What was more annoying: morose and poorly dressed, or aw-shucks and underhanded?
There just wasn't anything likable about Danny Nee. He was sullen and morose and wore horrible suits and didn't even have the decency to offset that with sarcasm or a sense of humor. And he made Nebraska a pretty decent team as well. Playing against his teams was just no fun, even when Mizzou won. At least Billy Tubbs was fun to hate. Nee just sucked the fun out of everything.
...on February 4, 1998, when Norm Stewart enraged him in the greatest way possible.
Nebraska's Cookie Belcher hit the floor after being fouled on a layup attempt with 2:34 left in the game. He held his right wrist and took his 66.7-percent free throw touch to the bench. He was replaced by Eric Piatkowski, who brought in a 64.7 percentage.
But Piatkowski made both shots to give the Huskers their first lead in the second half 64-63. Belcher immediately returned to the game. Stewart was incensed.
Moments later, Missouri's man-mountain center Monte Hardge was fouled. With assistant coach Kim Anderson waving his arms like a movie director, the Tigers' bench convinced Hardge that he had an excruciating pain.
Hardge hesitated a few seconds before the method acting tips from the Strasberg academy took hold. He hobbled to the bench along with his 3-of-11 baggage at the foul line. Enter Kelly Thames, who makes 78 percent of his foul shots. Missouri soon had its lead back.
Nee, looking like a fellow returning from a snipe hunt, was incredulous. Even the referees had a hard time explaining it.
"I thought Cookie Belcher was hurt, we've been wrapping that wrist all year," Nee said. "He said he couldn't play and then he said he could. So I said, `Don't be sitting by me if you can play.' I would have never taken him out if I thought he could play.
"But then Norm discovered something about one of his players."
Stewart went to the Gray's Anatomy book to come up with a sprained laterial latisimis dorsi something. It could have been a dorsal fin for all we know.
"Their guy was injured and they took him out and our guy was injured and we took him out," Stewart said. "I think Monte is in the ambulance, on the way to the hospital along with Cookie."
It wasn't that he won, even though he did. After all, Bill Self has beaten Mizzou at an even higher rate and won the national title that eluded Williams in Lawrence, and he didn't make this bracket. (He almost did, but that's not the point.) Really, it was the aw-shucks personality. The fact that he talked like Deputy Dawg and built the reputation of being one of the best people in college basketball while allegedly doing some pretty negative recruiting behind the scenes. And let's face it, even if he was not guilty of any negative tactics ... the more bulletproof your character is, the more rival fans will attempt to shoot bullets through it. Mizzou hated Roy Williams because, unlike with Billy Tubbs, Danny Nee or others, they weren't given the high road. They couldn't hate him because he was a jerk, they could just hate him because a really, really successful Kansas coach. Which, it turns out, was enough to get him into this bracket.