We are taking the final four from each of the brackets and pitting these goliaths of Kansas basketball against each other to determine once and for all (or the best a blog can do) who the best player to suit up for Kansas in the past twenty seasons is.
Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, Brandon Rush, and Mario Chalmers emerged from the Self bracket and Paul Pierce, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, and Raef LaFrentz came from the Roy bracket.
This is being done in true Champions League style with two pots selected at random. The four players from each era were put into a random generator (random.org) and then after, they were put through the generator and came out listed as numbers one through four. The ones were pitted against each other, the twos will square off, and so on.
For the semi-finals, the four winners will be again put into the random generator (in order of highest percentage of votes) and the two semi-final matchups will be set. Note: If we see any of the same matchups as we have already seen in either of the two brackets, the random generator will be reset and reused until we have fresh matchups.
The first matchup that the generator spat out is Thomas Robinson against Nick Collison. Both of these players were semi-finalists in their respective brackets and failed to get to the championship match.
In order to evaluate Thomas Robinson, you probably just have to ignore his freshman year when he played behind Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins, and where he only averaged 7.2 minutes per game. Still, if you extrapolate his numbers in that 2009-10 season to a per 40 minutes basis, he would’ve averaged 14.1 points and 14.9 rebounds. Not bad.
Things improved in his sophomore season of 2010-11. His minutes doubled and his points per game and rebounds per game were respectable at 7.6 and 6.4 respectively. Per 40 minutes however, they increase to 20.8 and 17.6. Also remember that Robinson suffered unimaginable heartbreak that season as his grandparents and mother died in the span of a month. It was at that moment that the country fell in love with Thomas Robinson. Jayhawk fans were already intrigued by his power, pure athleticism and potential. That potential was realized in the 2011-12 season.
Robinson came out like a man on a mission that season. His minutes increased to 32 per contest and his numbers increased as well. He averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds in his junior campaign. He was the Big 12 Player of the Year and an obvious first team choice. He was a consensus first team All-American after leading the country in two point baskets (254), rebounds (463), defensive rebounds (350), and defensive rebound percentage (30.6%). Robinson skipped his senior season and KU but the regular season of his junior year culminated with an epic performance against Missouri, and his KU career ended in heartbreak in the 2012 NCAA title game. Robinson was drafted number 5 overall in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Nick Collison played all four years at KU, and his statistics increased each year. As a freshman, Nick averaged 10.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in 23 minutes of play per game. His statistics per 40 minutes increase to 18.4 and 12.1. Things got even better in his sophomore season of 2000-01. Collison averaged 14 points and 6.7 rebounds in 27 minutes per game (20.7 and 10 per 40). He was named to the first team All-Big 12 squad as a sophomore.
As a junior, he helped lead the Jayhawks to their first Final Four in a decade. Over the course of that season, Collision averaged 15.6 points and 8.3 boards per game (23.3 and 12.4 per 40). Kansas lost in the national semi-finals to eventual champion Maryland and Collison returned for his senior year to make amends.
And like Robinson, his final campaign at Kansas was his finest. He averaged 18.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in 2002-03 (22.8 and 12.3 per 40). 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. Collison’s senior year was punctuated by an All-World performance against Texas, but again like Robinson, his career ended in heartbreak in the 2003 NCAA title game. Collison was the 12th overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.
So, who’s it going to be? Robinson or Collison? Vote in the poll below until Tuesday at midnight KU time.