- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) This much the Kansas Jayhawks know: Their season will end in Atlanta, at the Georgia Dome, in their first Final Four since 1993.
But you have to look five years back from then, to a March night at Kansas City's Kemper Arena, to see what really drives this team.
"Our goal wasn't to reach the Final Four. It was to win the national championship," said junior forward Nick Collison, who scored 25 points and had 15 rebounds on Sunday as Kansas beat Oregon 104-86 in the final of the Midwest Region.
The other Kansas players echoed that sentiment: Now, nothing short of the Jayhawks' first national title since 1988 the year before Roy Williams took over as coach will do.
"It was joy out there," celebrating the win over Oregon, freshman point guard Aaron Miles said. "But we know it's not done. We don't want it to stop here. It feels good to be one of the four teams that can possibly win the championship, but we want to be the ones to do it.
"We want to do it for coach Williams, because of all the things people have said about him, but we also want to do it for ourselves as a team," Miles said.
The Jayhawks, who meet Maryland in the national semifinals on Saturday, have held that goal since the preseason. Williams taped pictures of the Georgia Dome in each player's locker, along with the message: "What did you do to get here today?"
"It was just kind of a reminder every day when you don't feel like practicing," Collison said. "You see that and realize what you're playing for."
What Kansas (33-3) did to get to Atlanta was sweep the Big 12 regular season, 16-0, and win its first two conference tournament games before being beaten in the final by Oklahoma another Final Four team.
Seeded No.1 despite that loss, the Jayhawks held off Holy Cross 70-59, blew out Stanford 86-63 and scored a hard-fought 73-69 win over Illinois before running over the Ducks on Sunday.
Along the way, they weathered injury (guard Kirk Hinrich's ankle sprain), foul trouble (Hinrich and Collison played just 37 total minutes against Illinois) and crowd hostility (Wisconsin fans have never forgiven Williams for comments they thought disparaged the Badgers' 2000 Final Four team and coach Dick Bennett.)
And in the end, they put to rest for this year, anyway Kansas' recent reputation for underachievement in the NCAA tournament.
"This means a lot," said All-American forward Drew Gooden, who had 20 rebounds against Oregon. "I knew there were a lot of doubters out there. I know people have given Coach some heat in the past for not reaching goals. But coach Williams is a great coach. This is his year. Our year."


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