Monday's story on Roy Williams and the fall of North Carolina basketball generated quite a few responses. Below is a sampling along with some of your other questions.
Talent not the problem
I'm not going to shed a tear for Roy's talent situation when he has the most McDonald's All-Americans of any team in Division I: Seven.
Overland Park, Kan.
You're right, Grant. The Tar Heels certainly aren't lacking when it comes to talent. Remember, though, that all seven of those McDonald's All-Americans are freshmen (four) and sophomores (three). John Henson is learning a new position, Dexter Strickland is an off-guard trying to handle the point, Ed Davis hasn't been 100 percent in over a month and Tyler Zeller has been sidelined for nearly a month with an injury. Another thing to consider is that, sometimes, players who were in the middle of the pack of the high school rankings (i.e. 50-100) often make major jumps once they commit to a school such as North Carolina, Kansas, Duke or Kentucky. Mainly because recruiting gurus assume their evaluations had been off-base. Even though no one will admit it, those jumps in rankings often help players land a spot in the McDonald's All-American game. I think that may have been the case with the Strickland, point guard Larry Drew and the Wear Twins. Still, injuries and youth are no excuse. This team is too talented to miss the NCAA tournament.
No question, just a comment. I don't feel sorry for Roy Williams and North Carolina. I guess it is not so easy to win games when you lose four players to the NBA. Most schools are lucky if they lose one player to the NBA. The point is that Roy Williams has coached at two storied programs at Kansas and UNC. Both of those schools have no problems attracting Top Five recruiting classes each year. I wonder how good of a coach he would be if he were at Iowa State. Don't get me wrong. I like Roy Williams. My comment isn't based on an anti-Roy feeling.
No location given
The question you pose is an interesting one. Remember, though, that in the college game, the ability to recruit is just as important as coaching. Sure, it's easier to lure a prospect to Kansas or North Carolina than it is Iowa State. But I still think Williams would be able to attract top talent wherever he goes. Also, North Carolina isn't the only school that gets top talent. Every year you see Top 20 players sign with schools such as Texas and Georgetown and Louisville, Florida and UCLA. How are those teams doing right now? My point isn't to knock those schools, but rather to note that almost every coach goes through this at some point – except for Roy Williams. Not until now, at least. He's more than just a good recruiter. If he wasn't a good coach he wouldn't have been able to have the uninterrupted string of success that has defined his career until now.
On the defensive
This is what happens you don't guard, and you never make it much of a priority. Williams' approach over the past 12 years or so has been to outscore the opponent instead of worrying about stopping them. And with the usual talent he has – along with a deep bench – it usually works. But when you lose players to the NBA and when you have injuries like this year's North Carolina team, you will be hard-pressed to win if you don't defend. His teams have never been about toughness and defense and, in an unusual year, it caught up with him.
I don't know if I've ever thought one of his teams was soft, but I agree that Roy Williams has never had a reputation as a "defensive coach." But who cares? Different coaches have different styles, and Williams has always relied on an up-tempo pace and the secondary break to generate points and beat teams. His way has been just as effective as anyone else's style. It's hard to argue with seven Final Fours, two national titles and 20 straight NCAA tournament appearances. If this year's North Carolina squad had more balance – in other words, if its backcourt wasn't so mediocre – it would be able to push the ball and play at a fast pace, and we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Hi Jason! Long time reader, first-time e-mailer. Your story on Roy Williams and the current state of North Carolina basketball reminds me of just how good a coach Bill Self is when you consider the similarities between the 2009 Jayhawks and the 2010 Tar Heels. Both teams came off championship seasons in which they lost most of their best players to the NBA draft. Kansas came back with only one player who had who had earned significant playing time (Sherron Collins) and made the Sweet 16 in 2009 while winning the Big 12 championship. North Carolina will be lucky to make it back to the tournament this year. Keep up the good work. I love NCAA basketball. Can't wait for March Madness.
Self was more than deserving of the national coach of the year award he won last season, as he did a much better job the season after Kansas' championship than Williams has in the wake of North Carolina's title. Remember, Kansas had five players drafted off its 2008 team and also lost starting point guard Russell Robinson. Yet the Jayhawks still found a way to win the league title before embarking on an impressive NCAA tournament run. I honestly believe that Kansas would've made the Final Four had it not squandered a late lead against Michigan State in the Sweet 16. Self is in his seventh season at Kansas and is on pace to win his sixth straight Big 12 title.
Taken by storm
Are you kidding? The 18-21-year-old Illini fans should not storm the court after an emotional win against a Top Five rival with Game Day in town? Do you read your own writing?
Yes, I read my own writing. And, no, I wasn't kidding when I said Illinois fans shouldn't have stormed the court after beating Michigan State. Maybe the act would've been justifiable if Illinois had a losing record and zero basketball tradition, but that wasn't the case. What happened in Champaign was far from a major upset, but the whole "act like you've been there" mantra was something the Illini student section obviously didn't know much about. Fans in Manhattan didn't rush the floor when Kansas State defeated then-No. 1 Texas last month. Why do that, they said, when they expected to win the game? Illinois fans should've viewed the Michigan State victory the same way. Beating the Spartans at home when Michigan State was without its best player was hardly worthy of a court-storming. Save that stuff for something bigger.
Going to the Wall
Last week you wrote, "if Collins is better than Wall, then why is Wall the one being pegged as the No. 1 overall pick in this summer's NBA draft?" It's because the NBA drafts on potential and not their current results or ability. I'll take Collins' leadership over Wall's me-first highlights.
Are you telling me Wall's "current results" aren't impressive? He's the leading scorer (16.7 points) for a team that's 23-1 and a favorite to make the Final Four. He's hit game-winner after game-winner during crunch time and he's averaging 6.3 assists. Heck, earlier this season he had 14 assists in one game. Hardly the record of a "me-first" player.
Marquette in or out?
Marquette is having a subpar season and they never seem to get blown out. All of its losses – both in the non-conference and in Big East play – have been by minimal margins. If they continue the rest of their Big East season with a .500 record, do they make the NCAA tournament?
Each of Marquette's eight losses are by single digits, including three defeats by one point and two setbacks by two points. If Buzz Williams' squad finishes .500 in the Big East then I think it should receive an NCAA tournament berth, but it probably needs to finish 10-8 instead of 9-9 to secure a bid. Hopefully the committee will see that Marquette has close losses against good teams (including two against Villanova and one against Syracuse by a combined nine points) and let the Golden Eagles in. Victories over Connecticut, Georgetown and Xavier should help.
Lobos on rise
I'm curious as to why New Mexico is not the top team in the Non-Big Six power rankings right now? They have fewer losses than Gonzaga or Temple, and they have a great record against the Top 50 RPI, they are 5-0 against ranked teams including a road win and a neutral court win. New Mexico also has the higher RPI and only one more tough game left before its conference tourney. Gonzaga is in a weaker conference and has one more bad loss than New Mexico (San Francisco and the 30-point loss to Duke). Temple has two more losses than New Mexico and has lost two of their last four, including a large loss to a mediocre Richmond team. Can you explain why New Mexico isn't the top dog or why Temple and Gonzaga are getting so much love?
Chapel Hill, N.C.
Wednesday's road win over UNLV probably means that New Mexico will move up to No. 2 in next week's poll, but I still like Gonzaga at No. 1. The San Francisco loss was a bad one and I still can't figure out what happened against Duke. But it's hard not to be impressed with the fact that Gonzaga has amassed a gaudy record while playing an eye-popping schedule that includes Michigan State, Colorado, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Washington State, Wake Forest, Duke, Oklahoma, Illinois and Memphis. Something tells me that New Mexico's record wouldn't look nearly as good if the Lobos had played a similar slate. Instead they played Oral Roberts – and lost.
With all due respect, Jason, the word "delicious" never belongs in a sentence with "vinegar-based sauce." And since you've worked at the Kansas City Star, I know you've had actual good BBQ at some point in your past (Oklahoma Joe's and LC's come to mind as my personal favorites). Stop kissing up to Tar Heel country by pretending their BBQ is anything but nasty. My sister lives there, so I've had my share.
I definitely like Kansas City BBQ better, but I certainly don't have a problem with the way they serve it up in North Carolina. Instead of comparing BBQ from different regions and arguing about which is better, I've decided that all BBQ is good. It shouldn't be a competition because it's all so different. As far as Kansas City, you've got good taste. Oklahoma Joe's has emerged as my favorite, too. Jack's Stack is a close second, and I never have a problem stopping at Gates or Zarda. Dickey's – a Texas-based chain – has just opened a location in Overland Park. The brisket there is delicious. And Bates City BBQ is an underrated hole-in-the-wall that will be added to the list for my next BBQ crawl.