Final Four Storylines
Here’s what may or may not be beaten into your head by the time Saturday comes.
—UConn Cheats. And yes, most everyone else does, too, but they’re not on display and they’re not the ones who got caught. Is the NCAA happy about the Huskies winning four to get to Detroit? Tough to tell. UConn has turned into a national program, and the Huskies are always good for CBS’ ratings. Remember, it was last year that the program also had to deal with players drinking liquor bottles in parking lots, and A.J. Price has turned around his reputation after he was busted for stealing laptops his freshman year.
—Home (Ford) Field Advantage. Sine the field expanded to 65 teams, only twice has a team played so close to home like MSU will Saturday. The first was in 1988, when Kansas won it with Danny and the Miracles at Kemper; the second was in 1994, when Duke fell to Corliss Williamson and the Hogs.
—Detroit is Poor; This is What the City Needs. While the city of Detroit continues to insist it doesn’t want a pity party thrown its way, the rest of the national media will not oblige. The boost this city needs! And Michigan State, by some divine force of nature, will bring more fans to the game! Perhaps. But also, what if, say, Louisville had won instead? Wouldn’t it have been better for the city if all those Louisville fans paid for hotel rooms instead of the MSU sidewalk alumni, who will truck it there Saturday afternoon, then back home Saturday night?
—Tyler Hansbrough’s Last Chance. The growingly hateable Hansbrough came back his senior year for this chance: to draw the ire of an increasingly irritable nation with his big eye balls, exaggerated calethstenics on the floor and uh-duh facial expressions. If UNC does win this title, they’ll be crouching closer and closer to Duke-like hateability. Believe it.
—The Newbie. Jay Wright’s the only one here who hasn’t been to the party before. First-time Final Four normally don’t fare well, but Bill Self was in the same situation last year and outlasted guys who had been there, done that (Williams, Calipari). Prior to Self, the last freshly initiated coach to win it on his first trip: Calhoun.
—It’s Been 30 Years. Even if you have gotten enough of Seth Davis and his book, you’ll be plenty reminded of Michigan State’s 30-year anniversary of winning its first title over Indiana State. Prepare to see more of a plump Magic Johnson standing all game long Saturday. With any luck, an unkempt Jud Heathcote will be on hand as well.
—Ty Lawson Has an Indestructable Toe. Lawson’s already been shipped out to radio shows across the country. How injured he really is has become more myth than misery. Lawson proved about 23 times over that he’s just fine, thank you (I don’t care what he says about his limitations). That won’t stop the media from examining each roster, looking for any possible window to crack on how teams may be hurting.
—Tom Izzo Belongs at Michigan State. As I stated in an earlier post, he seems less likely to leave now because he A) has gotten to yet another Final Four with Michigan State, further proving he can do it no matter the climate of college basketball; B) will Kentucky wait more than a week to get a hire? But the rumors of Arizona will likely linger, and until Kentucky snags Calipari, Izzo’s name will remain out there. So cue the columnists! We need 900-word diatribes on how this man built this program; how he is this program. And you know what, those editorials are right.
—Jim Calhoun Goes Through the West; Wins a Title Every 5 Years. Well, that’s not really a trend. If it happens twice, it’s nice, but we’ll need to see it go down a third time to really buy into this. It’ll be especially unique if the Huskies win because Calhoun will have gone three for three, each time going the same route to do it: a one-seed, playing out West, every five seasons to win it all.
—Hasheem Thabeet Guarding Goran Suton. Since Suton got hot, many will assume, since he’s MSU’s biggest player, that UConn will have to throw its big man out on an island to defend. Hardly. Stanley Robinson is nearly the terror defensively that Thabeet is, and he can hang with the oaf out on the perimeter. That’s the matchup to expect.
—No One Has More Heart Than Scottie Reynolds. Such a Philly team, these Wildcats are! And since Reynolds has likely made the everlasting image of this year’s Tournament, he, rightly, gets te pub for being the face of this team. Expect terms like “winner,” “guts,” “tough” and “heart” to be associated with this player and this team. And that’s excluding any time Jay Bilas talks about them.
—Kemba Walker is from the Bronx. Somebody tell Jerome Bettis.
—A Possible All-Big East Final, Just Like 1985. And Villanova can be the underdog to win it again. Not quite the same circumstances, though.