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The Best Players of the Roy Williams Era: Elite 8

We’re down to the Elite 8 in the quest to find the best player of the Roy Williams era at Kansas and these eight are pretty doggone good.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

We’re down to the Elite 8 of this bracket, and quite frankly, I’d take these eight guys and throw them on a court, and be able to argue with a straight face that this team could beat any combination of Kansas team ever assembled. You’ve got a pure point guard (Jacque Vaughn), a shooting guard/point guard combo (Kirk Hinrich), a small forward (Paul Pierce), a versatile forward (Wayne Simien), three power forwards/centers (Raef LaFrentz, Drew Gooden, and Nick Collison), and a utility big man (Scot Pollard). Realistically, this team needs one more guard to take minutes from Vaughn and Hinrich and it would be pretty close to impossible to stop. You’ve got some tough decisions ahead of you, Rock Chalk Talk.

1 Paul Pierce v 3 Scot Pollard

Paul Pierce swept Rex Walters in the voting as expected while the 2/3 match-up of Aaron Miles and Scot Pollard was the closest battle that we’ve seen yet, with the three-seed Pollard winning 58% to 42%.

So, who will it be for a place in the Final Four? Paul Pierce was a consensus first team All-American performer in 1997-98 when he averaged 20.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. And I guess the old saying that Roy Williams is the only coach that has ever been able to limit Pierce’s scoring is true when you look at his numbers at a per 40 minutes level. If he played 40 minutes per game, you could’ve expected Paul Pierce to average 37.7 points and 14.4 rebounds in his seasons in Lawrence.

Scot Pollard averaged 9.4 points over his four years, but what might be more amazing is the fact that his numbers increased when Raef LaFrentz came to KU and stayed steady when Pierce arrived. In his three years playing those guys (two with Pierce), Pollard averaged 10.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

1 Kirk Hinrich v 2 Wayne Simien

Hinrich won his battle over Greg Ostertag with an unsurprising 100% of the votes while Wayne Simien steamrolled past Mark Randall (94%) to get to the Elite 8.

Now, We have a true heavyweight battle. Statistically, these guys are almost impossible to compare as they had such differing styles and played different positions. They both went to two Final Fours, although only Hinrich played a prominent role averaging 15 points per game (three career games) while Simien was injured in the late stages of 2003 and missed the tournament. He scored four points as a freshman in the 2002 loss to Maryland. They both had their finest seasons as seniors- Hinrich averaged 17.3 PPG (20.7 per 40 minutes while Simien averaged 20.3 PPG and 23.7 per 40). Simien’s stats got him on the All-America First Team, Kirk’s did not.

So, who will it be- one of the guys Roy Williams said he couldn’t leave behind at Kansas, or the guy who he in fact left behind when he left Kansas?

1 Nick Collison v 2 Drew Gooden

Collison had no problem dispatching of Ryan Robertson (he got all the votes) while Drew Gooden cruised past Jeff Boschee with 76% of the vote (much to Fetch’s chagrin). This really could be a battle you’d see in the Final Four. It’s unfortunate that one of these guys is going to lose out at this point.

Here is a chart listing the accomplishments of these two guys, side by side:

Nick Collison

Drew Gooden

2002-03 NABC National Player of the Year

2001-02 NABC National Player of the Year

2002-03 First Team All-American

2001-02 First Team All-American

2002-03 Big XII Player of the Year

2001-02 Big XII Player of the Year

Two time First Team All-Big XII (01, 03)

First Team All Big XII (2002)

Led NCAA in Rebounds in 02-03 (380)

Led NCAA in Rebounds in 01-02 (423)

2001-02 Big XII Leader in Blocks (83)

2001-02 Big XII leading scorer (19.8 PPG)

2001-02 Big XII Blocks per game leader (2.2)

2001-02 Big XII Leading rebounder (11.4 RPG)

Career at KU: 14.8PPG/8.0 RPG- 21.6 PPG per 40 minutes

Career at KU: 15.6 PPG/9.2 RPG- 23.8 PPG per 40 minutes

1 Raef Lafrentz v 2 Jacque Vaughn

Raef LaFrentz won 94% of the votes over Billy Thomas while Jacque Vaughn beat Keith Langford with ease, and even though many commenters believed it to be a tough decision, Vaughn still secured 94% of the vote.

It’s a battle of teammates here and the statistics really favor LaFrentz. Raef was the Big 12 Player of the year in 1996-97 and 1997-98. He was also named a first team All-American in those two seasons. He averaged 15.8 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game while at KU, but if you extrapolate those numbers over a 40 minute game, LaFrentz’s numbers balloon. Per 40 minutes, Raef averaged 30.7 PPG and 17.6 RPG.

But, don’t forget, Jacque Vaughn was a floor general and an integral part of some great teams. He was a first team All-Big 8 performer in 1994-95. Over 126 games at Kansas, Vaughn averaged 9.6 points and 6.4 assists per game.

Here it is in bracket form.

Elite 8

As always, put your votes in the comments. We’ll give it until noon KU time on Friday to get the votes in.