Why KU-Carolina won't happen


Let me start out by saying that the whole idea for this blog entry was born from the simple belief, of this writer at least, that North Carolina coach Roy Williams is a good person.

Having grown up in Lawrence and hung around with his son, Scott, I know this to be true. He’s a kind, compassionate, genuine man with an intense love of basketball and a highly competitive spirit.

Fans of Kansas University basketball know this, whether they’ve spent the past 10 seasons rooting against him or not. As the old saying goes, or at least went, Ol’ Roy had more desire to win in his little finger than all of the Kansas basketball fans in the world combined. Before the divorce, KU fans loved that about him. As time goes by and more distance is put between his 15 seasons in Lawrence and the present day, I think KU fans will slowly begin to remember that.

The scene at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday certainly made that seem possible. With thousands of KU fans in the stands waiting for the Jayhawks, Williams was cheered when UNC took the floor for its open practice session.

So what does any of this have to with Caronlina’s first-round match-up against Villanova on Friday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.? That, too, is simple. It’s my contention that the basketball gods simply are not that cruel to put one man through losing to his former school on the biggest stage in the world twice in the past 12 months and three times in the past five years. It was cruel enough of the committee to put the potential match-up out there, but the gods will intervene.

Roy left. He did what he had to do for himself and his family. And, truth be told, had most of you been in his position, you would’ve done the same thing, whether you’re willing to admit it or not.

But he has paid his debt to the Jayhawk Nation. After getting drubbed by Kansas in the national semifinals in 2008, Williams stuck around for the title game against Memphis and wore a Jayhawk sticker on his shirt. For that he was crushed by the UNC fans, and when the two schools met again in last year’s Elite Eight in St. Louis, he had to relive the whole experience while suffering through another heartbreaking loss to his former school at the same time.

Every time he's been asked, Williams has had nothing but positive, heart-felt things to say about KU and his time here.

So when is enough enough?

North Carolina, which enters the game as a four-point favorite, may have more talent than Villanova. The Tar Heels may be a bit under-seeded — third in the ACC and a berth in the conference tournament title game usually gets you more than an 8 seed — and may have the luxury of having at least a few players who have experienced the NCAA Tournament and its intense pressure in much bigger games and venues. But I don’t think they’ll win.

Forget just playing the hunch, though. Villanova has real talent. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono was a unanimous selection on the Big East’s all-rookie squad and the Wildcats have a size advantage inside, led by senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou (6-foot-10, 255 pounds) and sophomore bruiser JayVaughn Pinkston (6-7, 260). In addition, the Wildcats are the better defensive team, are better free-throw shooters and have a more quality wins. Forget about the 20-13 overall record. In the past 59 days alone, ‘Nova knocked off Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games and also snagged victories over Marquette and Georgetown. That’s victories over a No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament and 11 total games (4-7) against NCAA Tournament teams. UNC? Not a single victory against a team currently in the Top 25.

I think Villanova wins. I think Roy goes home sad. But, when it’s all said and done, I don’t think it hurts as bad as losing to Kansas — again.


Jonathan Briles 7 years, 7 months ago

Enough for me was when we beat them in 2008 and got the championship that Roy could never deliver. I have rooted for Roy and UNC ever since then. I don't like that he left, but it was completely understandable. I do hope your right Matt. I think we match up better with Villanova and I would not care to go against a team I like and think is a tough match up in just the second round.

nuleafjhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

I never have, and never will root for North Carolina - but I do still love Roy!

BabyHawks 7 years, 7 months ago

I completely agree with KanFan27 -- almost to the letter. And remember too, it's not like the current players were left at the altar by Roy. Some of our current players were 9 years old when he left. They don't care about Roy one bit. It's the old guys like us who have any feelings.

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 7 months ago

I was a little mad when he left in that he used his players as the excuse for staying the first time - Collison, Hinrich & one other one he specifically mentioned. having that history out there and then leaving the next time, I felt really bad for Miles, Simien & Langford, like, they weren't held in as high of esteem by Roy.

master16 7 years, 7 months ago

People that still dislike Roy for leaving, are you saying you'd rather have him here as our coach than Bill Self right now? If not, then IMO you have no reason to hate on him. Seriously.

Robert Brock 7 years, 7 months ago

Jay Wright is one of the most overrated coaches in college basketball. Carolina wins.

Hank Cross 7 years, 7 months ago

I wasn't mad that he left - I was happy. Happy b/c he couldn't get Pierce to the FF and failed to recognize that Pierce was always the best player on any team he played on at KU. Happy that I didn't have to sit through any more tourney debacles where his overplaying defense would get repeatedly broken down by quicker guards like Tim Hardaway and Harold Dean. Happy b/c his teams lacked mental toughness. I think it was the Denver Post that wrote that Roy never taught his KU teams to take a punch in the mouth and come back. How true. I don't blame him at all for leaving, like Scarlet O'Hara who always pined for Ashley Wilkes, you always knew that Roy's heart would always be in Carolina.

hawk_of_ages 7 years, 7 months ago

You gotta be kidding me. Roy came within a hair's breadth of winning multiple titles at KU, just as Self came within a hair's breadth of having zero titles. And we all know Roy's not the only KU coach who's suffered "tourney debacles."

panalytic 7 years, 7 months ago

Nice work by Matt mixing up sports talk with human nature and some personal perspective. I sure hope his prediction is right too. These games are tense enough without bringing Roy into it.

This is a good year to remind everyone the type of guy Roy is and how he impacted us. Roy did not tolerate poor sportsmanship and would not have tolerated our fans behaving as the Iowa State fans did this year. Sportsmanship would have been a bigger issue than the refs. Let's hope Matt's prediction is right.

Joe Ross 7 years, 7 months ago

I wasn't mad when he left. Angry was not the word. I knew Roy loved Kansas. It was more sadness, fear of the unknown (how would Jayhawk basketball continue post-Roy), and a feeling that a stranger was gonna come in and lack appropriate reverence for the program. But through it all I knew why he left. For a lot of those who are too young to remember, Roy turned UNC down once. That must have been hard to do. To me, that said EVERYTHING about Roy's love for Kansas. A press conference was held at that time and Roy began it with two simple words. "I'm stayin'". I was more angry at Dean Smith for trying to woo him away. Clearly, Smith, a Kansan in birth and alumni status, has more love for UNC than KU. If there is animosity to be given, I think it's toward Smith. But I speak as a fan. Leastwise, the second time around Roy had to weigh the wishes of his family, his former coach, and his alma mater. That is enough to excuse him from any ill feelings. But I always remember how he turned them down.

And besides...Self is a faithful and capable steward of the program. Kansas ended up better even through all of the upheaval ten years ago. There is absolutely NO reason to be cantankerous about Roy. I hope he gets applauded.

Michael Maris 7 years, 7 months ago

JRoss1972, your post is very well put. I felt the same as you did (in the announcement of Roy's departure). But when Coach Self was announced as the replacement for Coach Williams, I knew that Kansas had another good coach. I just hoped Coach Self would be able to lead the future Jayhawk teams beyond where Coach Williams had taken Jayhawk Nation. Last season team even furthered my thoughts in Coach Self's coaching abilities. It is up to the recruits / players to have the faith and belief's in Coach Self's abilities to lead them to the individual and team goals that those recruits / players are seeking.

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 7 months ago

That fact, the Dean Smith fact is all the more reason why I had somewhat of a problem w/ Roy's decision. Always quoted that he used Dean as his "model" and yet.........Dean NEVER CAME BACK TO KANSAS!?!?!?!? So,....didn't EXACTLY follow the model to a "T".

Phoghorn 7 years, 7 months ago

If KU does not take care of business against WKU, then no KU-Carolina will not happen. Neither will KU-Michigan, nor KU-VCU nor KU-Florida, nor KU-Wichita State in the Final Four or whatever your dream match-up is.

One game at a time folks...

A good article though!

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 7 months ago

That's what I've been thinking. PLEASE!!!! Don't get ahead of ourselves!!!!

Sam Constance 7 years, 7 months ago

I'd rather play UNC than Villanova. I think we'll matchup better with them and I think Roy struggles to coach against Kansas because of the emotional connection to his former school.

I remember reading an article by Jason King about Williams leading up to the 2008 Final Four matchup that really became the turning point for my disappointment over Roy's departure. It paints a picture of a man who was still intensely conflicted over his decision to leave Kansas 5 years and a national title win after the decision. It made me realize that it was stupid to see it as Roy not caring about Kansas, since in reality, what he wanted was to be in both places--an impossible choice.

If you haven't read it already and have time, I highly recommend it (especially if you still harbor ill will towards Coach Williams):

I'll finish by saying that ultimately, the one who deserves scorn even now for the way 2003 went down is Dean Smith. I could get over his pressuring Williams to return to UNC and rescue a program that was teetering on the edge, but what I will never be okay with is the way he did it during KU's title run. I will always believe that our team's uncharacteristic performance from the line against Syracuse was catalyzed by the distractions of the Williams-to-UNC saga. At the very least, it didn't help.

To me, Smith's conduct at that time exemplified a self-absorbed, me-first attitude--the exact opposite of the approach he taught on the hardwood. All that mattered to him was getting his first choice of a coach into Chapel Hill to rescue the program he had built. No regard for his alma mater. No regard for his own pupil's pursuit of the national championship that had eluded him for so long. No regard for anything except the Dean Smith legacy.

I would welcome Roy back to Lawrence with open arms after his eventual retirement. As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't care if Dean Smith ever returned.

hawk_of_ages 7 years, 7 months ago

If not for Dean Smith, we'd have never gotten Roy in the first place. And I think it's more than a little absurd to blame Dean for our own poor free throw shooting. Why would Collison have been rattled? He was playing his final game for KU whether Roy stayed or left. And if we were so rattled that week, how did we manage to absolutely destroy Dwayne Wade and a very good Marquette team in the semis?

Sam Constance 7 years, 7 months ago

Well, that's one way to interpret what I said. I don't think I blamed Dean so much as suggested that the controversy might have had an effect, or best case scenario, had no effect. And really the point, more than being about those free throws, is about Smith's lack of respect for what his pupil and school was going through. It's not like waiting a month was going to allow some other school to swoop in and take Roy away from UNC. He was either staying at KU or leaving for UNC. The fact that Smith couldn't wait 30 days shows how little regard he has for the KU Basketball program.

I have a hard time understanding how Smith's involvement in Roy's arrival at KU is at all relevant. For starters, while you are correct that Smith was integrally involved in Roy coming to KU, let's not act like Roy was some hotshot coach who was in high demand and KU only managed to get him because of Smith. Roy was an unproven assistant who had never played the game himself, and KU hired him because 1) we knew we were going to be on probation and probably couldn't pull just any coach we wanted, and 2) Smith was an alum and we trusted his recommendation to hire his pupil. I wouldn't go so far as to say we did Smith a favor by hiring Williams, but let's not forget the actual circumstances of Roy's arrival.

Maybe you're right. Maybe Collison didn't care because he was gone regardless. Or maybe he and the rest of the team were getting vibes of conflict from their head coach. Maybe something changed between the Marquette and Syracuse games--I remember reading reports that Smith visited Williams in New Orleans. It's entirely possible that Roy spoke with Smith on that Sunday, and when he addressed his team on Monday before the game, he was visibly conflicted. That kind of thing can really affect a team. Or sometimes it doesn't. That's part of the beauty of sports. Heck, maybe they sensed something was wrong before the Marquette game, but the matchup overcame any emotional issues--playing tight or with conflicted emotions is naturally going to rear it's head more in close games. Marquette was a rout from the get-go. There was no opportunity for doubts to creep in and affect our performance.

But to dismiss it as not even possible seems naive.

dylans 7 years, 7 months ago

What would be nice is if Bill was 10 years younger and waiting for Roy to retire at the end of his 25th year at Kansas. I miss Roy, but I wouldn't trade anything or anyone for Bill. Thanks for the memories Roy old and new, we miss you.

Stan Crown 7 years, 7 months ago

One matchup I bet the NCAA committee doesn't want to see, and heaven forbid it should happen, is a rematch of the 1971 National Semifinal "Probation" Game between WKU and Villanova, same year Robisch & Stallworth's KU team lost to UCLA in the other national semifinal. WKU and Villanova had their tournament wins vacated due to using ineligible players. Doubt the NCAA wants to revisit that tainted tournament.

Phil Leister 7 years, 7 months ago

Great, thanks Matt. "It’s my contention that the basketball gods simply are not that cruel to put one man through losing to his former school on the biggest stage in the world twice in the past 12 months and three times in the past five years. It was cruel enough of the committee to put the potential match-up out there, but the gods will intervene."

You realize that this could also be the reason Carolina beats KU right?

namohcan_99 7 years, 7 months ago

No offense to Roy, but I would love for us to beat the tar out of the tar heels and I would never apologize for that. Also, I think fans upset with Roy were more upset how he left, not that he left. I'm sure we can understand his reasons. That being said, I was more sad for Roy than angry with him in the manner he went, but we've all had bad bosses and I do believe that played a large part in his decision, whether he wants to admit it or not.

It could have gone differently but you can't undo the one bad thing in your past. I think you are right in that we'll look at all the good things he did (and there was a lot), but ultimately I think KU is better off with Self. If you remember it took a few years and a lot of turnover in the lineups when Self first got here. After almost making it to the Final Four his first year here, we had to try to get a lot of recruits here as our recruiting was not so great and the one kid Roy got for us, JR Giddens got into a bit of trouble off the court and left the team. People tend to forget those days. Winning a National Championship helps wash away those memories. But keep those in mind, it goes to show exactly what Self did to keep us at the top.

KGphoto 7 years, 7 months ago

Roy’s best win ALL YEAR was a 6 point escape of first-round-casualty UNLV, at home.

For that reason, and Nova’s accomplishments, I have Nova in my bracket, but I kind of hope UNC pulls it off. Forget the match-ups, we would have Roy once again, and back in KC at the next closest thing to AFH. I don’t hate the guy. I LOVE him, but I like reminding him what he left behind. Reminding him that he will probably be, forever, the only guy who voluntarily left the greatest coaching chair in basketball history, because he was homesick.

None of this cruelty BS either. He would have the same emotions even if he beat KU. Besides, he left. We didn’t kick him out! Why should we feel bad? Did he honestly believe he would never have to face KU again? I know he loved his time here. He loves the fans and AFH and the tradition etc., etc. But he left it all for UNC, so tough s##t if it pains him to play us!! Cry me a river!

He’d be crying about missing UNC if he stayed. He’s cried plenty over leaving KU. He’s a cryer. Whaddaya gonna do?

If we get him and he wins, I’ll be happy for him. If we get him and beat the Tar Heal out of him again, I’ll be happy for us. No love lost. It’s a family thing.

ParisHawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for this article. It's a public service. Reconciling with Roy is another way to show class.

Harlan Hobbs 7 years, 7 months ago

I adored Roy when he was our coach, and I simply didn't have it in my heart to change even when he left for his alma mater. He'll be going for win #700 today, and I wish him well. My biggest fear is that the "basketball gods" will do a 180 come Sunday. Even though KU is the better team this time around, NC's motivation to beat us will be very strong, and anything can happen. Go Hawks!

milostot 7 years, 7 months ago

Nope. No. Not going to start liking Mizzou, Duke, or Roytraitor. He turned down NC the first time because he still wanted a championship. I'm glad for him personally, but he kept us in limbo. Thank goodness for Coach Self. Reconciling is for relationships you want to protect and preserve. My personal feeling is thanks for being my love but I have moved on and really only see you as an adversary in the game. I don't need reconciliation, I want to win.

Jon Pearce 7 years, 7 months ago

Matt - thanks for your post. I played ball with Scott (and Brad) at LHS and enjoyed meeting their dads along the way - I think you captured the essence of their personalities well.

The KU "schism" was tough for many people, but once you peer into the lives of guys like Roy and Bill and Danny, it's not as painful. On one level it's a job for them and their families. Albeit a very public and high-paying job. On the other level it's a life-calling for the really successful guys like Bill and Roy. Not dissimilar to journalism (sans the high pay...). Roy has been more than graceful in his departure. I didn't like his decision at the time - mostly because he did a poor job of setting expectations about a lifetime of KU ball. But it was the right choice. For him. For his family. Bill has done a better job of managing those expectations so it will be less painful when (not if) he departs.

That aside - I predict a KU/UNC match-up...

Matt Tait 7 years, 7 months ago

Appreciate the post man. We know each other?

Jon Pearce 7 years, 7 months ago

I was '97 so one year behind - rode the pine most of the time on b-ball - so enjoyed your cheering @ games more than anything. Also a West Jr High grad. Watching from a cold MN tonight. UNC

seanswind 7 years, 7 months ago

I was thinking that too- subconsciously maybe Roy finds a way to lose a close one.

Kent Kossoy 7 years, 7 months ago

I don't blame Roy for leaving. I blame UNC. The two schools had a very close relationship for 20-30 years especially with basketball. To then go after Roy demonstrated no class. Since 2008, I still like Roy. But I don't make an effort to root for UNC unless they are playing UK or Dookie.

lothario64118 7 years, 7 months ago

Here's an idea. Stop posting redicuolous articles like this one. Did you see the score? It was a no brainer going into the game.

Jim Stauffer 7 years, 7 months ago

I just think you are wrong. Now it is true I am writing after UNC has beaten Nova, but I believed they would probably prevail all along.

I agree, it is too much for him to lose to us 3 consecutive times, but as a loyal Bill Self and KU fan, I fear that will not happen. We are looking tentative, the pressure is on us and we play better as the underdog. UNC beats KU. Man, I hate to even say that.

jaybate 7 years, 7 months ago

You underestimated the wrath of the basketball gods, Matt. :-)

Or you underestimated their willingness to give Roy another chance to beat KU.

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