Dance Wrap: Elitists
Indy is a fluke-free zone.
by Chris Deaton
Click this link and look at the top 11 in each column.
Yep, this Final Four comprises teams from which we expected great things, and for all participants to have both started and finished the pre-Tournament season in the top 15 reflects that, contrary to this “1/2/5/5 seed” stuff, Indianapolis is straight loaded, even without Kalin Lucas. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Consider the coaches: K, Hugs, the 55-year-old dude who should own a timeshare in every Final Four host city, the 33-year-old dude who may really end up with a timeshare in every Final Four host city … is that not basketball brainpower? Eat your minds out, MENSA.
Goodness knows what happens next weekend — I suppose Leonidas could make one final appearance — but no matter the winners and losers, America will be treated to four optimally-prepared units that will have to beat each other at their respective bests. The sidelines will ultimately rule this March. And it’s exciting that any of them can secure consecutive victories.
El bueno (That’s Spanish for … the bueno.)
* Hey, do you remember the story where Tom Izzo takes his so-so regular-season team and turns them into March monsters? Yeah, that’s a good one …
The narrative regarding T.I.‘s tournament coaching prowess is almost worn out, but damn, how can anyone help it? Maybe it’s a case of the dominoes falling into place, maybe it’s that Sparty is a consistent and fortunate winner of the annual “it’s all about the draw” sweepstakes — or maybe it’s that Tom Izzo MacGyvers 40 minutes and a clipboard into something wonderful when the tough get goin’ and he go an’ gets tough.
* Duke hasn’t been the good guy since a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, when Hayden Christensen turned Anakin Skywalker into the star of My Super Sweet 16, and a nation wept. But they’ve eaten their flak on rye, and Sunday’s triumph over championship contender Baylor was a deserving prize.
This Devils group isn’t of the lose four of six and somehow remain in the top ten BS wavering variety — they entered this Tournament with experience and iron defense, and in surrendering a scary-good 225 points in four games, no one can question their championship ceiling.
* The Big East’s pride hath been saved by the penetration skills of … Joe Mazzulla? His was an outstanding — and impossible — performance, indeed, posted in the stead of the injured Darryl Bryant …
* … But in a frequently appalling game that saw Kentucky miss 86 of its 32 3-point attempts, something as simple as stopping the ball could’ve given UK a chance at Indy. The Wildcats were a declawed bunch, and as it were, out-everythinged by West Virginia. The mighty fall hard.
* Looking back, it’s an unfortunate stunner that the Big 12 won’t be represented in the Final Four. Kansas State and Baylor didn’t go quietly, but the former didn’t have the legs to run and the latter didn’t have the springs to board. Each was a victim of meeting a strong opponent that played to potential — strong opponents who may very well be the two top teams left in this Tournament. Despite their exits, the Wildcats and Bears absolutely had the horses to win this thing, and if nothing else, they went out firing.
* Kudos to SB Nation for this gem of a find: John Wall wiping home a dunk over and over … and over … and over.
Things to look forward to
* The genius level coaching pool has already been mentioned, but Butler-Michigan State promises to be a chess match of an even higher degree. Remember, Sparty took out Northern Iowa with a 59-52 snoozer — something that Butler would’ve been keen on doing in a similar situation. Brad Stevens and Tom Izzo will doubtlessly exchange gameplanning blows down the stretch run, because it’s difficult imagining this thing being decided before the final 120 seconds.
* Duke-West Virginia is actually a pretty normal Final Four pairing, so enjoy it. Great talent, high quality basketball, something worthy of a primetime slot on Satruday.