Monday, April 9, 2007

What If...Mizzou Hired Bill Self in 1999?

Basketball season is winding down (though, thanks to K-State, talk of basketball is still abound), so this will be my last official basketball-only “What If” of the season. Since we’re in the time of year where coaches change hands like baseball cards, I thought I’d look at a Mizzou-related coaching change. No, not that one. Been there, done that. I’m talking about the one in 1999: Norm’s resignation and replacement. Needless to say, I had some fun with this one.

As I mentioned recently, Norm resigned on April Fool’s Day. By Kent Heitholt’s April 5, 1999, summary of the coaching search and interview process, the following individuals had been interviewed: John Calipari, Quin Snyder, Bill Self, and Kim Anderson. Other possible names on the list included Larry Drew, Buzz Peterson, Skip Prosser, and SEMO’s Gary Garner (yikes). If you ask just about anybody, however, it came down to Quin vs Self. At the time, not too many people had problems with hiring Quin, other than a) he was a Dookie, b) he might bring Wojo as an assistant, and c) his hair was long and wavy.

Quin was certainly the #1 assistant in the country, he was young, and he was known as a phenomenal recruiter, a reputation he quickly cemented by locking down the commitment of Kareem Rush. Through the years, lots have people have begun to say they favored Self all along, and maybe they did...but a lot of that is hindsight. I hated Duke then like I hate Duke now, but I still didn’t have much of a problem with hiring Quin...other than his hair, anyway.

However...what would have happened if we’d hired Bill Self? First of all, I’m about 90% sure he’d have left for the Kansas job in 2003, but unlike others, I don’t see that as a bad thing at all. If nothing else, that would have vaulted Mizzou/Kansas to the #2 rivalry in the country (behind only UNC-Duke, of course). I mean, think about it—Self would have turned Mizzou into a consistently ranked team, and his leaving for MU’s bitter rival would have made for an amazing amount of bad blood and intensity. It would have been fantastic. The next question is, of course, who would Mizzou have hired to replace him in 2003?

But we’ll get to that. Let’s start from the top.


Every Mizzou fan is beyond well-versed on how this all played out, so I won’t spend a lot of time on this. Quin Snyder was hired in 1999 and quickly proved himself to be a strong (but not amazing) recruiter, attracting the likes of highy-rated recruits like Kareem Rush, Rickey Paulding, Travon Bryant, and Najeeb Echols to Mizzou in his first couple of seasons. However, while he was able to get the attention of best-of-the-best recruits like Luol Deng, he was never able to land one of those guys. He was also never able to land an elite point guard, and considering he was trying to institute the Duke system—which requires not only a good point guard, but the best point guard in the country to succeed—this proved to be his biggest downfall.

As for his exploits on the sidelines, in Snyder’s first four seasons, he had Mizzou a) underachieving in January and b) peaking in March. It was a tightrope act, but it was a successful one at first. After reaching the first round of the NCAA’s in 2000 with a horrifically undersized team, his team made the second round in 2001 and the Elite Eight in 2002. In 2003, his team peaked the week before the NCAA’s, winning three in a row to make the Big XII Tourney Finals, coming up just short against OU in the finals, then coming up just short again to eventual Regional Champ Marquette in OT in the second round of the NCAA’s.

This tightrope act ended like a lot of tightrope acts end—with a dramatic crash. MU’s lack of strong point guard play led Snyder to recruit the troubled Ricky Clemons in 2002, and after his “We’re going to watch Roots, dammit” exploits in January 2003, and the months—okay, years—of drama that followed (the “Crackas be shaking” incident was my personal favorite moment), the program was never the same.

In the shadow of the Clemons fiasco, Quin’s most experienced, highly-touted team faltered horribly in December 2003 and January 2004 before catching fire too late in February and running out of gas in the stretch run. Probation followed, and 2005 and 2006 were completely lost causes. Early recruiting misses—particularly at the guard position—had led to reaches and shady recruiting tactics, and the Quin Snyder Era ended mercifully in February 2006.

Meanwhile, in 1999-00 Bill Self took an experienced Tulsa team to the Elite Eight, then jumped to Illinois to replace Lon Kruger. He took over a better, more well-rounded team in Illinois (players like Frank Williams and Brian Cook were waiting for him in Champaign) than the one Quin inherited at Mizzou, and success immediately followed. He established strong AAU ties and used some shady recruiting tactics of his own to lock up a couple of wonderful recruiting classes at Illinois before bolting to Kansas, his own ‘dream job,’ to replace Roy Williams in 2003. What happened to Self at Kansas has no bearing on this “What If” game since I’m working off of the assumption that he would have left for Kansas even if he were coaching their biggest rival...but I’d be remiss as a Mizzou fan if I didn’t mention a) Bucknell and Bradley or b) no Final Fours. Now that that formality is out of the way...

Being that we’re dealing with a lot of seasons and statistics here (eight seasons between then and now), I won’t spend a lot of time ‘showing my work’ on this one. I basically used the same statistics for the below projections (mostly Net Equivalent Points and ‘per minute’ stats) as I did for previous What If posts. The only thing I did differently for this one was take a close look at what Self and his 2003 replacement (who I won’t reveal just yet) were able to achieve statistically at their own schools and combine that with the stats of the actual players who were on the roster. For tourney results, I did what I usually do—combine actual results and play use the ‘transitive property’ to create new results—except I also threw into the mix what Self (and his successor) actually did in the tourney that same year.

What follows is my best estimate at what the roster and results would have been for each proceeding season. So let’s start from the top.

1999-00 Season

Bill Self was obviously no slouch as a recruiter, so I’m pretty sure the first thing he’d have done as Mizzou’s second head coach in 30 years would have been to secure commitments from Kareem Rush and Josh Kroenke, just like Quin Snyder did. I’m also going to work off the assumptions that T.J. Soyoye would have still stayed committed to Mizzou, and Nyah Jones would have still decommitted.

The main differences between Quin’s first team at Mizzou and Self’s first team at Illinois were a) fewer possessions per game at Illinois, and b) more rebounds. In other words, there was a slower pace for Illinois games than Mizzou games because more guys stayed back to rebound, meaning less second-chance opportunities for opponents and less fast-break opportunities for Mizzou. Part of that can be explained by the fact that Illinois plays in a more plodding, rebound-oriented conference, but a lot of that seems to be Self’s personal coaching style as well. Plus, considering how small this ’99-’00 team would have been, the odds are good that Self would have focused extensively on team rebounding.

Also, Self as a whole seemed to use his bench a bit less than Quin did. Part of that could be explained by what Self’s roster at Illinois actually consisted of, but as these seasons progress, I’ll make a slight adjustment in that way through these seasons by upping the Minutes Per Game (MPG) for starters and lowering them slightly for backups. But you won’t see a lot of that for ’99-’00.

So the 1999-00 roster/stats would have looked like this:

G – Keyon Dooling, So. (31.7 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.7 APG)
G – Clarence Gilbert, So. (31.3 MPG, 13.6 / 4.1 / 2.3)
G – Brian Grawer, Jr. (28.2 MPG, 7.3 / 3.2 / 2.9)
G/F – Kareem Rush, Fr. (25.9 MPG, 14.1 / 4.6 / 1.5)
F/C – T.J. Soyoye, Jr. (25.1 MPG, 8.8 / 6.9 / 0.8)
F – Jeff Hafer, Sr. (22.8 MPG, 7.0 / 4.0 / 1.9)
F – Johnnie Parker, Jr. (17.6 MPG, 6.1 / 4.9 / 0.8)
F – Justin Gage, Fr. (12.3 MPG, 2.3 / 2.7 / 0.2)
G – Josh Kroenke, Fr. (9.4 MPG, 2.7 / 0.9 / 0.3)
C – Pat Schumacher, So. (6.1 MPG, 1.5 / 1.4 / 0.0)
F – Kenge Stevenson, So. (4.1 MPG, 0.5 / 1.2 / 0.0)
G – Mark Wampler, Sr. (minimal)
G – Steve Weaver (minimal)
I figure there’s a decent chance that Pat Schumacher would have played a lot more under Self, but I wasn’t convinced enough of that to actually make a major adjustment there.

(Plus, maybe Self would have started Wampler on senior night. Not that I’m still bitter about that or anything.)

In all, this team’s averages were as follows:

Mizzou: 73.7 PPG, 33.9 RPG, 14.0 APG, 14.1 TOPG
Opponents: 67.3 PPG, 36.3 RPG, 12.7 APG, 16.1 TOPG
Here’s what Mizzou’s actual stats were that year:

Mizzou: 74.3 PPG, 33.5 RPG, 13.7 APG, 13.1 TOPG
Opponents: 69.9 PPG, 38.5 RPG, 14.0 APG, 17.7 TOPG
Fewer possessions per game means 0.6 fewer PPG for Mizzou and 2.6 fewer PPG for opponents. In other words, a better point differential of, depending on how we distribute the points, 2-3 PPG. What do those extra couple of points do in the results category? Not much. The Texas game (originally a 66-63 loss) becomes a tossup, and the Kansas game (the famous “Keyon’s Dunk/Charge” game, originally an 83-82 loss) becomes a win. So in his first season, Bill self sweeps Kansas and goes 18-10 or 19-9 in the regular season (Quin went 17-11). We’ll say 19-9 with a win over Texas (why? Because it’s my blog). Their 12-4 conference finish is good for a 4-way tie for 2nd (with Texas, OU, and OSU), and if I understand the tie-breaking procedure correctly (I probably don’t), they would get the #3 seed behind Oklahoma. They beat #6 seed Kansas (78-69...a 3-game sweep!) on Friday before bowing out to Oklahoma in OT (80-79) on Saturday.

Okay, okay...since I mentioned it, I guess I have to show it...these are the rules...


At this point, Missouri is 20-10 instead of 18-12, and instead of a #9 seed in the South, we’ll say they get a #6 seed. They defeat #11 seed Arkansas, 78-70, in the opening round, then follow with a 69-63 upset of #3 Ohio State in the second round. In the Sweet Sixteen, they face #7 Miami-FL, who upset #2 Cincy in the second round. Based mostly off of Tulsa’s defeat of Miami-FL in that same round (Self coached Tulsa that year, after all), I have Mizzou winning, 76-70. That leads to an Elite Eight showdown against #9 North Carolina...and a 69-63 defeat.

So Bill Self’s first season results in a 23-11 record (12-4 in conference), an Elite Eight appearance, and a 3-game sweep of Kansas. Not bad at all.

2000-01 Season

Bill Self’s first recruiting class (according to me) results in five signees: G/F Darius Miles (from East St. Louis, IL / went to NBA), F Terrence Crawford (Oklahoma City / went to OSU), G Jason Parker (Tulsa / Tulsa), C Jack Ingram (Tulsa / Tulsa-Illinois), and G/F Chris Sloan (St. Charles / SLU).

Yes, Miles. Again, it’s my blog, and I can do what I want to. Miles, of course, bolts for the pros, however...resulting in a pretty mediocre class overall.

How much would the loss of Miles (and Keyon Dooling, who obviously still would have gone pro as well) affect Self’s second Mizzou team? Let’s see...

G – Clarence Gilbert, Jr. (33.5 MPG, 17.8 / 3.6 / 3.5)
G/F – Kareem Rush, So. (32.7 MPG, 24.1 / 8.1 / 2.1)
F/C – T.J. Soyoye, Sr. (28.7 MPG, 10.3 / 7.9 / 0.7)
G – Brian Grawer, Sr. (28.4 MPG, 9.8 / 3.3 / 2.6)
F – Terrence Crawford, Fr. (23.3 MPG, 5.9 / 3.5 / 1.5)
F – Johnnie Parker, Sr. (21.5 MPG, 4.1 / 4.2 / 0.3)
C – Jack Ingram, Fr. (19.5 MPG, 5.3 / 4.3 / 0.4)
F – Justin Gage, So. (15.9 MPG, 2.7 / 2.8 / 0.4)
G – Josh Kroenke, So. (1 game before redshirting due to Soyoye’s elbow)
G – Jason Parker, Fr. (11.7 MPG, 4.0 / 2.0 / 1.1)
F – Chris Sloan, Fr. (9.8 MPG, 1.7 / 1.0 / 1.0)
F – Kenge Stevenson, Jr. (8.1 MPG, 1.1 / 2.0 / 0.2)
G – Michael Griffin, Fr. (minimal)
G – Ryan Kiernan, So. (minimal)
Team Stats:

Mizzou: 77.4 PPG, 37.7 RPG, 12.5 APG, 14.2 TOPG
Opponents: 72.7 PPG, 37.7 RPG, 13.0 APG, 14.5 TOPG
No coach was going to be able to severely limit the free-shooting ways of a team led by Clarence Gilbert and Kareem Rush. And combined with the fact that a) Gilbert & Rush probably would have seen more minutes under Self due to his conservative bench use, and b) the pace of Self’s second Illinois team was increased a considerable amount, this team might have actually averaged more points than Quin’s ’00-’01 team did.

In all, this team’s point differential would have been +4.7, as compared to Quin’s +4.4. Not a huge difference no matter what the style of play. In fact, the regular season probably wouldn’t have seen any different result. The first altered result would have come in the Big XII tourney’s second round, where this time Mizzou actually defeats Oklahoma, 67-66. We’re now going to use the following infallible logic: being that Oklahoma went on to win the Big XII tourney, that means Mizzou would have instead, defeating Kansas (63-57, Self’s fifth win over KU in six opportunities) and Texas (57-55).

Being that the NCAA committee always overdoes it when it comes to teams’ success in their conference tournament, I’ll say the Big XII Conference Tourney Title is enough to once again earn Mizzou a 6-seed, this time in the East Region. They defeat #11 Utah State, 72-58, in the first round, and upset #3 Boston College, 77-75, in the second. The run ends there, however, as USC defeats Mizzou, 73-68, in the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Duke in the Elite Eight.

So Self’s second squad goes on a late run, ending with a 23-14 record (9-7 in conference) and a second straight Sweet Sixteen bid.

2001-02 Season

Two things hurt Mizzou in 2001-02. First, Mizzou’s extra success in the postseason, combined with the fact that Kareem Rush averaged 24 PPG, means that Rush almost certainly goes pro in 2001, a year earlier than he did under Quin. Second, a bigs-heavy recruiting class backfires badly. Bill Self signs two JUCO bigmen—Uche Okafor and Ermal Kuqo—neither of whom ever play a minute for Mizzou due to ineligibility. The rest of the recruiting class consists of just F Roger Powell (Joliet, IL / Illinois) and G/F Blandon Ferguson (JUCO / Illinois), and Mizzou plays 2001-02 with just eight scholarship players (and Justin Gage), only one of whom (foul-prone Jack Ingram) is over 6’6. The bench consists of Gage, Chris Sloan, Josh Kroenke, and Blandon Ferguson. This team’s lack of height, lack of scoring punch, tighter defense, and significantly more physical play, means it has a completely different identity to that of Quin’s ’01-’02 team. Let’s go to the numbers.

G – Clarence Gilbert, Sr. (35.9 MPG, 20.5 / 3.7 / 3.9)
G – Jason Parker, So. (33.1 MPG, 13.1 / 3.4 / 4.2)
F – Roger Powell, Fr. (26.0 MPG, 12.6 / 7.8 / 0.3)
F – Terrence Crawford, So. (28.9 MPG, 7.8 / 5.3 / 1.6)
C – Jack Ingram, So. (21.1 MPG, 8.7 / 5.6 / 0.7)
F – Chris Sloan, So. (20.2 MPG, 3.5 / 3.2 / 1.1)
G – Josh Kroenke, So. (19.3 MPG, 3.2 / 2.4 / 1.6)
F – Justin Gage, Jr. (18.6 MPG, 2.7 / 4.6 / 0.8)
G – Blandon Ferguson, Jr. (16.6 MPG, 4.9 / 3.3 / 1.3)
G – Michael Griffin (minimal)
G – Ryan Kiernan (minimal)

Mizzou: 71.4 PPG, 36.5 RPG, 14.6 APG, 12.5 TOPG
Opponents: 66.4 PPG, 35.2 RPG, 14.7 APG, 15.4 TOPG
This team has a significantly slower pace than the actual Mizzou team did, and that’s mostly by necessity. SF/PF tweeners like Powell, Crawford, and Gage (and to a lesser extent, Ferguson) eat up a lot of minutes at both positions, resulting in fewer points and much more physical defense. In fact, Mizzou is the most physical team in the Big XII by a decent margin. Clarence is obviously the main scoring threat (for better or worse), though Jason Parker (who developed into a very strong player at Tulsa starting his sophomore season) and Roger Powell do their part. In comparison to Quin’s team, this team averages about 8.5 fewer PPG and gives up about 7 fewer PPG.

The other difference for this team was that Bill Self put together a quite ambitious schedule for this season. Some of those games had extenuating circumstances (they played at Maryland as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge), but I’m adding to the ’01-’02 schedule the following games: Gonzaga at home (a win), Arizona in Phoenix (a loss), and at Seton Hall (a win).

When I adjust the other results according to the point differential above, I don’t actually get any different results. So we’ll say that, thanks to the added Arizona loss, Missouri’s final record after a 9-7 Big XII record and second round loss in the Big XII tournament, is 20-12. This is actually worse than the 21-11 record Mizzou parlayed into a 12-seed in the ’02 NCAA tournament, but Mizzou’s Strength of Schedule and RPI are much stronger (the non-conference slate now includes Arizona, Iowa—twice, Illinois, Gonzaga, Alabama, and Xavier and dumps at least 1-2 SWAC teams), and they make the tournament easily. We’ll even say they get a 9-seed in the West instead of a 12-seed.

So here’s how the tourney shakes down: #9 Mizzou defeats #8 UCLA in the First Round, 74-66, then defeats #1 Cincinnati (how in the world they got the #1 seed over OU that year, I’ll never know) in OT. This leads to a matchup against either #12 Wyoming or #4 Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen...we’ll say Wyoming (they performed better in the 2nd round than Ohio State did). A drubbing of the Cowboys follows (we’ll say 75-60), and the season once again ends in the Elite Eight, as Mizzou falls to Oklahoma, 74-67.

Bill Self inevitably would have taken some heat for losing both JUCO centers in the offseason, and combined with the loss of Kareem Rush, Self would have had his work cut out for him. But physicality and tough shooting, combined with a really weak West Region, would have quite possibly led Mizzou just as far in ’01-02 as they actually went with Quin’s deeper, more talented roster. Final numbers: 23-13 (9-7), Elite Eight, third straight Sweet Sixteen.

2002-03 Season

Here’s where Bill Self’s recruiting picked up considerably. Self would have been able to give six scholarships in this class, and here’s where they go: G Dee Brown (yes, he’s from Illinois and might have gone to UI even without Self, but with the AAU ties Self was building in Chicago, I say he would have followed Self a couple hundred miles further west), G Deron Williams, G Jimmy McKinney, C James Augustine, and JUCO PF’s Jeff Graves (hee hee hee...sorry...couldn’t resist) and Seth Scott (who Self was recruiting as a backup plan before he committed to Portland State). The experienced, crafty team of ’01-’02 (minus Clarence Gilbert, who graduated, and Terrence Crawford, who tore his achilles in the offseason) is fortified with a double-shot of youth and talent.

Here are the stats:

G – Dee Brown, Fr. (31.0 MPG, 12.4 / 3.7 / 4.4)
G – Deron Williams, Fr. (27.1 MPG, 7.6 / 3.2 / 4.4)
G – Jason Parker, Jr. (23.3 MPG, 12.1 / 2.5 / 2.1)
F/C – Jeff Graves, Jr. (21.9 MPG, 6.9 / 7.7 / 0.9)
F – Roger Powell, So. (20.6 MPG, 10.7 / 3.9 / 0.3)
C – James Augustine, Fr. (19.3 MPG, 7.3 / 5.3 / 0.6)
G – Jimmy McKinney, Fr. (18.3 MPG, 5.9 / 2.3 / 1.8)
C – Jack Ingram, Jr. (15.8 MPG, 4.6 / 4.1 / 0.6)
F – Chris Sloan, Jr. (8.1 MPG, 2.9 / 1.3 / 0.3)
G – Josh Kroenke, Jr. (8.0 MPG, 2.1 / 1.1 / 0.7)
G – Blandon Ferguson, Sr. (7.4 MPG, 1.7 / 1.2 / 0.6)
F – Seth Scott, Jr. (5.5 MPG, 2.6 / 1.2 / 0.2)
G – Ryan Kiernan (minimal)
G – Jake Jackson (minimal)
G – Rob Stewart (minimal)

Mizzou: 74.6 PPG, 37.4 RPG, 16.4 APG, 13.0 TOPG
Opponents: 65.5 PPG, 34.4 RPG, 12.2 APG, 13.9 TOPG
This is a team with size, strength, shooting (somewhat) and really quick guards. And their point differential is about +4.5 higher than Quin’s ’02-’03 team. There are no major scheduling adjustments to make this season. Adjusting each score by 4-5 points results in the following changes: the home loss to Kansas is now a win, and the road loss to ATM is now a win. Instead of 18-9/9-7, Missouri finishes the season at 20-7/11-5. This leads to a 4-seed in the Big XII tourney. #4 Missouri defeats #5 Oklahoma State, 63-56, #1 Kansas, 71-61, and #2 Oklahoma, 50-47, to take their second Big XII Tourney Title in three seasons.

The 23-7 Tigers earn a #5 seed in the Midwest Region and defeat #12 Weber State, 78-71, in the first round. The second round pits Self against his old team, #11 Tulsa, and Missouri escapes with a 71-69 win, marking their fourth Sweet Sixteen trip in a row. The run ends there, however, as Kentucky knocks off Mizzou, 76-74 in OT.

Mizzou finishes the season with a 25-8 record, and considering the fact that Blandon Ferguson is the only senior, hopes are high for 2003-04. Then Roy Williams takes the North Carolina job. And Bill Self takes the Kansas job.

So here’s the fun part. In mid-April 2003, Mizzou undergoes its second men’s basketball coaching search in about four years. Looking at the list of coaches who found new jobs in 2003 and 2004, here’s the list from which I’d say Mike Alden would would be working:

Bruce Weber (SIU)
Thad Matta (Xavier)
Oliver Purnell (Dayton)
Billy Gillispie (UTEP)
Kim Anderson (token)
You can probably eliminate Purnell because the pull from an ACC team (Clemson) would be too strong considering all of his ties before the Dayton job were from the ACC/Colonial region. Gillispie would be interesting because he was Self’s #1 assistant, but in 2003, he’d only been in charge of UTEP for one season, and they went 6-22. So cross him off. Anderson wouldn’t get a serious look either (well, no more serious a look than he got in 1999), so cross him off.

Now you’re down to Bruce Weber or Thad Matta. Hmm.

I asked The Beef about this, and he says we’d have been more likely to pick Weber over Matta, but I’m extremely biased in Matta’s favor. He was one of my favorite coaches when he was at Xavier, and amid all the rumors of Quin leaving for this job or that job, Matta was the #1 guy I wanted to take the job if Quin ever left. So out of sheer sentimentality, I say we pick Thad Matta.

And since I’m approaching 4,000 words, I’ll speed up now.

2003-04 Season

Bill Self’s final recruiting class consists of only one guy, F Warren Carter. Thad Matta inherits a tremendously experienced team (starting five: Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Jason Parker, Roger Powell, James Augustine) and, judging by what he did in his first seasons at Xavier and Ohio State, takes them pretty dang far. They outscore opponents by about 10 PPG, leading to a 23-4 regular season record, 13-3 in conference play (including a sweep of way would Bill Self beat MU his first season after leaving)—good for the #2 seed in the Big XII Tourney, behind only Oklahoma State. They are upset by Oklahoma in the first round of the conference tourney, however, and fall to a 3-seed in the NCAA tourney, we’ll say in the South region.

They defeat #14 Princeton (73-55), #6 North Carolina (86-72 over Roy satisfying would that be?), and #7 Xavier (71-69 over Thad Matta’s old team), before falling to #1 Duke in the Elite Eight (66-63). A 26-6 season ends in yet another trip to the Elite Eight (and no Final Four).

2004-05 Season

Thad Matta’s first recruiting class is a highly-rated one: centers Steven Hill (Branson) and Kalen Grimes (St. Louis), SF Josh Duncan (a Matta recruit at Xavier), PG Stanley Burrell (ditto), JUCO PG Dupree Lucas, and...Taj Gray, who gave Xavier a strong look before heading to OU.

The ’04-’05 squad has a starting five of juniors Brown, Williams, Gray, and Augustine, and senior Roger Powell. They can go big or small (McKinney and Burrell are the first two off the bench), and they outscore opponents 78.3-64.5, going 25-5 in the regular season and winning their first Big XII regular season title since 1994 with a 12-4 record. Matta moves to 5-0 versus Kansas with a 77-70 win in the Big XII tourney finals, and the 28-5 Tigers get the #1 seed in the Chicago Regional.

They defeat #16 Fairleigh Dickinson (66-56), #9 Nevada (70-60), and #12 UW-Milwaukee (76-64) to move to their fourth Elite Eight in six seasons. Do they get to their first ever Final Four? No. They lose to Arizona in OT (90-89), a disappointing ending to a 31-6 season.

2005-06 Season

I don’t know if Thad Matta could have gotten Mike Conley, Jr., and Greg Oden to come to Mizzou to play for him, in fact I doubt it. But I don’t doubt that, coming off of 6 straight Sweet Sixteen’s and 4 Elite Eights, the Class of 2005 would have been his version of 2006’s Thad Five at Ohio State. In other words, I think the odds of him getting both Tyler Hansbrough and Brandon Rush to sign at MU are pretty high.

The ’05-’06 team would have had a starting five of Dee Brown, Brandon Rush, Taj Gray, Tyler Hansbrough, and James Augustine. Yikes. They go 25-5 (13-3) in the regular season and finish tied for 1st with Kansas. They defeat #8 Oklahoma State (82-66) and #5 Texas A&M (85-73) before losing, 84-80, to #2 Kansas in the finals. The 27-6 Tigers get the #2 seed in the Atlanta Regional.

In the Atlanta Region, Mizzou defeats #15 Penn (63-52), #10 N.C. State (78-54), and #6 West Virginia (77-71) before once again losing in the Elite Eight, this time to LSU in OT.

I’ll stop there and let you dream of an ’06-’07 starting five of Mike Conley Jr., Stanley Burrell, Brandon Rush, Tyler Hansbrough, and Greg Oden. I won’t actually go there, though.


So do you like what I did there? If we’d hired Bill Self (and then Thad Matta), we’d have experienced unprecedented success, both in recruiting and on the court...and being Mizzou, we still wouldn’t make a Final Four.

Bill Self
1999-00: 23-11 (12-4), Big XII Tourney Semis, Elite Eight
2000-01: 23-14 (9-7), Big XII Tourney Champs, Sweet Sixteen
2001-02: 23-13 (9-7), Big XII Tourney Quarterfinals, Elite Eight
2002-03: 25-8 (11-5), Big XII Tourney Champs, Elite Eight

Thad Matta
2003-04: 26-6 (13-3), Big XII Tourney Quarters, Elite Eight
2004-05: 31-6 (12-4), Big XII Tourney Champs, Elite Eight
2005-06: 30-7 (13-3), Big XII Tourney Finals, Elite Eight

Sounds about right to me.