Hello, Old Friend

10 years later and it still matters to some, but now, it feels different and intense and filled with passion for different reasons.

10 years later and it still matters to some, but now, it feels different and intense and filled with passion for different reasons.

Thankfully, the animosity has cooled considerably and when Kansas and North Carolina meet for the third time since Tar Heels coach Roy Williams left Lawrence for Chapel Hill in 2003, the focus may be on just basketball, despite the plot intertwining the teams' two legendary coaches.

Now, there might still be some animosity Sunday at the Sprint Center, but it's likely to come from the Carolina faithful, who have seen their team drop two to Kansas, including a loss to them in 2008 Final Four and in last year Midwest Regional Final. More than any drama involving the coaches, one the ball is tipped, that will likely be the focus of both teams.

"I know Roy is different in this community because he was here for 15 years. But I think there would have been a much bigger storyline if it had happened earlier," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Since we've had a chance to play a couple times in the tournament, I think there were some storylines there that probably aren't as good of storylines now."

Throughout the week, many have tried to conjure up drama involving Williams and Kansas and rightfully so. But, the matchups between both historic programs bear watching.

North Carolina will be in a rare spot. They will be loose and can walk onto the Sprint Center floor, knowing they have nothing to lose. They will face a top seeded Jayhawks team that narrowly avoided disaster against Western Kentucky, Friday night and will do so in front of a large Kansas contingent.

The eight seeded Tar Heels (25-10) are smaller than they've typically been under Williams and the experience will favor Kansas (30-5).

The Jayhawks have tremendous experience, led by four seniors who are determine to lead them back to the Final Four and perhaps their biggest advantage going into Sunday's game will ironically be Friday night's close call.

With that 64-57 game came the loss of fear and a wake up call to a team that when it's on, is one of the best in all of college basketball, which could spell certain doom for North Carolina.

"We came together and said we can't be nervous. This is our time to shine, and we know that if we lose, we're done," senior center Jeff Withey said. "We have four seniors, and Ben (McLemore) is probably going to go to the NBA. So for our five starters, this is probably our last go-around. We have to take every game seriously. We can't come out flat and we have to take everybody seriously. We need to play our game and have fun. In the first half of the game (Friday night), we weren't playing Kansas basketball. We know we can't do that anymore."

The game itself will be compelling, as Kansas hopes to return to next week's South Regional at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX and North Carolina hopes to exact some revenge at the Jayhawks expense and though he'd never admit it, nor ever revel in it, to give their coach a win that would provide a sense of cruel irony.

For all the times Williams was upset in the tournament during his time at Kansas, including a couple of times in Kansas City, it would be ironic to have him on the opposite side of that.

Regardless, it won't matter in the end, as the weekend has been about basketball, positive reflection and gratitude for a school's former coach and their current one, who has taken the program to unprecedented heights during the past 10 years, something Self, a man who has been a model for class and integrity for his school and fanbase, will always honor.

"Nobody can ever take away that he did a fabulous job, ran a first-class program. The people of Kansas were beneficiaries of him being the head coach at KU. Anybody that doesn't feel that way I think is not real because that is the reality of it."

When the horn sounds Sunday, there will be a winner and a loser, but the fans are the ones who are guaranteed victory, for basketball and the game they will have just witnessed and for the two men who lead their respective programs, for it is because the two men, Williams and Self that Kansas fans are among the luckiest in all of college athletics.

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