- Associated Press - Monday, April 2, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Charlie Weis was quick to tweet his support of the Jayhawks when they punched their ticket to the national championship game. It was no surprise. The recently hired football coach has been a public supporter of the program from the moment he arrived on campus.

Perhaps he sees something in the gritty toughness of the basketball team that he’d like to see in his football team. Or maybe he’s just fond of its version of the 2-minute drill.

The Jayhawks have been working it to perfection the NCAA tournament.

Kansas keeps getting off to slow starts, keeps driving coach Bill Self to the verge of a nervous breakdown. The team keeps playing in herky-jerky fashion for about 38 minutes. And then, when the game is on the line, the Jayhawks put things into overdrive and end up on top.

“This team, you have a bunch of overachievers who won’t quit, much like their coach, and they just will themselves to victory,” said athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who also comes from a football background. “You don’t ever think of Kansas as an underdog, but we’ve been one most of the tournament, and they’ve played with some freedom and tenacity.”

They’ve needed every ounce of tenacity, every bit of nerves, just about every time. Nothing has come easy this season, nothing delivered to a gilded program on a golden platter.

It won’t come easy against Kentucky in Monday night’s title game, either.

Still, Zenger believes there is a certain amount of fate _ perhaps even destiny _ to the way Kansas has played in the NCAA tournament. He’s not alone, either.

Tyshawn Taylor points to a comeback win over Missouri, when the Jayhawks were down by 19 in the second half. Thomas Robinson remembers gut-check wins over Purdue and N.C. State, and the fact that North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall was hurt when Kansas ran into the Tar Heels.

Zenger remembers looking at the scoreboard Saturday night, when the Jayhawks trailed Ohio State by 13 points, and figured they had a chance if they could get the lead under 10 by halftime. Travis Releford’s layup at the buzzer made it a nine-point game.

“You come to expect those things out of this team,” Zenger said Sunday.

The Jayhawks eventually would fend off the Buckeyes in the final minutes, walking the same tightrope they’ve teetered on all tournament long right into the national championship game.

The way they’ve done it has been a departure from most seasons at Kansas.

Sure, there have been plenty of blowouts, but there have been many more close games _ tight losses to Duke and Missouri, tighter wins over the Boilermakers and the Wolfpack. They’re games that steeled a veteran team for the stretch run, and that gave a scrappy collection of overachievers the confidence to keep going when things get rough and time is running out.

“The ones that we won, it felt so good to come back and take a game from somebody, and I think we like that feeling,” said Elijah Johnson. “There’s been some situations where we’ve been behind and had to fight back, and at Kansas, we don’t lie down. We fight back.”

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