Mark Tupper has an interesting article on the strange entangled fates of KU, UNC and Illinois. I think you could get 2:1 odds that all three will be in the Final Four. Think of how many shining moments that would result in... Here's the article in full, reproduced from the original source, with fancipated Phog Blog highlights for those who don't want to read the whole thing:
In end, all three schools win in coaching roulette
By MARKTUPPER - H&R Executive Sports Editor
CHAMPAIGN - Roy Williams. Bill Self. Bruce Weber.
Two years ago, they were the dominoes in a plink-plink-plink game of rearranging college basketball coaches that sent shock waves throughout the sport.
Williams jumped from one glamour program to another, leaving Kansas for North Carolina.
That left an opening at Kansas, and their athletic folks swooped in and lured Self from Illinois.
And that opening was filled when Illinois turned to Southern Illinois and found Bruce Weber.
What followed was turmoil, raw emotion and more behind-the-scenes work than any of us will ever understand. But the result of that tumultuous change finds those three schools dominating today's national rankings, making one believe, in the concept, that things happen for a reason.
Illinois is 17-0 and ranked No. 1. Kansas is 12-0 and ranked No. 2. North Carolina is 14-1 and ranked No. 3. How amazing is that?
The subject arises because just one year ago, when Illinois traveled to play at Northwestern, Weber was still fighting the growing pains of finding peace and harmony with his new team. An unbeaten record and top national ranking seemed light years away.
Illinois ended up losing that game against Northwestern, and when guard Deron Williams staggered out of the locker room, he had just one word to describe the experience: Embarrassing.
As Illinois prepares for its return to Northwestern on Saturday, Weber remembers that moment all too well.
"We were still going through some things," Weber said Thursday. "Luther (Head) had his second incident off the court, he was just coming back and his mental state wasn't very good.
"The worst thing that happened was that we had a nine-point lead at halftime and were up by 13 or 14 points. The kids thought they were going to win the game. Deron got into foul trouble, we couldn't make a 3, they sat back in the paint and things went their way.
"They banked in a couple of 3s and there was a whole bunch of craziness. It was an attention-getting loss."
Just to make sure it got their attention, angry fans were waiting on Weber when the team exited Welsh-Ryan Arena.
"I still remember walking out and the fans yelling and stuff," Weber said. "We joked about it the other day. The fans were yelling, 'You guys are idiots!' Then the players walked through and they were saying, 'We love you! We love you!' And those were the guys who just went 0-for-12 from 3."
Actually, Illinois was 6-of-14 from 3-point range, but we get the point.
"The thing is, we were a young team, a new team, we didn't have great leadership and the immaturity off the court showed up," Weber said. "We had to go through some growing pains to figure it out. Once we got everyone back and got their mental state (in order) and got to know our team and our rotations, then we were able to make some strides.
"That's just part of a team. You go through growing pains and learn about your team. New coaches, new trainer, new weight coach, new system, new conditioning, all the things we had to fight through last year."
None of which is unusual when a new coach comes to a winning program. Weber said there's no doubt Self and Williams went through the same gut-churning challenges last year at Kansas and North Carolina.
"When I went to Southern Illinois, that program had really struggled and the kids were very hungry, and they listened to everything I said," Weber said. "They just thought I had some words of wisdom that would get them some wins and get them above .500.
"But when you go to a place that's had great success, players say, 'Why are we changing this stuff?'
"When Roy went to North Carolina, he tried to bring some strong discipline, getting them to play much harder than they had played with the previous coach and the kids didn't understand that. Some of those guys were young and immature and not as coachable as you'd like, but now they are playing their butts off, pushing the ball on everyone and playing so hard.
"It took them awhile to get that system.
"Roy is very strong. He's not going to mess with you. Some of them learned you're going to do it his way or not be part of it."
Weber finds it more than a little bit interesting that Illinois, Kansas and North Carolina currently rank 1-2-3.
"We all have everyone back, all three have talented kids, but it's crazy and ironic that three guys change jobs and all three are in the top five in the country."
He knows his players are tuned into the irony, too.
"They watch Kansas. They are one of their competitors, we feel, for keeping a top-five ranking and possible seeding at the end of the year. Bill is someone who recruited them and they like him and know him. But they watch everyone. Our guys are very basketball worldly. They enjoy watching things and enjoying knowing what's going on in the basketball world."
Though not gone, the initial bitterness of the changes has subsided.
The players got over it first. Some fans never will.
Illini fans love Weber's motion offense, feeling it generates more movement, precision passing and less predictability than Self's offense, one that often reverted to the high-low double post. Kansas fans love the toughness Self has instilled and need to look no further than the past two games when Kansas showed its grit by winning at Kentucky (without inside force Wayne Simien) and at Iowa State. Both games could have been losses.
And North Carolina fans love the way Williams has the Tar Heels playing in an up-tempo blur, piling up the points and torching Maryland and Georgia Tech to open ACC play.
So in a way, everyone is happy. And if Kansas fans still feel jilted that Williams left them for North Carolina, or if Illinois fans still feel the sting of Self's departure to his homeland in the Big 12, they have plenty to take their mind off the hurt.
My contention all along was that Self had what it took to win a national title at Illinois, that Williams would eventually have won one at Kansas, and that Weber was an unstoppable coaching whiz who would have worked his way into title contention somewhere.
As it turned out, the dominoes fell in perfect sequence.
Sometimes, things really do have a way of working out.