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Kansas, Kentucky ready for a rematch with a title on the line

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It wouldn’t be the 2012 Final Four without a rematch. Added bonus? It features the two winningest programs in NCAA history.

Kentucky (2,089 victories) and Kansas (2,070) will play Monday night for the 2012 title. The Wildcats are big favorites, stemming from their superior talent and performance this season, which started with a 75-65 win back on Nov. 15. That game saw the Wildcats (37-2) pull away in the second half and behind superior defense, most notably 13 blocks.

The Jayhawks (32-6) weren’t awful, but it was clear a few spurts was all Kentucky needed.

“We didn’t play that bad the last time they beat us,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We went brain-dead there for about five minutes, and they capitalized. That’s when they went on their run.”

Will Monday be the same? Self isn’t so sure.

“I understand they’re really talented, well-coached, they play hard,” he said. “But I say the same about us.”

Neither team features a deep bench. Both rely on their star big men, quick point guards and athletic, versatile wings to make plays in the open court.

A rematch might not have been what was expected when the NCAA tournament began, but it’s turned out that way. And Kansas will give it a run.

“I think we match up well,” Kansas senior Tyshawn Taylor said. “Any five we put out there can match up with any five they put out there, for sure. I’m kind of going into this game really confident.

“I’m really excited to be here. I came this far. Might as well go home with the ’ship.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.