It’s not that Williams didn’t try at Kansas. He came achingly close to winning it all _ four Final Four appearances there between 1988-2003, including a runner-up finish in his final season. But as that gap in his resume widened to become a sinkhole, Williams masked his competitive streak behind a series of stunts he said were designed to change his luck.
Once, he stopped the team bus so he could spit in the Mississippi River on the way to a Final Four. Another time, he patted the gravestone of Dr. James Naismith, Kansas’ first coach and the man credited with inventing basketball. Other times, he brought a stuffed monkey to meetings and told the players to feel free to knock it off his back. None of it worked.
Yet he has nothing but good memories about his stay there, occasionally turning up in the crowd to pull for the Jayhawks when they play somebody else. Wonder if he’ll feel the same way if Kansas _ which beat his Tar Heels in the 2008 Final Four and again last March in the regional finals _ pull off the trifecta this time around.
STAT OF THE DAY
Hard to predict exactly what the season-long game of musical chairs at the top of the rankings presages for this year’s tourney. Does it mean there’s lots of very good teams, but no great ones?
STATS cautions against a rush to judgment. The four top seeds this time around_ Louisville, Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga _ have 18 losses between them. Only twice since the since the advent of seeding in 1979 has the top quartet piled up more: in 1990, when UConn, Michigan State, UNLV and Oklahoma combined for 19 losses; and in 2000, when Michigan State, Arizona, Duke and Stanford had 20.
But guess who took home those titles in both seasons a decade apart. Yep, No. 1 seeds UNLV and Michigan State, respectively.
It never hurts to be the king.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“They didn’t even tell me there was going to be a whole bunch of people here. They just told me there was going to be food. So I said, `Sweet, food,” Pittsburgh freshman center Steve Adams, who grew up in New Zealand and had no idea why his teammates and a few hundred Panthers fans were gathering to watch the tournament selection show .
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.