Well, we’re off to New Orleans with four teams that are really good. No big shocks here. You might say that Louisville is a surprise, but if you ask me, the Big East Tournament champion in the Final Four should never be called a shock. To win at Madison Square Garden, you have to be pretty good. I think we learned this last year when UConn rolled through both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. You win that tournament, you have to be among a handful of teams that can make the Final Four. Remember that West Virginia made the Final Four the previous season after winning the Big East Tournament.
As someone who watched Louisville in Portland and in Phoenix, I can tell you they have the look of a team that could win it all. Yes, I know they are the lowest-seeded team of the four. But if you have yourself a big-time point guard, a shot-blocker, a hot team and a coach who has been here so many times before, you’d be a fool to rule that team out. That said…
Those Wildcats from just down the block are unreal. Kentucky has pros all over the court and they are playing like a team. The job that Coach Calipari is doing with this group is phenomenal. All of their players averaged about 25 points a game in high school. To get them to buy in to distribute the ball and play defense says so much about Calipari. But, my gosh, if he loses to Louisville no one will care one bit. That is the nature of the beast when two teams from the same state play in the Final Four. The last time it happened was 50 years ago, and if you don’t think that was a big deal you’re not paying attention. Cincinnati beat Ohio State in ’61 and ’62 — and then they didn’t play again until 2006! But let’s be honest… Calipari has arguably the top two picks in the draft. Every single one of his players can go one-on-one. They play defense every possession and play it well.
You have to give credit to Bill Self. If it is possible for a Kansas team to slide under the radar, this one did. All anyone talked about this year in the Big 12 was Baylor, Baylor’s uniforms, conference expansion, Missouri’s coaching search, Missouri’s great run, Iowa State’s great run…and, oh by the way, Kansas. Imagine that? Kansas was like the fourth or fifth talking point this year.
Thad Matta is a good guy who has done great things every place he’s been. He helped put Butler on the map, he made a great job at Xavier even better and now has Ohio State on the doorstep of a national title. Thad doesn’t have a title to his credit… yet. But I think it will be a battle of two great coaches without a national title on Monday. Ohio State and Kentucky, Calipari and Matta, Sullinger and Davis. Blue vs. Red.
And Blue wins on Monday!
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball. This weekend Bill will be in New Orleans for the Final Four. You can listen to all the games right here on WestwoodOneSports.com.