Free throws didn't cost Kansas the 2003 NCAA championship: A convincing argument


I was perusing through on Tuesday (imagine that) and stumbled across something I thought was extremely interesting.

As most everyone around here knows, Kansas went 12-for-30 from the free-throw line in the 2003 national championship game against Syracuse, with the Orangemen going on to win the game, 81-78.

KU made just four of 17 free throws in the second half (23.5 percent), an occurrence that Ken Pomeroy himself later said that, based on chance, had a less than one in 1,000 chance of happening taking into account the 63.3 percent free-throw percentage of KU's shooters coming into the game.

Naturally, everyone blamed KU's poor free-throw shooting for the loss. It seemed obvious to do so.

Chris Bowers has another take on the game. And I think it might just change your opinion on how that championship game was won/lost.

I emailed Chris, and he agreed to let me re-post part of an email he sent to Ken Pomeroy last week. His words are in italics below.

As a Syracuse fan, the idea that Kansas choked always bugged me. Not only does it feels like a swipe at the legitimacy Syracuse’s title, but the numbers don’t hold up. Surprising though it may be, Kansas was actually more efficient from the free throw line than Syracuse that night. Take a look at the play-by-play and box score here.

Kansas went 12-30 from the line, and missed the front end of 2 one-and-ones. Effectively, that is 12-32. However, Kansas also scored 6 points via offensive rebounds on their missed free throws.* So, effectively, Kansas produced 18 points from 32 free throw attempts.

Syracuse went 10-17 from the line. They also missed the front end of 1 one-and-one, and scored zero points from offensive rebounds on missed free throws. So, effectively, Syracuse produced 10 points from 18 free throw attempts.

Kansas: 18-32 for an efficiency rate of 0.5625 per free throw Syracuse: 10-18 for an efficiency rate of 0.5556 per free throw

Thus, Kansas was actually slightly more efficient in terms of effective points per free throw attempt than Syracuse.

The 2003 national title game was actually won and lost at the three-point line, not the free throw line. Syracuse shot 11-18 beyond the arc, while Kansas went only 4-20. Whether or not you consider that to be luck might be another matter. However, as a Syracuse fan and a number cruncher, I feel a lot more comfortable discussing Syracuse’s timely three-point shooting than the illusion of Kansas choking from the line.

  • — Thanks to the magic of NCAA Vault, you can see the three times KU scored off missed free throws here, here and here.

I went back through the box score, and Chris' numbers hold up.

As Chris said in his email to me, "I really think it was about the 3's, not the free throws. People just like to blame free throws because, well, everyone likes to blame free throws."

Thanks to Chris' analysis, I'm already re-thinking my own thoughts on the game that I thought I knew well.


Queen_Krenda 11 years, 11 months ago

Reading this makes me physically sickened.

Code_2008 11 years, 11 months ago

You know... I preferred those Jerseys instead of the ones we have now...

I still remember watching that game... I still remembered being heartbroken when I saw the 3 go right as the clocked expired... that game was hard to take in for a 10-year-old KU fan at the time. Especially when all the KSU fans rubbed it in your faces about Kansas choking in the big game.

But the sweeter it was 5 years later when it went in. :D

Christopher Hauser 11 years, 11 months ago

If I recall, we did fair job of executing against the cuse zone but they were very long and athletic and Joey Mac (his Freshman year I believe may be wrong though) was on fire for Syracuse. We moved the ball well and got good looks but they just did not fall.

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 11 months ago

This is relevant to our national championship victory over Memphis. So many people say that Memphis choked it away at the free throw line. They certainly missed some key free throws late. But we made some timely threes as well. I think Bill Self answered some questions about the concept. Memphis had to miss the free throws in order for us to have a chance to win, but we had to make some huge shots to put us in that position too. So, you have to factor in the luck and also the poise to make the huge plays down the stretch.

number1jayhawker 11 years, 11 months ago

Nick might have missed most of his free-throws, but Captain Kirk was miserable from behind the arc. Plenty of blame to go around.

Mo Golany 11 years, 11 months ago

jesse a cuse fan? ok how do u explain the worst charge call on aaron miles that mcnamara took. should have been a 3 pt play that would have totally changed the game. langford 5 fouls were bs also. I'm still bitter over that.

Brandon Snook 11 years, 11 months ago

It is true that Gerry MacNamara lit us up that night behind the arc. He was unstoppable. But, had we made our usual percentage of free throws, we could have won the game (63.3% compared to the tweaked 56.25%).

Byrd313 11 years, 11 months ago

I'm hoping for a KU v. Cuse rematch this year. It would be nice to get payback from the heartbreaking loss of 2003.

Christopher Hauser 11 years, 11 months ago

drgnslayr- Also should add that a lot of the looks from three for Syracuse were wide open, if memory serves me right I remember yelling at the television set pleading for one of our guards to close out on open shooters behind the arc (obviously they could not hear me). So I have always thought it would have been a different game if we would have both rotated and defended better behind the arc. Still have to give Syracuse credit for knocking down the shots and passing well enough to get our defense off balance though.

Christopher Hauser 11 years, 11 months ago

Here is the box score from that night. Syracuse shot well from the field in general. One thing is for sure, the officiating did not cost us the game.

                               SYRACUSE                                   KANSAS

FG Made-Attempted 30-63 (.476) 31-71 (.437) 3P Made-Attempted 11-18 (.611) 4-20 (.200) FT Made-Attempted 10-17 (.588) 12-30 (.400) Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/0) 16 (0/0)

jayhawkboogeyman 11 years, 11 months ago

Using out-of-context stats like this really doesn't tell you anything about how the game turned out. For example, getting fouled and missing what would have been an easy lay up, then missing the free throws is much worse than making 1/2 free throws with a lead in the final minute of the game. And you could say the same thing about three pointers - had the percentages been a couple % different either way, the outcome is different. My point is, there are no independent events in the game; they are all causally related. Just looking at stats gives the impression that the game is like shooting practice and we just needed to make four more to win. We didn't lose because of free throws, maybe, but 12-30 is completely unacceptable and puts you in a bad position to win.

Tony Bandle 11 years, 11 months ago

drgnslayr..I totally agree;

1] As mentioned above, three point rebounds are a whole different animal, favoring the shooting team over the "in position" team. 2] The obvious, of course, the extra point i.e. it takes three buckets to equal two three...etc. 3] You limit Condors impact on the game [if you're hitting those shots, that is] 4] You stretch the defense and create driveable gaps. 5] You take a crowd out of a game or bring them into the game, whichever is to your advantage 6] And one small thing..there's always a chance for a four point play!!

timecronk 11 years, 11 months ago

The reason we lost the game was because Mcnamara's five 3s in the first half put us so far behind, that we had to expend a massive amount of energy trying to catch up. I seem to remember a lot of the free throw opportunities happened toward the end of the game, but you could see that Nick was just too exhausted to put them in. Its very tough to make free throws when your legs are gone.

waywardJay 11 years, 11 months ago


I'm not sure I buy the cuse's numbers on this one. It sounds like someone who is trying to Justify Syracuse ( a team that on that night in particular was was hitting jumper after jumper ) not getting to the free throw line, na d yet still manufacturing a win.

3 free throws or a 6th Langford foul could have made all the difference..... Still, Syracuse can look at wide open three point shots and claim that's where it won it without Kansas Giving them nothing.... I don't think so.

We lost that game because the reason Roy Williams is struggling now, We had a YOUNG combo guard running the majority of our Point guard play, we played mediocre Defense, and we missed a TON of Free throws.

In essence, you can blame the Loss more on Roy than anything, should we immediately give Boeheim Credit because they hit open shots, did not drive the lane , played a junk defense against us, and did not miss a ton of free throws....

We still lost that game at the line, Sorry Syracuse fan.

Eurekahwk 11 years, 11 months ago

We lost because ole Roy thinks that swinging for the fences and winning by beating everyone to 100 is more pretty. We gave up 53 by halftime. We scored 78, that is enough points to win most games. Defense wins championships.

86finalfour 11 years, 11 months ago

Interesting read. Yes, the headlines were all about the free throws. And after watching the most painful game of my life, I never really thought it was free throw myself. With some time and distance, it was clear to me that McNamara was the reason for that loss. He had the game of his life and the Hawks spent everything they had to catch up. Fatigue=missed free throws. Ugh, so so painful....

Yes, Code, it made 08 so much sweeter!

Michael Leiker 11 years, 11 months ago

Wish I wouldn't have opened this...what a painful night.

Scott Smetana 11 years, 11 months ago

I agree, free throws were only part of the problem. Why didn't we guard McNamara better? I don't see this happening to a Bill Self coached Defense.

Arley 11 years, 11 months ago

Dear Mr. Greek Guy,

The numbers you and the Syracuse guy looked at aren't terribly meaningful because (as always) the outcome was a combination of several factors. If Kansas would have made their normal % of foul shot, the Jayhawks would have won. If Syracuse had shot their normal % of threes in the second half Kansas would have won.

Two other stats to look at are rebound differential and turn over differential. I don't know the numbers for that game, but each is worth about two points........assuming about a 50% shooting percentage for both teams....... the the shot one team didn't get to take and the other did.

So, comparing and debating about how KU lost the game comes down to those four things = Lights out three point shooting for Syracuse in the second half, poor foul shooting for KU, and then whatever the rebound/turnover differential was; which, for all I know, might have been in Kansas favor which would then mean we were lucky to get as close as we did.

The debate doesn't mean a lot, but isn't it fun anyway?? These kinds of things are what fans live for and it's a great thing.


Tony Bandle 11 years, 11 months ago

leikness...what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

Think of it this way, it made 2008 just that much sweeter!!

As I've talked to my two brothers who are Jayhawks [the other two are a Cyclone and a Saluki..but I love them anyway.] If each of our top five guys play to match their best performance this season, we will be untouchable. If four out of five do this we will be dominant. If three out of five do this we will win out. If two out of five do this we still have a decent chance. If one out of five do this it depends on the match-up but we'd have a shot. If none out of five do this, I will eat Lew Perkins undershorts with soy sauce and lemon!!

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, right. That Roy chump could never have won a title. Never!

(Whatever happened to that guy after he left KU anyway? I haven't been keeping up.)

BCRavenJHawkfan 11 years, 11 months ago

McNamara was a shooting savant that game. I agree with the assessment to a point. Notice Chris does not mention where the points off the missed free throws come from. In other words, were the 6 points off the front end of the one and one (KU had two opportunities for those) or was it off the back end. If it was off the front end then all that did was to bring the point total closer to what KU would have normally had if both the front and back end of the free throws had been made. The ONLY time the points off the missed free throws would have been a bonus is from the back end because that is essentially a three point play, 1 from the free throw and 2 from the goal. Something tells me that didn't happen.

Jayhawk_in_Morgantown 11 years, 11 months ago

hawk: How many did he win at Kansas? In how many years of wasted recruits and disgusting tournament losses?

Less tendentiously: Roy is good at many things. He's great at coaching a team that out-talents his opponents. But you can not make the case that he is a good in-game coach. He just isn't, and I bet no Roy-ophile would make that argument on his behalf.

When you are in the tournament (and for sure in the championship game), you are going to be playing in against a coach who wants to win so badly he's willing to pull out the stops. How many times did we see Roy get mad at the players and quit because his "brilliant, can't fail" plan didn't work out?

I thank God the UNC job opened up so we could scrape him off our shoe.

prairiehawk 11 years, 11 months ago

During my first year of high school, I had a fair but OK basketball coach (he knew x and o's but often was a jerk when dealing with his players). However, I remember two very important and sound concepts he taught our team, and it help me tremendously as a varsity player later on and even later in life. He taught us: 1) free throws are JUST THAT - SIMPLY FREE (he always called them the charity line points). He would say "no one is guarding you, it does NOT matter what the other team shoots, and it is simply a matter of complete concentration and basic skill. Practice them long and hard and always shoot them the same way. AND HIS GOAL WAS 100% AS A TEAM. He demanded it and we would lead the league year in and year out. THEY WON US MANY, MANY GAMES, especially close games - we knew we would win close games. He taught us a simple 6 step free-throw shot - that was absolutely, unbelieveably effective. When shooting them we thought of only those 6 steps - nothing else, especially not the score or the outcome of the game. I LEARNED AT THAT POINT - THAT YES FREE THROWS ARE AN ESSENTIAL AND EXTREMELY POWERFUL PART OF THE GAME and it has nothing to do with other team (not how big, not how talented, not even how well they shoot - it has ONLY to do with you, period, and that sucess is up to you) That concept is DEAD in today's college game (as a team concept). 2) While most people look at the last 5 or so minutes of a game, he would point out that a loss can occur in even the first few minutes of a game. After a game that we lost by 2 points, a player who had missed 3 "charity" shots and was feeling as low a person could, coach asked us "did anyone else miss any free-throw, miss a lay-up, loose your man on defense at any point in the game?" yes, we all had, but it was not at the end when everything is on the line I pointed out. His answer was this, "your buddy did NOT lose the game, he had missed the opportunity to win it and everyone saw that, but you all had opportuniities to win it earlier - you just did not realize that.

He was right on both accounts. All charity shots and not just the game ending things -CAN AND DO CHANGE THE OUTCOMES. I also think this is true in college and pro games, as well as life in general. THE SMALL DETAIL OR LOSS OF CONCENTRATION OR EFFORT (ESPECIALLY EARLY ON) CAN RESULT IN DEFEAT!!!

kugrad93 11 years, 11 months ago

I don't find the argument that convincing. KU was 12 of 30 at the line, which means they missed 18 free throws. They made six points off offensive rebounds? Big deal. That means they got zero points off of the other 15 or 16 FTA attempts they missed (depending on whether the six points were scored on two- or three-point baskets). Yes, the three-point shooting was horrible, but that wouldn't have made a difference if they had made the easy shots. Graves and Collison were terrible at the line in that game. I was at that game, and the missed foul shots is what will always stick in my mind.

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 11 months ago

Why do people still feel they have to throw Roy under the bus to praise Self?

Right, Morgantown. Roy is the ONLY coach who ever lost early in the tournament, the ONLY coach who ever chewed out his own players during a game. If only Roy was a better in-game coach, Gerry MacNamara never would have made those half-court 3-pointers and Nick Collison would have made his free throws. Just keep telling yourself that.

Sure he won 80 percent of his games and went to 4 Final Fours and brought Kansas back to a level of consistent excellence that it hadn't seen since the Phog Allen era. But what a loser!

86finalfour 11 years, 11 months ago

in watching that you tube recap, their defense was pathetic. Seriously, Self would be sick if he saw those holes and lack of blocking shots. It's clear now what Self's plan/fate was when he got to Mt. Oread.

No disrespect to Roy, but Self is the whole package in my mind.

John Myers 11 years, 11 months ago

I think probably my favorite non-KU NCAA basketball moment was watching McNamara sit on the bench, injured, as A&M knocked Syracuse out of the tourney in the first round for the last game of his college career.

Jayhawktriplegrad 11 years, 11 months ago

If you want someone to blame for 2003, try Dean Smith and North Carolina who announced their coaching vacancy the weekend before the Final Four. I was in New Orleans, and all media and pretty much everyone else was focused on one thing--will Roy leave?

Don't you think that distraction might have been worth 4 points?

Dean Smith could have held that announcement until the day AFTER his alma mater played for the championship.

CaramelMacchMan 11 years, 11 months ago

we had 49 boards and they had 34 boards! Graves and Collision were on.

KU 11 years, 11 months ago

Jesse, I saw that same article and found it thought provoking. No doubt, McNamara was just lights out in the first half. My take is McNamara's hot shooting mixed with Roy's weird-big-game-vibe made our guys freak out and play tight and we could never get over the hump. Roy just seems to bring out the worst in his players in big games--at least he did when he was at KU.

His first title at UNC was explainable by the fact that he had great players from another coach and didn't have enough time to make them all head-cases like he is. Last year, he just had one of those perfect storm years. I don't like Hansbrough, but he WAS a great college player, and he had a great supporting cast. Jesse, you could have probably coached last year's UNC team to a championship. This year, we are seeing how average a game/x-and-o's coach Roy really is, especially when the chips are down. His strong suit is that he could recruit (every other year). By contrast, watching Bill Self mould and shape his players psyches and performance is like watching a brilliant painter work.

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 11 months ago

86finalfour: I watched the first half of that video and saw exactly one unguarded shot by the 'Cuse. Whatever you may think of Roy, I've never heard Hinrich, Collison and Miles described as "pathetic" defenders.

(I wonder if all those who say Roy is a bad coach because of a few big-game losses like this one were saying the same thing about Self after Bucknell and Bradley.)

Jayhawktriplegrad: If the Roy-to-UNC rumors were such a distraction in the Final Four, then why did we obliterate Dwayne Wade and Marquette in the semifinal?

Michael Bratisax 11 years, 11 months ago

I'm sorry, but saying that Coach Williams could not out coach teams with more talent is utterly ridiculous. In both 91 and 93, Coach Williams made the Final Four with teams who had plenty of heart but not enough talent. In '91, the Jayhawks beat both Indiana and Arkansas to reach the finals against Duke. Coach Williams is a complete coach who can not only recruit great talent but can make the moves when needed to get the most from his team.

ObiWan 11 years, 11 months ago

Jesse, you've done it again! You never fail to brighten my day by catering to the KU hoops fanatics. This game is a major event in my life, as I was a 20 year-old living next door to Memorial Stadium that year. And, oh what a year it was! Beating a very good Duke team, the amazing finish to the Arizona game, then dominating D-Wade and Marquette. The agony of McNamara burying threes, and the joy of getting back in the game. A heartbreaking finish, but overall a great game. Some positive things often overlooked:

-Keith Langford was incredible in his first two tourneys! I believe foul trouble kept him off the court some in the championship game, I think because he guarded Melo a little bit (way undersized), but still turned in a brilliant game. -Collison had 21 reebs. Such a great college player, but a disappointing loss to end his career. Was phenomenal in the Duke win. -Gravy! Jeff Graves had his best game as a Jayhawk, with 16 and 16. -Hinrich left the game with a hurt ankle, but after he came back in he went baseline and threw it down viciously in someone's face. His best dunk as a Jayhawk, hands down. Desperation 3 as time expired came oh so close. -And, yes, I'm gonna say it...Michael Lee's shot was going in. We all felt it. He caught the pass in rhythm and had a perfect release, but Warrick made a legendary defensive play. It would have been a very different legacy for Mr. Lee had that shot gone down. He's still one of my favorite glue-guys to ever play here.

Roy's last game was a great one. It ended a terrific era, but welcomed in an even better one. You can blame free throws, or Gerry, or Hakim, or Roy, or Melo, or Dean Smith, but I think the chapter was meant to end this way. Who knows what would be happening here if we had won? I wouldn't trade what we have accomplished since then for anything.

Dan Harris 11 years, 11 months ago

DAMN YOU 86!! I had buried the horror of that game deep in my cortex and just couldn't resist opening your link. May you rot in hell!( kidding)

Steve Gantz 11 years, 11 months ago

This argument in some ways reminds me of the 08 championship. You hear a lot in the national media that Memphis choked the game away at the line. Of course they missed some key ones down the stretch. But, man o man, we made some plays! That's what won the game for the Jayhawks.

As for the 03 game, even if we shoot one over 50% we win. The mathematical tomfoolery notwithstanding.

The contrast of euphoria of the Marquette game, imagine winning 70-30 at one point!, with the title game which had no joy at all is what I will always remember from that year.

TJWhatley 11 years, 11 months ago

The argument is: KU was more efficient from the line, therefore that's not what lost them the game. ?!?!?! What a moronic way to analyze statistics. By averages, they should have made 19 free throws. Then, on some of those misses they would have likely had offensive rebounds. That's at least 7 points. THEY LOST BY THREE. They were below their average from both the FT line and the 3 point line. Unlike 3 point shots, FTs aren't defended. Missing un-defended shots is the essence of choking.

TJWhatley 11 years, 11 months ago

Syracuse could have missed all their free throws and still won by three - that doesn't change the fact that they missed shots they normally wouldn't have missed. This is a different scenario from Derrick Rose missing FTs in the final minute: he's a guy who wasn't a great FT shooter and who played the game more timidly than he should have. Derrick Rose misses FTs and KU gets to come back. BUT KU was the only team that was capable of coming back at that point in the game. In '03 a whole bunch of teams could have won against KU when they made less than 50% FTs and the opposing team hits way more 3s than was statistically likely. Bottom line: the better team lost in '03, whereas the better team won in '08.

HawkInAL 11 years, 11 months ago

I was at that game, in the rafters of the Superdome, in utter disbelief... at McNamara hitting nasty off-balance 3's from NBA-range, at us missing open 3's, at us continuing to shoot 3's, at us looking bad against a zone, at all the missed FT's and finally, at the lack of defensive intensity/effort/mindset..... whatever.

In retrospect, I remember just a couple years before that, while recovering from hernia surgery watching the Hawks lose to Illinois through a haze of pina coladas and painkillers, I thought aloud to my wife- "Why don't we block out like that? Why don't we defend like that? Why don't we high-low? Why aren't we that efficient?"

Now we're THAT team. Bill's the man.

Dan Harris 11 years, 11 months ago

HawkinAL_ I agree, I remember watching that Ill game and thinking the same thing. I also kept watching as Illinois out hustled,muscled and generally punked us all over the court. Roy's teams were graceful and fast like a cheetah, but soft. Self had a pack of Lions and as much as I loved Roy, I'm glad we Have Self now!

Mike Kendall 11 years, 11 months ago


Okay, I opened the link. So, what the hell, I'll feel the pain again. After watching the painful memories a second time, I am glad I did. What it tells me is that HC Bill Self is so much better at coaching defense than Roy. Mac would not have had the success against a Bill Self-coached team VS a Roy Williams-coached team. I remember Syracuse's coach, Jim Boeheim, went on the Dave Letterman Show after they won it. Coach Boeheim was asked what he said to Roy Williams after the game. Boeheim said that, "Roy, you're going to win one, you're going to win one!" Unfortunately, that was right before Roy said he was leaving for Carolina. So, here I am, suffering from this stupid loss, and then, our coach leaves us! Unbelievable! Enter Bill Self. What a great hire.

BTW---Let's not sugar-coat this!!!! We lost the game because of poor FT shooting.

Steve Gantz 11 years, 11 months ago

Ralster "the first half vs. UNC in 08 was the best-played college basketball I have ever seen". I'd probably say that about either the 88 championship 1st half, 50-50! or the whole game against Marquette, with the UNC game a close 3rd. Either way all great memories of being a Jayhawk fan.

Steve Gantz 11 years, 11 months ago

By the way since this seems to be the active thread, UNC lost tonight. Anyone know where that puts us in the race to 2000? This web page has something on the top, but you click on it and it doesn't seem to have a current tally.

Mike Kendall 11 years, 11 months ago

wissoxfan83---I saw the last 10 minutes of the North Carolina game. The cameras were panning around the Dean Dome. There were a lot of empty blue chairs. Definitely, a sad state of affairs!

Steve Gantz 11 years, 11 months ago

It's really pretty shocking to see. I thought UNC was immune to down years. I guess KU's the only immune program out there!

DCLawHawk 11 years, 11 months ago


UNC's loss leaves them with 1998 wins. KU is at 1997 with a chance to get win number 2000 in the last regular season game at Mizzou. UNC has a road game at Wake, a home game with Miami, and another road game at Duke left in the regular season. UNC is 14-14 now. The Tarheels could easily end the season 15-17 with only 1999 wins and no trip to the postseason. Even that record assumes either a home win versus Miami or a first-round win in the ACC tournament.

murph 11 years, 11 months ago

The best comment in here refers to Roy "turning players into head cases". That's absolutely what he does - he recruits good guys who want desperately to please. Then, when it's a big game, the COACH chokes, and it's obvious to the world that he's scared silly and doubting everything and everybody. It was painfully obvious in the 1997 game - a game featuring no less than SIX guys drafted to play in the NBA - one of them as high as # 3 (and it was that same Raef who whiffed a 3 that would have tied it at the end of regulation) - that Roy was playing not to lose. Jacque Vaughn picked up the vibe and played the same way. Too late, Roy finally put in Ryan Robertson who went flat-out and nearly saved the game. Then came the 2003 debacle. And, by the way, 2002 was no bunch of fun, either. Roy simply doesn't come through when the going is hard. He won his first ring with someone else's recruits, and last year the pressure was off. AND he had Psycho T - who listened to his own inner voices, not the choke artist.

Ryan Peck 11 years, 10 months ago

I was at the Final Four that year. After running Dwayne Wade and Marquette out of the gym Saturday night in the semis, I was sure we'd steam roll Syracuse. The poor shooting was due to Syracuse's awesome D that night more than anything. Still, ya gotta wonder...

86finalfour 11 years, 10 months ago

Hawk of ages,

Yes, maybe I overreacted with the open look comment but there is not the defensive intensity of a Self team. Just look at this year's defense at the last 5 minutes of the Texas A&M game or the 2008 team. They're swarming, like there are 7 players on the floor. And I just didn't see that at all with the 2003 team. In addition, I think Self would've changed the defensive strategy to stop McNamara. Put someone different on him. Self's teams don't allow one player to score like that over and over again (exception: Acie Law and Arron Afflalo ~ ouch!).

mikendal, Thanks for your comment. Glad you agree with me about the defensive intensity of Self vs Roy teams.

Rock Chalk!

JBurtin 11 years, 10 months ago

Being more efficient from the free throw line is a conveniently skewed stat for a Syracuse fan.

Both teams may have had poor percentages from the free thrown line, as KU shot nearly twice as many free throws the percentage obviously carries more weight for us than it does for 'Cuse.

Not that I have any problem admitting that Syracuse beat us fair and square. After all, they beat us in much the same way that we destroyed North Carolina in the final four. Roy simply doesn't recruit enough talented big men. What talented 7 footer wants to play for a coach that always wants to push the tempo? He always has one stud that helps you build a lead, then you have to try and hold desperately on to the lead while he's on the bench. We had a slew of big men that pounded Hansbrough into a mulch and just kept throwing new ones in to limit his scoring.

We beat UNC because Self simply recruits better than Roy. Syracuse beat us because Boeheim simply recruited better than Roy.

Bottom line is. . . I'm glad Roy is gone.

Studogg 11 years, 10 months ago

It still doesn't change the hard and fast FACT that if we would have hit FTs at or only slightly better than our season average, we would would have 6 nat'l titles right now instead of 5.

justanotherfan 11 years, 10 months ago

One of the relatively underappreciated factors in this game that really hurt is was matchups.

KU had no one that could guard Carmelo Anthony, so 'Cuse knew we would have to help if he posted up. Remember, Syracuse started Anthony at the 3, which is his natural position. We started Keith Langford, all 6-4 of him. He was giving up 4 inches, easy. Knowing this, every time 'Melo posted up, we had to run help, typically by either Miles or Hinrich. That rotation meant that 'Melo, a very good passer, would kick to the vacated man. If that was McNamara, he shot. Anthony led Syracuse with 7 assists to go along with his 20 points and 10 boards. And yet, Williams never made an adjustment to prevent the easy kickouts. He never changed how we doubled, never trapped the ball to prevent the entry, etc.

Free throws hurt KU that game, probably kept us from really getting back in it and possibly taking the lead. But our defense KILLED us. Anthony took us apart because we didn't have anybody that could contain him one on one because Roy Williams always preferred playing 3 smaller guards to get into transition.

Look at the most disappointing losses in KU history under Williams. All were caused by horrible matchups.

Rhode Island in 1998 - Cuttino Mobley pretty much ran circles around Ryan Robertson.

Arizona in 1997 - Haase and Vaughn victimized by quicker guards.

Illinois in 2001 - Bill Self's more physical Illini pounded Williams' finesse squad into the hardwood. I remember thinking during this game - I wish KU played like that. Little did I know.

Roy Williams has never figured out basketball's matchups. If you look at Cole Aldrich's quote about the 2008 semifinal, he said specifically "we knew Hansbrough had trouble scoring over size, so we just wanted to put bigger people on him." Simple, really. Hansbrough struggled to score over guys bigger than him. He's 6-9. Cole's 6-11. Sasha was 6-10. They guarded him and he was miserable. Yet Roy couldn't make an adjustment to get Hansbrough out of a bad matchup (i.e., have him face up and try to out quick our bigger guys to make us use Shady or Darnell instead of our biggest guys on him). If Roy's players aren't outright better, he can't win, because he doesn't know how to create matchup advantages unless he starts out WITH that advantage.

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

You Roy haters really have to contort the facts into pretzels to "prove" your points.

"Roy can't win the big game." OK, let me try to follow this argument...

In 1991, upsetting Indiana, Arkansas, and UNC = NOT big games; only the title game against Duke was a big game.

In 1993, beating Jason Kidd and Cal, and again upsetting Indiana to reach the Final 4 = NOT big games; only the loss to UNC in the Final 4 was a big game.

Dominating the conference in '97, '98, and '02 and reaching the Final 4 in '02 = NOT a single big game in all those 90-some wins; ONLY the the season-ending losses were big games.

In 2003, beating Duke, upsetting #1 seed Arizona, destroying Dwayne Wade and Marquette = NOT big games; only the loss to Syracuse was big, (and of course that 3-point loss was solely Roy's fault and had nothing to do with 'Melo or Gerry Mac).

Roy coached 3 of the LJW's top 10 "Greatest KU Games" (among those listed so far), but no, not a single one of those was a BIG GAME.

At UNC, Roy's two championships = NOT big games; the only truly BIG GAME was his loss to KU in '08.

And of course, his poor season this year PROVES he's a bad coach; the other 20 seasons were all flukes. Am I getting it right?

Scott Smetana 11 years, 10 months ago

As painful as the 'cuse game was, I still think losing to Arizona in '97 was more painful to me. Anyone? Maybe remembering a few bad losses will make this month seem even sweeter.

niemoth 11 years, 10 months ago

What those number can't account for is the demoralizing feeling and confidence of the team when you miss 18 free throws, especially when you have 13 misses in the second half when you are trying to make a huge rally. I will always blame the free throws. I know this guys feeling though, because like most of us here, we also hate the talk of Memphis blowing it from the free throw line. I like to throw out that they got the offensive rebound after 2 of those late misses, so that didn't affect the outcome, as well as remind people that Memphis actually shot better than their season average for the game. So I like to say that they were lucky to be up by 9 that late because they were lucky to hit all those free throws early in the game. But like I mentioned before, the demoralizing feeling they had because of the misses, gave them no chance in overtime.

Steve Gantz 11 years, 10 months ago

Hawk of ages said it so well. For all the comments of lack of defensive intensity you could probably argue that Roy coached offense much better than Self. (I'm in no ways a basketball expert so cut me some slack) We were among the national leaders year in and year out with Roy. A couple other key points. 91 last game lost to National Champion Duke 93 last game lost to National champion UNC 97 last game lost to National Champion Arizona 03 Last game lost to National Champ Syracuse. Throw in last game losses to the national runner up, Syracuse, Indiana, and...? Roy's seasons ended with losses to very good teams.

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

These comments about Boeheim and Self being better coaches than Roy based on one or two cherry-picked games are absurd.

Boeheim and Self both beat Roy in the tourney. Roy also beat both Boeheim and Self in the tourney ('01 and '02).

The fact is, all three of these guys were considered "a great coach who can't win the big one" for years. Neither could win the big one... until they did. It took Boeheim a lot longer than Roy -- he'd been head coach at Syracuse since the seventies.

And now Roy is one of a VERY small number of coaches with multiple titles -- the only other active ones being Coach K, Donovan, and Calhoun, I think. (Here's hoping Self joins the shortlist this year.)

Self won it faster than the other two, so if you want to say he's the best of the three based on that, OK. I hope he wins about 8 more and goes down in history as the best ever. But that hasn't happened yet...

Michael Leiker 11 years, 10 months ago

Don't forget 02 last game lost to NC Maryland.

niemoth 11 years, 10 months ago

hawk of ages makes some good points about Roy. I am like a lot of the fans here and will probably always be bitter about Roy leaving because I think he could have just as easily won a title with Simien, Langford, and Miles as he did with May and co. Especially if he had gotten Marvin Williams to KU, (and Hansbrough later). Last year was huge for him because they were all his players and his team was solid. But after seeing his performance this year, I think we are lucky to have Self. Self losing 5 starters and have a "down year" where we go to the sweet 16. I feel like that will be a down year for us for awhile, which is pretty sweet that a down year for us is a sweet 16 caliber team. Roy still has the players to win this year, he is just not doing a good job in my opinion. He has the players to beat Ohio State and Michigan State, 2 NC contenders. And injuries aren't all of it. I really feel like he is just doing a poor job of getting those blue chippers ready to play. He very well could go last in the down ACC this year. Do you think Self will ever flirt with last in the big 12? Don't think so. Not to mention probably going under 500 for the season with all those nobodies they beat earlier to get them to 14 wins.
On another note, anyone catch the top teams/players/etc of the decade on Looks like Roy's team last year is getting most of the love for best team of the decade. I like KU's 08 team for that even though I'm partial. The player with the best season of the decade went to Stephon Curry, who we beat that year. Their best team to not win a NC went to the Memphis team we beat. Their best career went to Hansbrough who we beat. Not to mention winning the only final four with all 1's there. When we beat 3 or their best of the decade arguments, we need some love for also being best of the decade.

justanotherfan 11 years, 10 months ago

I'm not a Roy hater. I have said before that I am glad we left, because he never would have won a title here. Him leaving basically has influenced three of the last five national titles. If he stays here, it's doubtful UNC wins in '05 because Doherty had already lost that core group of players, and if it weren't a big name coming in, . We don't win in '08 because Roy wouldn't have recruited Brandon Rush or Sherron Collins because they "aren't his type" of players. And would Hansbrough, Lawson and Ellington all have gone to Chapel Hill if not to play in the uptempo style that Williams uses?

So no disrespect to what Roy Williams has accomplished at UNC. I just think (as most others probably do) that he wouldn't have done the same here. For one, Ellington and Lawson were both east coast players. Would he have recruited them to KU in place of Rush and Collins? If the answer to that is no, then you can understand why I am glad he's gone.

86finalfour 11 years, 10 months ago

I agree Niemoth. I read that ESPN list and also thought that the 08 team has to get the nod over the 09 UNC team, which was essentially the same team from the year before, simply because of the head to head matchup in 08. Jayhawks were better, faster, tougher than them in every facet!

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

"I'm not bitter because Roy left.. I'm bitter because he ever came to KU. I never liked Roy, from Day 1, or even before he came to KU. Roy is only one notch up from Cal on my love list."

LOL. You disliked Roy even when he was an unknown assistant at UNC? Wow, you sure are opinionated.

If the Roy era never took place at KU, then you wouldn't have the Self era. Kansas had fallen from the rank of consistently elite programs since Wilt left. Take a look at the NCAA records for wins by decade -- Kansas didn't even chart in the '60s, '70s or '80s, but in the '90s we were #1. In the '00s we're #2.

We were scarcely even in the running for the elite recruits before Roy took over -- Manning would have gone to UNC had Larry not hired his dad. The Wrights, Rushes and Collins of the world are available to us now because of the success Roy had (and because we made a great hire with Self).

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

"Roy needs to have a team full of 5-star recruits to even stand a chance of going anywhere."

Yeah, he never could have led KU to the Final Four in '91 and '93 without all those "5-star recruits," like uh.... um.... well, I'm sure there was somebody.

"I came from a tough upbringing and will always respect those who are underdogs fighting to get to the top."

Yeah, everyone knows that Roy was born in a mansion on top of a hill and went to the finest finishing schools on the east coast, followed by Yale and the skull and bones club, then was given the Kansas job straight out of college without ever having to work a day in his life. Pretty sure that's the way it happened; who has time to look these things up?

kranny 11 years, 10 months ago

Any coach will tell you that to score with the clock not running when it's tight is better than if it's running. The rebounds and scores off the misses could be looked at as steals. If we would have made the free throws, got the steals and didn't score nobody would be mentioning the freethrows. Kansas choked at the line the same as Memphis choked at the line. Simply put, free throws win games. I look at it as this, Syracuse was better that night because they were able to keep their composure better and hit shots. Syracuse wasn't necessarily the better team. Just better that night.

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

Since I've been thread-hijacking to respond to the Roy-haters, let me also weigh in on Jesse's point...

I do think it's important to note that it wasn't all about free throws. Gerry Mac's circus 3s were a huge factor, and I agree that if KU didn't have to frantically fight its way out of such a deep hole to begin with, we would have done better at the line.

On the other hand, I don't see how you can argue that Gerry Mac's 3s are MORE important than KU's woeful perfomance at the line. To argue that one is more important than the other is just statistical sophistry, IMO.

I also think it's important, since Collison is sort of considered "the goat" in this game, to point out that he had 19 pts. and an incredible 21 boards. That rebounding number is second in title game history behind only Bill Russell (!). So if KU had just made a few more free throws OR if Gerry Mac had made just one or two fewer circus shots, Kansas wins the game, Nick would now be a legend on par with Manning -- and the Roy-haters would have even less of a case than they do now.

Robert Brock 11 years, 10 months ago

Slayer of Dragons -- you make some very valid points, but I think your criticism of Roy is a little extreme. Roy certainly has his weaknesses/deficiencies just like Self may have some of his own weaknesses. Both are premier coaches and will eventually be considered legends with varying basketball philosophies. I personally would choose Self in a heartbeat as my coach and many others here would too, but Roy did have some great years as KU's coach.

I think the idea that Roy doesn't develop players or teams is not really fair. Look at what he did in '99 with rail-thin talent and a depleted roster after losing Pierce, LaFrentz, Thomas, Vaughn, Pollard, etc. the previous two years - you had a few McDonalds All-Americans in Boschee and Robertson and Gregory, but all-in-all a laughable roster. By the end of the season, after a very rocky start and many more bumps along the way, he had these guys playing as a solid unit and really maximized their abilities. I think the same goes for '00 with a group of fresh new talented faces and many incongruous parts. By the end of these two seasons, these teams looked very well coached, played their hearts out in the tournament, and they really overacheived all things considered.

He has seven Burger Boys and some serious potential on a very, very young and inexperienced UNC team this year after basically losing last year's entire team. Self did a fabulous coaching job in 2009 after losing the core of KU's championship team, but Roy has nothing resembling a Sherron or a Cole this year. He has no leader, no real scorers, injury issues, no real point guard, no one to fall back on like KU could Sherron a year ago and has coached and developed them poorly to top it off. KU is going to struggle next year after losing Sherron, Cole and Xavier, and with or without Selby or Knight or whoever you want to add to the roster. We will get to view Self's coaching prowess once again in a transitional year and compare it to Roy. Now that will be very interesting.

JBurtin 11 years, 10 months ago


I wouldn't really say I'm a Roy hater. I always thought he recruited well when he was here. Then Self came along and showed us all what kind of recruits we could have been landing. I still think there's some validity to the theory that Roy refused to recruit against UNC.

I also wouldn't say that Boeheim has consistently been a better coach than Roy. I simply think Boeheim had the better recruits at the time that we played them in the Championship game.

I appreciate the fact that he put Kansas back on the map while he was here, but as KU's coach he really was the good coach that couldn't win the big one. He finally got 1 championship with his own recruits last year, and good for him, but it was still a team with 1 good (albeit undersized) big man that likely would have been destroyed by KU '08 or Florida '06 and '07.

I don't really have a good reason to hate him. I just think we have a much better coach now, and I'm glad he left. If he hadn't left of his own accord KU never would have fired him and we'd likely still be waiting on the championship that would never come.

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

The idea that Roy would NEVER have been able to win a title had he stayed at Kansas just defies all logic and evidence. The fact that he came within a few unlucky bounces multiple times while he was here, coupled with the fact that he DID win not one but TWO titles at North Carolina, pretty much trashes that argument.

The only evidence presented for this harebrained theory is that Roy didn't recruit the east coast from Kansas. The haters bring that up again and again, and every time I have to ask: What exactly was so wrong with Adonis Jordan, Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard, Raef Lafrentz, Paul Pierce, Ryan Robertson, Jeff Boschee, Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Miles, Keith Langford and Wayne Simien?

To say that Self's subsequent recruiting success reflects badly on Roy is just bass-ackward. Roy made KU a recruiting powerhouse for the first time in decades, paving the way for what Self has achieved here. Roy brought in more McDonalds players than any other KU coach. WTF difference does it make what region they were from?

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

The incident with the heckler seems pretty indefensible. On the other hand, it's one emotional moment in a 20-year career. I never tried to argue he was a saint, but I fail to see how ejecting one heckler -- and complaining about Larry Brown hiring Ed Manning -- make him a villain on par with Calipari.

I mean, Calipari??? If Kansas ever has to vacate Roy's Final 4s, then you'll have a case. Till then, maybe you should hold the vitriol in check.

You're just cherry-picking every negative thing you can think of while ignoring hundreds of positive things (418 of them, to be exact -- none of them vacated).

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

I agree the Haiti comment was offensive.

In 2000, he overdid it by promising to stay forever, but I don't have a problem with it because he believed it when he said it. Then things changed -- family issues, Bob Frederick being shoved out for Al Bohl, his alma mater going down the tubes after his first refusal... (If your wish had come true and he had left in 2000, who the hell would we have gotten? Probably not Self at that point; more likely your man Calipari).

Wearing the Jayhawk sticker was "Roy being a salesman?" That's getting it totally backwards. He had nothing to gain by that and everything to lose -- UNC's his mealticket now, not Kansas.

Anyway, I'm no more qualified than drgnslayer to be a character witness. I just think that if you consider yourself a KU fan you have to appreciate what he did for the program.

He inherited severe recruiting sanctions, yet made two Final 4s with (relatively) lesser recruits (disproving the oft-repeated b.s. that he only wins with better talent). After that, he recruited better than any KU coach since Phog Allen; no one complained about what region he was recruiting when he was here, because it simply did not matter; we always had great players. 418 wins and 4 Final Fours outweigh a helluva lot more negatives than you've been able to come up with.

hawk_of_ages 11 years, 10 months ago

Thanks. I enjoy the tete-a-tete. I also like Anderson -- don't know about his character, but I really enjoy his style of play.

I did meet Roy once as a kid, and he couldn't have been nicer. When he was here I thought he walked on water; obviously the bloom is off that rose a bit. But I still think he's one of the better guys in what is a seedy business.

I don't know if Self is a higher-character guy than Roy; maybe so. Illinois fans will tell you otherwise, though they're just as wrong as the Roy-haters, I think. But Self is more saavy, less self-righteous, not as likely to put his foot in his mouth -- less of an emotional roller coaster, which is good.

Coaching-wise, I'm probably one of the few around here who's not QUITE ready to put Self above Roy in the KU pantheon -- for the same reason I don't put Larry above him. Championships matter, but so does sustained excellence over time. Assuming Self stays a few more years and keeps winning at a good clip -- even without another title -- he certainly will go above Roy in my mind.

Of course, Self's our guy now, so this is all academic. Things have never been better for KU hoops than they are right now -- here's hoping it continues.

Mike Kendall 11 years, 10 months ago

Slayr of drgns---I'm with you, man!!!!!!!! Former coaches have to stick together, right?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.