How Can All 4 Teams Win The Final Four?
Butler–Duke–West Virginia–Michigan State. We’ve got a Final Four that pretty much anyone can get behind. I love having basketball to watch where I don’t care who wins. I love watching games that will have a happy ending for me either way.
Even if your team lost on the way to the Final Four it’s hard to deny that each of these teams would be a great National Champion. These aren’t the “We Carried Roy Williams” Tar Heels or the “We Like Being Completely Unlikable” Huskies of UCONN.
This is the “We Can’t Believe We’re Here AND At Home” Butler Bulldogs. The “Who Doesn’t Love Tom Izzo?” Spartans. The “You Can’t Deny Coach K” Blue Devils, and the “Bob Huggins Needs a Title” Mountaineers. I LOVE THIS GAME!
Instead of talking about who I think will win let’s talk about how each team can win. Let’s give them their due. Making it to the Final Four is really hard and an accomplishment in itself. Because it’s so hard these guys need to get their “props”.
Let’s start with the Coach who knows the most about winning in this group–Mr. K, himself.
Duke Can Make It A “Fab Four”
Kyle Singler made the smartest play of the Elite 8 game between Baylor and Duke on Sunday. Baylor had to sit their Center–who had 4 fouls–forever. When they put him back in the game for a boost he played a total of 38 second–according to the announcers–before Singler ran right at him and drew foul number five.
This kind of savvy play will carry this Duke team through just about any game. Nolan Smith runs the floor well with Jon Scheyer. They only average 5 assists between them, but they have CONTROL of the floor. Sometimes that means more than stats.
When Duke puts Zoubek or the Plumlees in they take up alot of space. They only pull 16 rebounds between the 3 of them, but that stat is misleading. EVERY big play Duke had needed this tournament has been initiated by a major rebound.
Combining good floor management, excellent rebounding, and depth makes Duke a very dangerous team. They play 9 guys who average 10 minutes a night, and use their depth to keep their stars out of trouble.
There’s no possible way a smart player like Singler or Smith is going to get into foul trouble. How could he? There are two guys sitting on the bench who can play his position while he sits on the bench.
I know we’re leaving somebody out. That somebody already has 3 National Titles. That somebody has been to the Final Four 11 times. 11 TIMES!
Coach K is a go-to coach. I know in 11 Final Fours you might expect a few more titles, but how can you argue with 11 trips? Coach K brings an intensity that is unrivaled in coaching.
He motivates his players not just to win, but to crush their opponents. That’s where Singler’s instincts to generate a 5th foul come from. He’s not looking to win–he”s looking to put his opponent AWAY.
Duke can win if they crash the glass and let Singler push the ball toward the basket. I think a “Fab Four” championship would be nice for Coach K. It would put him far ahead of Dean Smith AND Bobby Knight–tying him with Adolph Rupp.
Not bad company for Bobby Knight’s assistant at Army.
Bob Huggins Can Win One At His Alma Mater
Bob Huggins left Cincinnati in disgrace and–seemingly–all his mojo too. When Kansas State hired him I thought he would fade into obscurity in Manhattan, Kansas or be swept away in a dust storm.
When he went back to West Virginia I hoped he could continue what John Belein had started. Bobby not only continued–he improved. West Virginia basketball is for real. They won the Big East tournament and now they look like the “class” of the Big East.
When I think of WVU I think of Pittsnogle. Right when they started to get good under Belein it was Kevin Pittsnogle who led the Mountaineers. Though he was a good player he seemed a little flukish. He didn’t look like a “star”.
Bobby Huggins changed all that when he brought in Da’Sean Butler and Kevin Jones. Basically, Huggins took the swagger of his old Bearcat teams and combined it with the hard-working “farmboy” mystique of West Virginia.
The combination proves explosive.
He’s got 3 players averaging double-digit points and those SAME 3 guys lead the team in assists. Watch the games and tell me that this team doesn’t look tough.
Joe Mazzulla doesn’t even start, but he made some of the toughest plays I’ve ever seen. Actually, he fouled himself out accidentally when DeAndre Liggins sold the play. Mazzulla ALMOST made it to the ball anyways and he didn’t care.
I loved the fact that he played with abandon. Most teams are controlled and moderated in much of their game. They play half-court or they press. West Virginia just PLAYS.
Wouldn’t it be sweet to watch Bob Huggins’ brand of basketball FINALLY win a National Championship. Wouldn’t it be sweeter to see him win one for his Alma Mater?
Tom “Iz”zo Freaking Amazing
Tom Izzo has been the Head Basketball Coach at Michigan State since 1995. Since 1998 he’s been to the Final Four SIX TIMES! He’s been more times than Bob Knight and he did it in practically half the time.
What else am I supposed to say about the man? He has the coolest voice. Who doesn’t like to hear him say, “Our guys just played really hard and I’m really proud of them” in his “perpetual laryngitis” raspiness?
When Izzo brings a team to the tournament they play as hard as they can and never let up. The Spartans lost their best player–Kalin Lucas–in the Sweet 16. In the Elite 8 Korie Lucious stepped up and played more minutes than he’s ever played.
That’s the hallmark of a Tom Izzo team. It doesn’t matter who it is. We’ll never remember the names. In fact, I dare you to remember a Spartan player BESIDES Mateen Cleaves. Who doesn’t love the name Mateen?
There aren’t any stats that I can cite to make you believe the Spartans can pull this one out. I know it sound weak, but what am I supposed to say? Tom Izzo NEVER brings the overwhelming favorite to the tournament, yet he’s been to the Final Four 6 times in 10 years.
Tom Izzo pulls one out because his team plays harder than their opponent. Korie Lucious steps up again, and his “perpetual rasp” drives his players to new heights.
Butler Shouldn’t Be Here
Butler has no business being in the Final Four. I thought they were going to lose to the upstart #13 Murray State. Then I thought they’d get destroyed by Syracuse. Then I thought a “euphoric” K-State team would down them.
Now, they’re AT HOME in Indianapolis for the Final Four. I already heard Dan Bonner say he thinks the Bulldogs will win it all. How in the hell can they NOT do this.
They carry Gordon Heyward, Matt Howard, and Ronald Nored. Between them I haven’t seen anybody play harder this entire tournament AND they bring 60 minutes-24 points-16 rebounds, and a whole lotta “tough”.
Dominique Sutton put down a vicious–shoulda been–flagrant foul on Matt Howard. Howard hopped up and took his free throws like a man. He looks like he just walked off the farm, but the boy can “jump”.
Gordon Heyward looks about 15. Heck, when my wife saw him she said, “He’s allowed to play college basketball?” He looks 15 but he plays 30. I watched him pull down rebound-after-rebound and second chance-after-second chance.
Between Heyward and Howard Brad Stevens has a tough nucleus he can use to control tempo. Butler moves fast and the rebounding they get from Heyward and Howard provide a solid foundation on which to take it all.
There’s a romantic quality about Butler winning a National Title at home. I hope they can pull it off. I hope any one of the four can pull it off.
This is a win-win-win-win for basketball fans. If you can’t enjoy this what can you enjoy?