Heels’ second-round win over Villanova on Thursday.
“No big deal at all,” Hairston said. “Other than that it’s wrapped up I hardly notice it. I get the stitches out on Monday.”
Streaks – KU is in its 42nd NCAA Tournament, as well as in its 24th consecutive trip, which is the longest active streak in the nation.
North Carolina is in its 44th Tournament, second only to Kentucky’s 52. UCLA ranks third with 43, followed by the Jayhawks.
KU vs. Heels – North Carolina leads the series with KU 6-4. Sunday will mark the sixth time the schools have met in the NCAA Tournament. KU has won three of the five games, including the last two. The Jayhawks won last year’s regional semifinal and the 2008 Final Four semifinal.
In fact, the first four meetings between the two legendary basketball teams came in the Final Four. Most notable is the 1957 national championship game, which the Tar Heels won in triple overtime in Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.