NEW ORLEANS,(Ticker) -- Either Kansas coach Roy Williams or Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will be able to celebrate his first national championship on Monday night when the Jayhawks meet the Orangemen at the Louisiana Superdome.
Both coaches, who have combined for a total of 1,070 career victories, have downplayed what capturing the elusive crown would mean, but it is part of the thought process entering Monday's showdown.
"It would mean a great deal to me," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "As a coach, you work for that your entire time you're in college basketball to reach the pinnacle."
"You're in this business and the whole thing from when you start, when you're a player, when you're a coach, is to try to win this thing," Boeheim said. "It's not fun when you don't win that last game."
Syracuse (29-5) is seeking its first national title and can erase the memory of its 1987 title game loss to Indiana when Keith Smart's jumper in the closing seconds gave the Hoosiers a 74-73 victory. The Orangemen also lost to Kentucky in the championship in 1996.
Freshman sensation Carmelo Anthony will be the reason, if Boeheim is to earn his title. Anthony has been nothing short of spectacular this season and poured in a season-high 33 points in a vintage performance in Saturday's 95-84 semifinal victory over Texas.
"I wanted to experience something like this," Anthony said. "It would be big for him, but it would be even bigger for me. This is my first year and to won a national championship in my first year would be big."
Anthony is poised to join Louisville's Pervis Ellison in 1986 and Utah's Arnie Ferrin in 1944 as freshmen to be named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
The Orangemen feature a pair of freshmen and two sophomores in their starting lineup. The youth has not been a hindrance since sophomore Hakim Warrick averages 15.1 points and freshman Gerry McNamara chips in 13.2.
Kansas (30-7) is seeking its third national title and first since 1988. The Jayhawks put on a fast-break clinic in a 94-61 rout of Marquette in their semifinal on Saturday.
Keith Langford scored 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting and Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Miles each added 18 points. Kansas led by as many as 43 points and posted its highest point total ever in a Final Four.
The Jayhawks rely on their senior scoring duo of Hinrich and Nick Collison. Collison averages 18.5 points and 9.7 rebounds while Hinrich averages 17.4 points per contest.
Williams said that he decided to remain at Kansas three years ago out of loyalty to Collison and Hinrich and would love to see them rewarded with a championship.
"It's overwhelming to be in this situation," Hinrich said. "We're playing for the national championship. This is why I came to Kansas."
The task of defending Anthony will likely go to Langford, who realizes he will need plenty of help from his teammates.
"There is not one way you can stop him," Langford said. "I think it's going to take an all-around effort and probably my best defense of the year. I feel good about my team and myself. The guys have confidence in me."
Kansas is 2-1 all-time against Syracuse and posted an 87-58 rout in the last meeting in the second round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. The Orangemen claimed a 60-57 upset over the Jayhawks in the West Region final of the 1996 NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse is 4-0 against Big 12 Conference opponents, including a 3-0 mark this season. The Orangemen own 45 NCAA Tournament victories, the most of any school not to win a championship.
Kansas, a No. 2 seed, has won 12 straight games against lower seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse is a No.3 seed.