So, Kansas finds itself in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year, with the chance for Portlanders Aaron Miles and Michael Lee to play in their third Final Four. Who needed Roy Williams, anyway?
Miles, very upset when Williams left for North Carolina, said at the time that the Jayhawks should just go out and win the national title.
Thanks to his buddy, Lee, the Jayhawks got by their latest hurdle Sunday, beating Pacific 78-63.
Lee scored nine consecutive points as KU opened a big lead.
'Mike has been hyped. He's been excited. He knows it's time to ball right now,' Miles tells the Lawrence Journal-World.
Lee, who sat out most of the preseason with a broken collarbone, tells the Journal-World, 'When I haven't been playing my best, it's because my confidence is down.
'The other day in the hotel I just happened to run into (former NBA star and coach) John Lucas. He stopped, pulled me aside and said: 'You look a little jittery out there. Play with confidence.' I told him I was going to write that on my shoes. It's just a reminder. Any time I'm tired and I'm looking down É confidence Ñ it picks me back up and gets me going.'
Lucas' son, John Jr., plays for KU's rival, Oklahoma State.
The Jayhawks will play Alabama-Birmingham at 4:10 p.m. PT Friday in St. Louis. The winner meets the Georgia Tech-Nevada winner Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
'I give Mike two-thumbs up. He's clutch,' says KU freshman J.R. Giddens, who took Lee's starting role in December and hasn't let go. He came through in the clutch. I guess he took those words to heart.'
It's small consolation for the coach and seniors who have won only 28 games in three years, but the Portland Pilots can lay claim to three significant victories.
The Pilots beat Oregon in 2002 and Gonzaga in 2003. The Ducks went on to win three NCAA tourney games in 2002. The Zags won one and took Arizona to overtime in one of the all-time great NCAA games in 2003.
And, earlier this season, the Pilots beat Nevada 86-70. Manhandled the Wolf Pack, really, playing exceptional half-court defense and shooting .517 from the floor. All 10th-seeded Nevada has done recently is become the darling of the NCAA Tournament after reaching the Sweet 16 by virtue of its clubbing of second-seeded Gonzaga.
The win over Nevada came in Portland's 5-1 start. The Pilots' surge quickly came screeching to a halt when they visited Duke. Still, they can look back at Dec. 4, 2003, and see that they forced 19 turnovers and converted Nevada into 25 points, made only nine turnovers, matched the Wolf Pack with 29 rebounds and had the edge in the second-chance points (21-7) and fast-break points (11-6). Sophomore Donald Wilson scored 24 points with five rebounds, five assists and three steals, playing against the touted Kirk Snyder.
'(Nevada) felt like they were a superior team É and they'd get their arms around the game,' UP coach Michael Holton says.
For next year, or 2005-06, the Pilots are trying to schedule Missouri, for a Jeff grad Thomas Gardner homecoming game.