KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas men’s basketball has won more games than any NCAA Division I program in history (2,355) and ranks fifth with 16 Final Four appearances.
The Jayhawks unquestionably belong among the bluebloods as arguably the bluebloodiest Final Four in NCAA history — including North Carolina and Duke along with KU’s opponent Saturday, Villanova — is set to tip off in New Orleans.
This weekend presents a unique opportunity for Kansas, which trails the rest of college basketball’s elite in one massive respect — national championships won.
“Our program, without question, is one the top programs in the country,” Bill Self, the team's head coach, said. “No one can debate that at all. But for it to be thought of us as the equal of anybody else’s, we’ve got to cut down nets on Monday night, do more of that.”
North Carolina (2009, 2017) and Duke (2010, 2015) have each won two national titles since the Jayhawks’ last championship in 2008.
UCLA hasn’t worn the crown since 1995, but the Bruins’ NCAA record 11 titles are nearly four times as many as KU’s three.
Kentucky owns eight championships, including 2012, while the Tar Heels own six. Duke and Indiana, which is grandfathered into the blueblood ranks, have claimed five apiece.
“We can stack up against anybody in any particular area,” Self said. “But when you talk about the total number of national championships, we’re behind, obviously, some of the other bluebloods that we compete against.”
Nouveau rich college hoops elite — like Connecticut, which has won four titles since 1999, and Villanova, which has won two of the program’s three all-time titles since 2016 — have found more success in recent years at reaching the summit.
That puts some pressure on the Jayhawks — though perhaps not as much as the Blue Devils with Mike Krzyzewski’s pending retirement — to emerge from the Mardi Gras melee as champs.
“I don’t want to put our program down, but Villanova’s won a couple (championships) here recently,” Self said. “Duke’s won a couple here in the last decade or 11 years, whatever it’s been. Carolina’s won a couple in that amount of time.”
Not only would the title further cement KU’s legacy within the college basketball landscape, but it also would serve as affirmation of Self’s place in the sport’s history.
“I don’t know about my legacy, but for the program and the historic nature of it, I think it certainly would add something significant to it,” Self said.