Kentucky Continues Down The Road To Perfection

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Tournament Parity On Display As Teams Advance To Sweet 16

By John Ventola

After four days of following the bouncing ball, and hearing on-court exploits described with such phrases as dribble drive penetration, kiss off the glass, drive and deliver, crossover dribble, and dominating the boards/tempo, it is time to say goodbye to fifty-two college basketball squads that started the week with various levels of confidence that they would advance to next week’s Sweet Sixteen.

The first week of NCAA’s national tournament proved that March Madness is, indeed, alive. The second round (after four play-in first round games) saw five underdogs pull

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March Madness Provides Upsets And Close Games

upsets, with Georgia State and University Alabama-Birmingham pulling off the rare feat of a No. 14 seed in a region besting the No. 3 seed. Georgia State and UAB topped Baylor and Iowa State, respectively, by one point, but a win is a win, and the two teams enjoyed giving the Big 12 Conference a double dose of embarrassment.

The next three days of the second and third rounds featured surprises, Wofford losing by only three points to Arkansas, and Harvard barely losing to North Carolina by two points. A couple of shots here or there could have set up an unbelievable No. 12 (Wofford) versus No. 13 (Harvard) matchup to advance to the Sweet Sixteen! North Carolina State’s upset of No. 1 seed Villanova, and Michigan State’s thrilling victory over No. 2 seed Virginia in the East region, and Wichita State’s victory over No. 2 Kansas in the Midwest were other results that added to the

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Kansas Coach Bill Self Picks Opponents Besides Other Things

Madness. UCLA beat No. 6 seed SMU by one point, and benefited from UAB’s second round upset of Iowa State when it easily bested the Blazers by seventeen points in the third round.

Sweet Sixteen basketball will move on to Syracuse (East), Houston (South), Cleveland (Midwest), and Los Angeles (West), where three No. 1’s (Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke), two No. 2’s (Arizona, Gonzaga), two No 3’s (Notre Dame, Oklahoma), two No. 4’s (North Carolina, Louisville), two No. 5’s (West Virginia, Utah), one No. 6, (Xavier), two No. 7’s (Wichita State, Michigan State), one No. 8 (NC State), and one No. 11 (UCLA), will attempt to win their region and advance to the Final Four, which will start Saturday, April 4th.

Once again it is interesting to peruse the names of the coaches that will take their teams to the next round. Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Rick Pitino (a Kentucky-Louisville dual could be a Final Four semi-final matchup), Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, and Bob Huggins are familiar sideline pacers, or check and see what conferences are well

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ACC Has Five Teams In Sweet Sixteen

represented in the sixteen teams remaining. This season the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has five teams still in the dance (North Carolina, Duke, NC State and newcomers Notre Dame and Louisville), the Pac-12 has three (Arizona, UCLA, and Utah), the Big Ten (Wisconsin, Michigan State), and Big 12 (Oklahoma, West Virginia) each have two, and the Southeastern Conference (Kentucky), West Coast (Gonzaga), Missouri Valley (Wichita State), Big East (Xavier) all have one.

No surprise that Krzyzewski and the others coaches mentioned are again taking a team to the Sweet Sixteen. Each can recruit and motivate, their extra edge is that they know how to teach fundamentals, and are excellent tacticians during a game. While some new coaches (lesser known) will be seen on the sidelines next week, and some teams playing have not been frequent visitors to the Sweet Sixteen arena, most of the schools with below average coaches were sent home this past week. Sometimes talent on the court can make up for lack of coaching skill, but rarely will it get a team all the way to the winner’s circle of the NCAA tournament. Competent coaching is mandatory. When it is combined with talent, a team is hard to beat.

Unbeaten Kentucky, now 36-0 with the goal of going 40-0 and cutting down the nets in Indiana, and Coach John Calipari have been criticized for their one-and-done system over the last few years. Calipari recruits high school All-Americans, but he still has to

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One And Done Questionable But Calipari Does It Well

coach, motivate, and get the players to buy into the team concept. Although he has star players each year that will make the immediate jump to the NBA, he consistently gets players that check their ego at the door and work as a unit. He did it rarely at Massachusetts, but he began tinkering with the one-and-done system when he recruited Derrick Rose and others to Memphis. John Wall, Anthony Davis, and others at Kentucky have continued the trend, with current freshmen stars Karl-Anthony Townes, Trey Lyles, and Devin Booker possible candidates for next season’s NBA jump.

Krzyzewski, who won his 1,000 game this year, fought off the one-year situation as long as he could but realized he had to do it also in order to stay competitive. Consequently, Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers, Jabari Parker, and this year’s player of the year Jahlil Okafor have put in one year in Durham before going on to NBA rosters. North Carolina’s Williams, West Virginia’s (formerly at Cincinnati) Huggins, Michigan State’s Izzo, and Louisville’s Pitino, have had one-year stars also.

Overall college basketball has suffered because of the one-and-done system, and the me first attitude of a majority of players. The quality of the game has decreased because so many players play with a selfish, showboating style. Many do not worry about team, as long as their statistics are there for a possible look-see and possible tryout with an NBA team or foreign team. Fan interest has not decreased, but efficiency of play has taken a major hit.

The sixteen teams have varying degrees of talent. However, it is usually the guy calling the shots on the bench who makes the difference in a close game, the decision-maker who controls the ebb and flow of a contest by calling strategic plays, defensive and offensive adjustments, and making key personnel changes at the proper times.

Krzyzewski is the master, and he proved it again this week. His Blue Devils let lowly Robert Morris rally and cut a substantial lead to seven points before calling a time out to

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Coach K Has Duke Primed For A Run

direct and inspire his squad to a 29-point victory. In the third round game, a very athletic San Diego State team (coached by former Michigan mentor and Fab Five boss Steve Fisher) cut a comfortable lead to a nine-point second half margin before Coach K made adjustments to turn the tide. Duke won by 19 points as it pulled away from SDSU after some well called timeouts.

Kentucky is the odds on favorite as it can dominate both offensively and defensively. The Cats have perfection as their goal, and will attempt to join the 1976 Indiana team as college basketball champions with a perfect record. The Hoosiers, coached by Bobby Knight, finished 32-0. Calipari’s group will top that by eight games if they are able to take carry of business in, of all places, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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