It’s probably not too surprising that the first season with two players on this list is the last pre 2019 season where Kansas didn’t win the Big 12 regular season title, but was also a couple poor calls away from making it to the Final Four.
After a shoulder injury sidelined Simien for most of his sophomore season (and probably kept that 2003 team from winning a title), Simien returned with a vengeance in 2004. His per game stats were impressive: 17.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, and over an assist per game with almost a steal and block per game. In fact, he was just a few rebounds away from being just the fourth Bill Self at KU season with 17, 10, and an assist per game.
His efficiency was also impressive, shooting over 54 percent from two on a whopping 365 attempts. Simien took almost one fourth of the team’s shots when he was on the court, and didn’t lose much in terms of efficiency. Also keep in mind this wasn’t the spread em out and space the defense attack we have seen more of in recent years. Self’s early KU teams pounded the paint early and often, and Simien still managed to score at a remarkable clip.
His advanced stats that year are kind to him as well, ranking 2nd in the Big 12 in offensive win shares, and 6th in defensive win shares. While he was never an elite rim protector, Simien blocked enough shots and was strong enough to keep guys from getting deep post position on him. He also was an incredibly smart player, which helped him on both ends of the floor.
I still keep coming back to Simien’s efficiency. Among Bill Self at KU seasons, Simien is 3rd all time in 2-point percentage among guys with 350+ attempts. And while one could say Bill Self helped because his offense highlighted big men more than Roy Williams’ offense, Simien put up these numbers in Self’s first season, meaning he was essentially doing it while learning a brand new offense. He probably gets dinged a bit by a 4-14 performance against Georgia Tech in the Elite 8, but you also have to point out he had a 30 point effort against UAB in the Sweet 16 two days prior.
Simien was a workhorse, playing over 32 minutes pre game in an era that, for KU anyway, was controlled by physical play in the post, and he did so while putting up efficient numbers on offense and buying into Bill Self’s defensive style, showing he could play on that end as well. He overcame resentment caused by Roy’s departure the year before, and turned in a top 30 all time season for his new coach.