Archive for Sunday, March 23, 1997


March 23, 1997


— Guests at the Wynfrey Hotel cheered whenever they spotted one of Kansas' basketball players or coaches early Saturday morning, some 10 hours after the Jayhawks' shocking season-ending loss to Arizona.

Good for them.

They obviously took KU coach Roy Williams' advice and "enjoyed the ride" this season, and did not bank EVERYTHING on winning the NCAA Tournament.

Those loyal KU backers were more sympathetic than Birmingham Post-Herald columnist Paul Finebaum, who tore into the Jayhawks in Saturday's edition, the one that chronicled KU's 85-82 Sweet 16 loss to the Wildcats at Jefferson Civic Center.

"Kansas hasn't looked this bad since Bob Dole got stuffed in the presidential election," Finebaum wrote.

"Kansas will have a hard time ever living this one down. 'Rock, chalk, we're going home early again Jayhawks.' Talk about underachieving with a 34-2 record. Talk about being called losers. Wow! This one is hard to swallow," he penned.

It would be easy to blast the Jayhawks today when they are down, to criticize the senior class of Jerod Haase, Scot Pollard, Jacque Vaughn and B.J. Williams for never reaching a Final Four.

I will not do that. I refuse to do that.

How can you blast the winningest senior class in school history? A class that hasn't lost a home game in three seasons? A class of players, and a coach, who yearly make Kansans yearn for the dreary, cold, snowy winter months so they could cheer on their Jayhawks.

You know the accomplishments of this team and its coach, Williams, who didn't sleep Friday night and as is his nature, is taking this loss extremely hard.

Williams has an unheard of .810 win percentage and .741 mark in the NCAA Tourney, still he's been reminded he has yet to win a national title through nine years at KU. This year's exit in the Sweet 16 will cause the coach, as he put it, to do some serious "soul searching.

"My attitude is if it is a failure in Roy Williams, I hope I can find it," he said. "I owe it to my bosses at the University of Kansas who have been great to me and the people of Kansas."

You know why KU's senior class is the first since 1981 to not reach a Final Four? Knee-jerk naysayers who say the Jayhawks choked or were outcoached or never can peak at the right time won't like this, but KU again failed to win because of the nature of this tournament.

There is no doubt in my mind Kansas would beat Arizona four games to one in an NBA-like best-of-seven series. Kansas would have dumped Syracuse 4-1 in a best of seven last year and Virginia 4-1 the year before that. KU would beat every one of the 64 teams in this year's field in a best of five or seven.

But unlike the NBA, where the Chicago Bulls annually lose a game or two in each series but emerge as champs, in the NCAAs it's one loss and you're out. In all, 15 teams since 1974 have entered the tourney with one loss and just two have made the Final Four.

"To me, the NCAA Tournament is the greatest tournament there is particularly for fans," Williams said. "I'm not saying it's the greatest for coaches. It's a 'bad day and you're out' kind of scenario and that's what makes it so difficult for coaches because it's not just a hobby or fan appeal kind of thing that we just go to. It's our lives."

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