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Butterfly Doors: How Did Carmelo Anthony's High School Math Skills Affect KU Basketball?

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Retracing an alternate KU basketball history, if Carmelo Anthony continued to fail his ACT test in high school.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Last time we ran a Butterfly Doors simulation, (using 'simulation' in the absolute loosest definition of the word), it was related to Michael Jordan's retirement from the NBA in 1998, and how that trickle-down effect would reach Lawrence, Kansas and beyond.  Today, we're talking about Carmelo Anthony and isosceles triangles.

Like last time, there's no real point to this exercise, besides killing time until basketball season starts (just one more week until exhibition games!) and sparking bar-room arguments.  Today's question:  What if we lived in an alternate reality, one in which Carmelo Anthony was just slightly worse at math?  How would that affect us as KU fans?

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It's the spring of 2002.  Carmelo Anthony, a consensus top-3 recruit in the country, has committed to play for Jim Boeheim and Syracuse.  However, there's a problem.  While he averaged over 22 points per game on the basketball court his senior year, he has yet to drop 18 where he really needs it:  the ACT test.  After once more failing to conquer the Intermediate Algebra/Coordinate Geometry section on his latest attempt, Carmelo realizes this isn't 'Dangerous Minds', and there's no Michelle Pfeiffer to help him.  He reluctantly decides to "drop the remainder" on his college career and go straight to the NBA Draft.

Boeheim scrambles to replace 'Melo at the last minute, and ends up with bruising power forward Craig Smith, who de-commits from Boston College for the opportunity to start for the 'Cuse.  Behind Smith, fellow freshman Gerry McNamara, and Hakim Warrick, the Orangemen advance to the 2003 Elite 8, where they face off against Oklahoma.  Despite playing a virtual home game in Albany, Syracuse falls to Hollis Price and the Sooners.  The 2003 Final Four features three teams from the Big 12:  Oklahoma, Texas, and your Kansas Jayhawks.  KU destroys Dwyane Wade and Marquette in one semifinal, Oklahoma outlasts Texas in the other, and an all-Big 12 final comes to fruition-- the first title game to feature two teams from the same conference since....Kansas vs. Oklahoma in 1988.

Trailing by three points late in the contest, Michael Lee hits a three-pointer in the corner at the buzzer, over the outstretched arm of Kevin Bookout.  Kansas rolls in overtime, and Roy Williams finally has the national championship monkey off his back.  Basking in the afterglow of victory, Ol' Roy gleefully tells Bonnie Bernstein that he doesn't give a shit about North Carolina and their job opening, and this time he means it.  The next morning, Roy agrees to a 10-year extension at KU over Bourbon Street bloody marys.  North Carolina, frantically digging out of the ashes of the Matt Doherty era, writes Dean Smith a blank check to come out of retirement, in sort of a Kansas State football-Bill Snyder situation.

Meanwhile, in Norman, back-to-back Final Fours have legitimized Kelvin Sampson's program.  With this boost in credibility among recruits, Sampson no longer has to resort to burning up the phone lines like Alfonso Ribeiro's friends and family during 'Dancing with the Stars'.  The kind of recruiting violations that theoretically could define a career are avoided.  At the same time, the Big 12 establishes a much-needed second elite team, alongside the Jayhawks.

A newly re-energized Roy hits the recruiting trail hard, and after an Elite 8 season, his 2004-05 squad features a nucleus of Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, Wayne Simien, David Padgett, JR Giddens, and Marvin Williams.  Up the road a ways in Champaign, Illinois, Bill Self has quietly built himself a juggernaut as well.  His Illini team featuring Deron Williams, Luther Head, and Dee Brown only loses one contest on their way to the title game, where they face off against the Jayhawks.  Under the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, KU blitzes Illinois early with a flurry of three-point shooting and swarming defense.  After Kansas takes a 38-12 lead with 7 minutes to go in the first half, Billy Packer announces to a stunned television audience, "This game....is over."  Illinois makes an obligatory run, but KU holds them off in the end, and Ol' Roy has national title #2.

Over the next decade, Roy hangs a third championship banner in Allen Fieldhouse, and keeps the Jayhawks relevant as a title contender nearly every season.  Roy was long ago inducted into the Hall of Fame, and is as beloved in Lawrence as any head coach has ever been, in any town in America.  The day he retires, the court in Allen Fieldhouse will be renamed after him-- not to mention the number of children already running around the state of Kansas with the name 'Roy'.  He is currently gliding softly into retirement, and is definitely NOT coaching under the looming threat of academic sanctions related to his program.  The word on the street is that the KU Athletic Director position is Roy's to accept upon his retirement.  The name that has been thrown around most often to replace him as head basketball coach?  None other than Bill Self, who has turned Illinois into a national powerhouse.

Thanks for not being very good at solving for x, 'Melo.