Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Storylines from the Final Four

The five story lines you are going to be sick of hearing by Saturday: I know I wasn't the only one that was sick of hearing about Omar Samhan's chatty press conferences and how Kentucky and Cornell were redefining race relations with a single basketball game in the week before the Sweet 16 started. Which stories will be beaten to a pulp this week?

  1. The comparison of Butler and the movie Hoosiers: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're guilty of it already, I know. But it is just too easy! I mean, the connections between Butler and both Hickory High -- the fake state champion -- and Milan High -- the real state champion -- are uncanny. Small schools, Hinkle Fieldhouse, etc.

  2. Duke's return to the Final Four is a conspiracy: The Blue Devils ran through the weakest region of the tournament, advancing as the only #1 seed in the Final Four. They were on the receiving end of a couple of beneficial calls in their Elite 8 game as well. Connect the dots, and it can only be a conspiracy to get Duke back to the Final Four for the first time in six years. Right?

  3. Tom Izzo is god: Never bet against Tom Izzo in the tournament! Six Final Fours in 12 years! Greatest coach ever!? Yes, Tom Izzo is a fantastic coach. I'm not denying that. But come Saturday you are going to be done reading about it.

  4. Parity and madness: When a mid-major is involved in a Final Four with two five seeds, of course the "parity" of college basketball and the "madness" of March is going to be discussed at length. But keep in mind, Duke and West Virginia are two of the five best teams in the country. Michigan State and Butler were both top 10-15 teams in the preseason. Michigan State's seed no longer matters in March, and Butler was underseeded as a five and has won 24 straight games and 32 on the season. You can't do that if you are not a very good team.

  5. Butler is hosting the Final Four: Yup, Butler is in Indianapolis. The Final Four is in Indianapolis. Not only is Butler the first school to play in the Final Four in its home city since UCLA in 1972, they are also hosting it. Not hosting in the sense that the games are being played in Hinkle, but hosting in the sense that they are throwing the party; Butler is responsible for coordinating a lot of the behind the scenes stuff that happens.

The five story lines that won't get enough play: The story lines listed above are the obvious stories. That's not all that is going on in Indy this week.
  1. Nolan Smith and his dad: Nolan Smith lost his father, Derek, when he was only eight years old. Derek was playing for the Washington Bullets at the time, and the story of Nolan's path to Duke is pretty inspiring. Derek played college ball for Louisville, and in 1980 he helped lead the "Doctor's of Dunk" to an NCAA title. In Indianapolis, where this year's Final Four will be played. Nolan scored 29 points in the Elite 8 game, including seven straight lat in the game that helped seal the win.

  2. Joe Mazzulla and his taste for Dukie(s): In 2008, before he injured his shoulder, Joe Mazzulla was the starting point guard for a West Virginia team that advanced to the Sweet 16. In getting there, they upset #2 seed Duke, and Mazzulla went bananas, finishing with 13 points, 11 boards, and 8 assists. Mazzulla's shoulder looked as healthy as it has all season long last Saturday against Kentucky, and with Truck Bryants foot situation still being figured out, it looks as if Mazzulla is going to get a lot of minutes on Saturday night.

  3. Where are the NBA Draftees?: Believe it or not, there are not a ton of great NBA Draft prospects in this Final Four. Gordon Hayward and Devin Ebanks are likely going to go somewhere in the mid-to-late first round when they eventually leave school. Kyle Singler and Kalin Lucas may both end up first rounders as well. Then there are guys like Kevin Jones, Jon Scheyer, Da'Sean Butler, Raymar Morgan, and a slew of fringe prospects. But no one in this draft class looks destined to be an all-star, which is interesting because talent is usually the biggest determining factor in the NCAA Tournament. In the last 41 years, the only team that didn't have three guys make it to the league was Syracuse in 2003, and they had Carmelo Anthony.

  4. Bob Huggins the hero?: We are so used to hearing about how bad Bobby tHuggins is. Whether it is graduation rates or players getting in trouble with the law or Huggs himself getting in trouble with the law, Huggins and his team is usually the villain. Not this season. For the second straight game now, the majority of the country without a dog in the fight will be pulling for Huggy Bear and West Virginia. That should tell you just how much the country as a whole hates John Calipari and Duke.

  5. How long is Brad Stevens going to be at Butler?: The guy just took Butler -- Butler -- to the Final Four. He is only 33 years old (and looks like he is 20). I'm sure he is already all over the national radar of the AD's at the major conference schools. I mean, the guy can clearly coach his ass off. He gets his team to play hard and play defense and he recruits above his conference affiliation. Big Ten schools wanted Matt Howard. Gordon Hayward was a bit of an under-the-radar prospect but was still a coup for Stevens to land. Shelvin Mack is from Lexington. Is he the next Mark Few, or will he go the route of the Keno Davis's and Jeff Capel's of the world and look for a power conference gig?

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