SAN ANTONIO (TNS) — They thrive in the noise, and now the room is silent. The guys in here pushed and dug and made a place for themselves in the history of one of the country's great college basketball programs by rising above the chaos. Now, in this moment, you can hear a whisper.
"It'll take some time," Kansas senior Svi Mykhailiuk said of the sadness.
"They weren't even looking at the rim sometimes," Udoka Azubuike said of the shots.
"I don't know," Lagerald Vick said when asked when he'd be able to think about the accomplishments this Jayhawks team had this year. "I just, I don't know. I don't know."
The ending to a season that will be marked in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters came with a thud, with a fist, or perhaps most accurately with 18 mostly swished 3-pointers by Villanova in a 95-79 loss here on Saturday.
When it was over, but before anyone could make sense of it, they were practicing that awkward hey-don't-hang-your-head-fellas talk that always follows the hardest disappointments.
"I don't think we've ever been in a game like this to end a season," KU coach Bill Self said.
This was supposed to a different ending for Kansas, and that's not a reference to a national championship. That was always unlikely, even after Devonte Graham and Malik Newman pushed this group from being called the softest Self had coached at Kansas all the way to the Final Four. So, no. This isn't about a championship, thrilling as that would've been.
This was supposed to be the Kansas team remembered for what it accomplished, not for what it lost, and maybe that's still how this goes. Probably, that's still how this goes. But perspective comes only with time, and right now it's hard to see behind a no-show national semifinal.
"We lost," Mykhailiuk said. "It's hard to be proud of a loss."
The Jayhawks came to college basketball's biggest stage, a crowd of 68,257 and millions more watching on television, and they were not competitive.
Villanova has been the best team in the country this season and is firmly established as a national power. The champs two years ago, losers of just 21 games the past five seasons and led by national player of the year Jalen Brunson, Villanova would've been tough enough on Kansas' best night.
But this was clearly not that. Kansas appeared without a plan to guard Villanova at the 3-point line. The Wildcats tied the Final Four record for 3-pointers before halftime and finished with 18 made on 40 attempts. This is how Villanova plays, and with five full days to prepare, Kansas provided no resistance.
The image that sticks is another wide-open shooter swishing another jumper, and Self shaking the palms of his hands on either side of his temples, presumably to keep from punching someone, or himself.
"Our game plan went to crap," Self said.
Self had told this group it had written itself into the history of a program that claims the sport's inventor, that, going forward, it could only improve that standing — and he's right. Final Fours are how players and coaches and programs have come to be measured, and a roster without a likely first-round pick accomplished what so many future stars could not.
Self measures himself and his assistants by how close they get their players to their best. That's how most coaches are, and the advantages at Kansas mean accomplishing the subtler goal will likely mean achieving the more notable one of a Final Four.
In that context, this may be Self's best coaching job at Kansas. There will always be talent at KU, but for one season, at least, Self worked without the lottery picks that have come to define blueblood rosters in modern college basketball.
"Of the teams we've had go to the Final Four," he said, "this is probably the one that was least expected."
Self went all-in with a four-guard lineup he would've likely dismissed out of hand five years ago. The team's best big man finished the season with a clunky brace holding together a sprained knee, and its second-best big man was playing a high school tournament in late December.
They got by with guts, teamwork, lots of shooting and an elevated feel for what was needed in a particular moment and a particular game. Graham's No. 4 will hang from the Allen Fieldhouse rafters soon, and "2018" will be added to the Final Four banners.
"Everything," Graham said when asked what he'll miss the most. "I can't say just one thing. The coaching staff, all the friends you make, and the fan base is amazing. And just waking up in our dorm and being able to walk over to the Fieldhouse and shooting and practices. Man, just everything I'm going to miss, for real."
Years from now, they will return to Lawrence as conquering heroes. The same way Thomas Robinson and Sherron Collins and Keith Langford are cheered and revered, Graham and Mykhailiuk and Newman will be, too.
But those feelings need time. This disappointment needs distance. Kansas was two wins from a national championship, and it was essentially non-competitive in the biggest game of the season. A win against Villanova, and KU probably would've been favored against Michigan on Monday.
Someday, the memories of beating Duke and preserving the streak and making their way this far will sharpen. The memories of taking the ball out of the net and being blown out against Villanova will dull.
But that someday is not today. This was supposed to be different. Was supposed to feel different.
"We had some great moments," Newman said. "Tonight, I don't think we had any great moments."