DETROIT (AP) - Bill Self didn't try to deflect talk about the tag that has dogged his career.
Best Coach Without A Final Four Appearance.
It's not a label you'll find in an NCAA record book, but some variation of the title usually accompanies any conversation about Kansas' coach.
``Well, if they're saying that, at least part of it that says `best,''' Self joked Saturday, a day before the top-seeded Jayhawks face No. 10 Davidson in the Midwest Regional final. ``I'm disappointed personally we haven't been there yet.
``It's something that I think about all the time. And, a lot of times, many times a day.''
Self seems to have his best shot at putting the thought out of his mind.
Kansas is favored to beat the Stephen Curry-led Wildcats by almost 10 points to earn the last spot in the Final Four.
Self is taking nothing for granted entering his fifth regional final because he has never experienced the joy of cutting down the nets in an NCAA tournament.
He was a win away from the Final Four last year and in 2004, his first at Kansas, after falling just short in back-to-back seasons at Illinois and Tulsa in 2000 and '01.
``I don't know, other than losing a championship game, if one could hurt as much as losing in the Elite Eight,'' Self said, ``because all season long there's a buildup in your players' minds and everything: 'The Road to the Final Four.' And this is obviously the last step.
``That's something that certainly doesn't set well with us.''
It doesn't with his players, either.
None of them have played in the Final Four, of course, because Kansas hasn't reached college basketball's marquee event since 2003.
But even if Davidson stuns the Jayhawks, many of them will move on to make millions in the NBA and won't be hounded with questions about failing to play in the Final Four.
Self would.
``It drives us,'' Kansas guard Russell Robinson acknowledged.
Center Sasha Kaun said Self has done so much for the game that he belongs in the national semifinals.
``If we can make that happen for him, he'll finally get the credit he deserves,'' Kaun said.
Even with the glaring void on his resume, Self has a lot to be proud of.
He and North Carolina's Roy Williams, his predecessor at Kansas, are the only two coaches to lead teams to the regional finals five times since 2000.
Self has helped Kansas win 92 games since the 2005-06 season, a victory total that ties the Jayhawks with Florida for the third-most during that span, behind Memphis and UCLA.
Self has lasted a career-long five seasons at Kansas after leading Illinois and Tulsa for three years apiece and Oral Roberts for four seasons.
Athletic director Lew Perkins is confident Self will stick with the storied program even longer despite the fact that there's a buzz about Oklahoma State preparing to make him a lucrative offer to return to his alma mater, replacing Sean Sutton.
``We gave Bill a new contract last year and he has told me as long as he's a college coach, he'll be at Kansas,'' Perkins told The Associated Press. ``Bill is an honorable man so I have no reason not to believe him when he says that.
``But if I was at Oklahoma State, I would go after him, too, because of the natural ties and because he's a great coach.''
Self, a former Oklahoma State player and assistant, said he will not even entertain the thought of returning to his native state to coach the Cowboys.
``If anybody is saying those things, I don't think it's coming from people in the know,'' Self said. ``I'm totally content on where I'm at. Our focus is Davidson and this team.''
Kanas gave Self a five-year contract extension last season, increasing his annual compensation to more than $1.3 million with a chance to make another $350,000 each year if he meets incentives.
Now, Self wants something money can't buy: Final Four experience.
``I would like to eliminate that tag, so to speak, but not for me as much as for these players,'' he said. ``I would love for them to add this to their resume because it will be incomplete without it.''

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