Alright, here it is, the big stage. And this stage couldn’t possibly have any bigger names on it. Pierce, Hinrich, Collison, and LaFrentz. These names defined Kansas basketball in the 1990’s and early 2000’s and now they are here representing Roy Williams’ recruiting prowess. They are all one-seeds and rightfully advanced.
These are some of the highest profile players to ever take to the hardwood at KU, and all of them have been/are great ambassadors for the program in the NBA. Pierce and Hinrich each garnered 100% of the votes, knocking out Scot Pollard and Wayne Simien, respectively. Raef LaFrentz grabbed 92% of the votes against Jacque Vaughn while Nick Collison wrestled away 69% of the votes in his match up with Drew Gooden. That battle looked to be the closest of all the quarterfinal matchups, and it proved to be just that. But the voters spoke, and the four-year man edged out the three-year stud.
Let’s take a closer look at the encounters that we have in store for the Final Four.
1 Paul Pierce v 1 Kirk Hinrich
Paul Pierce played at Kansas for three years, between 1995 and 1998. He played on what is widely considered the best Kansas team to not reach a Final Four (1996-97) and was a starter since day one. Pierce played 108 games over his career at KU and compiled a 98-11 record in that time. KU won the conference all three years while Pierce played on Mount Oread, going a combined 32-4 in that time. As for individual stats, Pierce averaged 16.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He shined in his junior (and final) season, averaging 20.4 and 6.7. That year, he was named to the all Big-12 first team (as a side note, look at the players above Pierce on the 1996-97 All-Big 12 teams. It’s laughable) and more importantly, he was named to the first team All-America squad after the 97-98 season.
Kirk Hinrich played at Kansas for four years, between 1999 and 2003. He played in 141 games during his career at Kansas, and the team went 113-29 overall and 53-11 in Big 12 action. KU finished fifth, second, first (undefeated 16-0), and first in conference in Kirk’s years at Kansas. Individually, he averaged 12.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in his tenure at Kansas, with his senior year being his best. In 2002-03, Kirk averaged 17.3 points per contest. He was a first team All-Big 12 performer in both his junior and senior seasons where he led Kansas to back-to-back Final Four appearances.
1 Nick Collison v 1 Raef LaFrentz
Nick Collison played with Kirk Hinrich for all four years at KU, so you can take a look up there to see the team’s performance with Nick on the court. Obviously, his teams made it to Final Fours as well. Individually, Collison scored 14.8 points and grabbed 8.0 rebounds per game over his time at Kansas. He was named to the first team All-Big 12 squad as a sophomore. But again, his senior campaign was his finest. He averaged 18.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in 2002-03. That year, he was named to the All-Big 12 first team and the All-America first team. He also took away the big prize- the NABC 2002-03 National Player of the Year award.
Raef LaFrentz played at KU from 1994 until 1998, and over those four seasons, he played in 131 games compiling a 123-17 overall record and a 43-7 conference record. KU won the Big 8/Big 12 all four years that Raef played. As for individual stats, Raef had them in droves. He averaged 15.8 points and 9.1 rebounds in his tenure at KU, again saving the best for last. His senior campaign featured these numbers- 19.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest.
He took home many individual accolades as well. He earned first team All-Big 12 honors in his junior and senior seasons, taking the conference Player of the Year award with him both times. He was also a consensus pick to the first team All-America squad in both his junior and senior seasons.
Needless to say, with these two matchups of great KU talent, the writers and commenters at Rock Chalk Talk have their work cut out for them.
Here’s the updated bracket to this point.
As always, put your votes in the comments. We’ll give it until noon on Wednesday KU time to get the votes in.