Bill Self: Muffed play in earlier game helped KU perfect play that saved 2008 championship
Kansas fans will remember the moment. The Jayhawks had been battling uphill throughout the game against Purdue in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. About a minute remained and the Jayhawks trailed by three when they got a steal: The transition ended with Elijah Johnson tossing a long lob to Tyshawn Taylor, who finished at the rim.
Work remained for the Jayhawks, but this was a mood-swing moment between players with a combined seven years of college experience.
“Who does that if they’re not seniors and juniors?” KU coach Bill Self said, smiling at the memory.
Several big moments from a largely experienced team helped Kansas win that night and go on to reach the national championship game before falling to Kentucky.
What the Jayhawks didn’t have much of the season was future NBA talent.
Three players from that team, Taylor, Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, played in the NBA. Johnson did not. Another future NBA player, Ben McLemore, was on the team but not eligible.
The trio of future pros on KU’s 2012 roster combined for a career total of 2,368 regular-season points in the NBA. Only three other Self-coached Kansas teams through 2018 had less future NBA production than the one in 2012, a team that advanced farther in the NCAA Tournament than all but the 2008 national title squad.
Does that make it Self’s most overachieving team? Perhaps. Do teams with more future NBA production that get bounced early in the NCAA Tournament underachieve? Maybe.
But as the NBA Finals unfold and the league gears up for the draft at the end of the month, it’s fun to check statistical websites, especially the wonderful basketball-reference.com and sports-reference.com/cbb, to reverse-engineer, so to speak, some college hoops teams.
Or put a twist on the disclaimer about past success being no indication of future results. In this case, what did future results — players’ pro careers — say about their college teams?
Most power programs have plenty of examples of both. At Kansas, the roster that included the most future NBA points never reached a Final Four. Same at North Carolina and Indiana.
Duke’s most prolific pro-scoring team got to a title game but didn’t win it.
Kentucky and UCLA won championships in years that proved to be the most productive teams in terms of future NBA scoring.
What, if anything, does all this suggest?
“It goes to show,” Self started to say, then paused as he looked closer at a list of Kansas teams and their pro totals. “It goes to show a few things.
“First, all these players were good, or they wouldn’t have been in the NBA. And in the NCAA Tournament you’re playing against other teams with those players. So, it often comes down to intangibles. Obviously, chemistry is big. But fortune plays a part too.
“The wrong guy gets in foul trouble, you get a good bounce. Games come down to one or two possessions, and someone makes a play.”
It should be noted that Kansas’ three NCAA title teams included players who had good NBA careers, with Clyde Lovellete in 1952 (11,947 points), Danny Manning in 1988 (12,367) and Mario Chalmers in 2008 (5,743).
But none of those teams are among the top five in program history when it comes to future points on the roster. The Jayhawks of 1996 and 1997 included six future NBA players who combined for 37,921 points, the most by any Kansas team. Paul Pierce led the way with 26,397.
In the Self era, the teams of 2009, 2010 and 2011 each topped the 2008 team, largely because of the Morris twins. Markieff and Marcus are having solid NBA careers with a combined 13,019 points. The 2014 team with Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid also has produced more future points than the national champion, and that team, without an injured Embiid, fell in the second round.
Wilt Chamberlain alone scored more than 31,000 points.
At Missouri, the 1980 team that began a stretch of four straight Big Eight championships included the most future NBA points, with senior Larry Drew and freshmen Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold combining for 17,319 future pro points.
Kansas State’s 1978 team had the most future NBA production, with freshman Rolando Blackman (17,623) and senior Mike Evans (4,531) as the program’s future pros.
The NBA’s career scoring leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is largely why his senior team tops the UCLA list. The 1969 Bruins included Abdul-Jabbar, Sidney Wicks and Curtis Rowe and combined for 60,023 NBA points.
The 1996 Kentucky Wildcats of Tony Delk and Antoine Walker combined for 43,065 future NBA points, the most in that program’s history, although recent John Calilpari teams could give it a run with so many current NBA players.
The top future scoring team in Duke history fell just short of a national championship. The 1999 Blue Devils, with Elton Brand, Shane Battier and Corey Maggette, combined for 39,455 future points. They lost to Connecticut in the title game.
The most NBA points of any college team in history belonged to the 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels. As pros, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Kenny Smith, Joe Wolf and Dave Popson combined for 69,963 NBA points. That team lost to Indiana in the regional semifinals.
But North Carolina’s 1993 national championship team included just 7,186 future NBA points.
In future scoring, none of Bob Knight’s three NCAA title teams at Indiana topped the 1963 Hoosiers led by the Van Arsdale twins and Jon McGlocklin. With more than 39,000 future NBA points on the roster, those Hoosiers finished 13-11.
College basketball history is filled teams whose future production makes you wonder how they never cut down nets.
Michigan’s Fab Five, which included newly minted Wolverines coach Juwan Howard, got close ... but even with more than 47,000 future NBA points in the mix, they couldn’t win a title.
Connecticut has won four NCAA championships since 1999, but the 1994 team, led by Ray Allen, amassed the most future NBA points in school history (36,790) and didn’t get to a Final Four.
Neither did the 1990 LSU team of Shaquille O’Neal, Stanley Roberts and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formerly Chris Jackson). Dale Brown-coached teams without the same future talent level reached the Final Four in 1981 and 1986.
“The biggest season that (1990) team didn’t make the Final Four?” Brown said. “I didn’t do a good job with them. I had never had that kind of talent. But some of the most talented teams don’t make it to the FInal Four or win championships.”
That’s been true throughout the game’s history, and future NBA success can be an indication.
Future pros, college success
Most future NBA points
North Carolina, 1984 (Sweet 16)
69,963 (Michael Jordan, 32,292; Sam Perkins, 15,324; Brad Daugherty, 10,389; Kenny Smith, 9,397; Joe Wolf 2,485; Dave Popson 76)
UCLA, 1969 (NCAA champion)
60,023 (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 38,378; Sidney Wicks, 12,803; Curtis Rowe, 6,873; Steve Patterson, 1,552; John Vallely, 359, Lynn Shackelford 58)
Kentucky, 1996 (NCAA champion)
43,065 (Antoine Walker, 15,647; Derek Anderson, 7,357; Ron Mercer, 5,892; Nazr Mohammad, 5,827; Tony Delk, 4,957; Walter McCarty, 3,056; Mark Pope, 285; Jeff Sheppard, 40; Wayne Turner, 4)
Duke, 1999 (NCAA championship game)
39,455 (Elton Brand, 16,827; Corey Maggette, 13,198; Shane Battier, 8,408; Trajan Langdon, 647; William Avery 379)
Kansas, 1996 (Elite Eight), 1997 (Sweet 16)
37,921 (Paul Pierce, 26,397; Raef LaFrentz, 5,690; Jacque Vaughn 3,463; Scot Pollard 2,222; Billy Thomas 144, Ryan Robertson 5)