Sorry for this being a day later than I intended it to be. Blame the Royals, for I have been a tad distracted (despite the fact that we are in the Final Four) by the fact that my Royals are now the last undefeated team in all of Major League Baseball...
As soon as the brackets were announced on Selection Sunday, the eyes immediately turned to one potential matchup: North Carolina vs. Kansas. Even though they wouldn't meet each other until the Final Four, if both teams could manage four consecutive wins to reach San Antonio, the matchup was being advertised as the must-see affair of the Tournament, which is probably the reason why the game is the late, primetime game this Saturday.
For some reason or another, Carolina and Kansas have more links than any other pair of historical powers. Dean Smith, the man associated with North Carolina basketball more than any other, went to school at Kansas, even winning a National Championship in 1952 for his idol, Dr. Phog Allen. There is the 1957 National Championship game, a triple overtime thriller between the Tar Heels and Jayhawks, a game that UNC won. There are the two Final Four semifinal matchups in 1991 and 93, the first game being described as "the most difficult game I ever coached" by Roy Williams.
Which brings us to the biggest connection between these two storied programs; Roy Williams. He is the reason that the experts and prognosticators looked at the possible matchup in the Final Four excitedly. If you are here, reading this blog, no doubt you have heard the story of Roy Williams. There is no need for me to rehash it for you, as his story has had thousands upon thousands of words written about it, both while a coach here in Lawrence and in Chapel Hill. Put simply, he has been the head honcho of both programs at one time or another. Now for the Tar Heels, and for 15 years (between 1989-2003) for the Jayhawks. Because of this, along with his nostalgia documented everywhere from the Kansas City Star to ESPN, he is at the center of the game. Whenever UNC-KU is brought up, the attention first turns to Roy Williams before then moving to breaking down how we will guard Tyler Hansbrough and how fast the tempo will be. America loves a good story, and this is the juiciest left in the Tournament. Good basketball only sells so many papers and only draws so many viewers, so while they will take it if that is all they can find, whenever a story as interesting as Roy Williams' drops into your laps, you play it up.
So, while I'm not necessarily miffed over the media's insistence of including Roy Williams in any-and-all discussion on this game, I'm not going to waste any time here. At least beyond this article, saying that I'm not talking about it. Counter-productive, maybe, but just making sure no one is coming here looking for my opinion on Roy. I love the man. I don't really understand how any "true" Kansas fan can 'hate' the man, considering he took us to four Final Fours and made a seamless transition from probation to consistent Tournament success. While Kansas' tradition extends far beyond Roy Williams, he is certainly a crucial and vital part of our tradition, and you have to respect that. No, I'm not a big fan of his move to North Carolina. And not because of the fact that he actually left for the job, it is arguably a mini-step up and, more importantly, where he grew up and his absolute dream job. Since he was a kid, he always dreamed about being the next coach of North Carolina. I didn't like his promise in 2000 never to leave after rejecting the Tar Heels, only to turn around three years later and accept the job. Nor did I appreciate how he made the decision such a public one, but that one is more on the media than him, I guess.
But if he accepts the job in 2000, we don't hire Bill Self. Who knows who we hire, actually. He could have been a flop, and there would have been no Final Fours in 2002 and 2003. I'm glad Roy stayed those three years, even if it involved a lack of honesty in order to leave in 03.
So, my message for this post is twofold. First off, don't talk about Roy anymore. There are more important things at stake, like a shot in the Championship game for example, than Roy Williams facing his old team. I love the man, but this game ain't about him. It is about two basketball clubs who have labored all season to reach the Final Four, and to suddenly make it all about a coach who has been in charge of both schools isn't fair to the kids from either side. Second, don't hate the guy for chasing his dream. It is sad if we, as a fan base, hate on a guy for taking a job.
Later on tonight: Some KenPom observations, before moving on to really in-depth previewing tomorrow and Saturday during the day.
I can't wait for Saturday.