NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.14 EditionPosted by Griffin Wong on April 2nd, 2014
March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.
- DeAndre Daniels isn’t always UConn’s first option, but head coach Kevin Ollie is urging him to become a more vocal leader. “He [Daniels] didn’t say a complete sentence before he got here,” Ollie said. “You can’t shut him up now. He’s grown and he’s matured in that role. Now we’re trying to get him to get that role more on the court, where he’s more vocal and talking and being in a leadership role.”
- UConn freshman Terrence Samuels is responsible for the latest bench celebration craze: the Three-Sweep. It’s a silly dance move, but Samuels maintains that it keeps the team’s spirits high. “It helps keep the bench pumped and motivating the team,” he said.
- Although UConn coach Kevin Ollie is an outstanding motivator, Sean O’Leary from The UConn Blog argues that his in-game coaching is the reason the Huskies have made it so far.
- Everyone is making them, but UConn star Kemba Walker isn’t buying the comparisons between himself and former superstar Kemba Walker. He noted, “At the end of the day, [Walker] took that team to a national championship and I want to do the same. But I’m going to do it a different pathway. And I’m going to be myself.”
- Though Napier denies the comparisons, he and Walker do have one thing in common: They both have incredibly supportive mothers. “Of course, she’s [Walker's mother Andrea] here to support me,” Napier’s mother Carmen Velasquez said. “She just said, ‘We’re going to Texas, baby.’ I said, ‘Yes, we are.’”
- Could Shabazz Napier deserve National Player of the Year honors over Creighton’s Doug McDermott after leading UConn all the way to the Final Four? Some college basketball analysts seem to think he does.
- If Kentucky is going to win it all, the Harrison Twins are going to play a big part of it. Though they started slow and seemed immature at times, the freshman duo have figured it out and are playing their best basketball right now. “The biggest thing we had to help them with was body language,” [coach John] Calipari said. “As that changed, they became different players. The second thing was, we had to define the roles better, and I did a poor job of that until late in the year, by the end of the year. I can’t believe it. I was angry when I realized what I had done.”
- Kentucky freshman center Marcus Lee was the one of the heroes of the Wildcats’ Elite Eight victory over Michigan, and he was thrilled to receive a standing ovation during class upon his return to Lexington.
- Though he wasn’t 100 percent truthful, Kentucky coach John Calipari’s idea of entering the locker room in a casket still hit home with his team as it reached the Final Four. “He [Calipari] said he couldn’t get a casket, but I think that was fun, and it really showed us that he had faith in us,” said freshman shooting guard Aaron Harrison.
- Many had qualms with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s seeding, and Kentucky’s #8 seed might be proving to be the most egregious mistake of all.
- Kentucky is all business heading into the most important weekend of the season. The Wildcats are excited to be there, but they are far from satisfied. “When you realize you’re going to the Final Four of course you’re going to celebrate, but, look,” standout freshman Julius Randle said, nodding his head toward Aaron Harrison and James Young firing jumpers on the Joe Craft Center practice floor, “guys are in the gym working right now. So we’re not done yet.”
- John Calipari and Bo Ryan are polar opposites in the way they run their teams, but at the end of the day, they both get the job done.
- One of the Gators’ two losses this season came against UConn, but coach Billy Donovan doesn’t feel the need to read much into it. “Tonight is not about the past, and it’s not about the future. It’s about right now,” Donovan remarked.
- Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin has obviously emerged into one of the best players, and closers, in the country, but where he’s made bigger strides was with his character. “People get a chance maybe to see him grow as a player. I got a chance to see him grow as a person,” [Florida coach Billy] Donovan said. “It was a struggle and a battle.”
- Billy Donovan has plenty of experience in the Final Four, and he’s imparting his wisdom on his players his week. With all the distractions, he likens college basketball’s spectacle to the Super Bowl. “It’s like the Super Bowl in a lot of ways,” Donovan said, “There are a lot of different demands on your time. … This is a very, very time-consuming thing, and there’s a lot of things that I think can distract you from playing.”
- Florida and its experienced squad is poised to go the distance this weekend. “Our goal at the beginning of the year wasn’t to be South Region champions,” [senior big man Patric] Young said. “Our goal was to be national champions … There’s a hunger within us, with this whole team, to keep going.”
- Florida may not have any future NBA superstars, but they’re outstanding as a team. “Our players have allowed me to coach them and implement a system. They’ve bought into that system,” [Billy] Donovan said during a Monday conference call with Final Four coaches. “Everybody this year has been totally committed to each other and their team.”
- Even though Florida and Kentucky made the Final Four, is the SEC still “lousy?” David Climer from The Tennesseean seems to think so.
- Wisconsin has one of the best offensive teams it has ever had under coach Bo Ryan, but its defense is the reason why it has advanced so far.
- The Badgers attribute much of their camaraderie this season to a preseason loss to Canada’s Carleton University. Even though they fell in that game, the team’s Canadian exhibition trip brought everyone to see how good they could be. “We were talking about the Final Four this summer just to get that mindset, just to think about it is huge,” [junior point guard Traevon] Jackson said. “We lost our first game to a really good team up there, but it was good to see the type of talent we had.”
- Senior guard Ben Brust has grown tougher through coach Bo Ryan’s motivation. Even though Brust grew up on a country club, Ryan knew that he could make him into one of his own. “You better have thick skin here,” assistant coach Greg Gard said. “You better be able to take criticism, both internally or externally. Bo’s very demanding.”
- Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has over 700 wins, has never missed an NCAA Tournament at Wisconsin, and has never finished worse than tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings. However, Ryan filled a huge gap in his coaching resume this past weekend by finally reaching the Final Four. For a coach with such outstanding pedigree, Ryan’s achievement was necessary to his legacy, according to postcrescent.com‘s Mike Woods.
- Kentucky is known for having underclassmen lead the way, but to Bo Ryan, Kentucky “isn’t young anymore.” He also added that “They’re [Kentucky] pretty well established, very talented.”
- Kentucky might be one of the most athletic teams Wisconsin has faced all season, and for coach Bo Ryan, one problem in preparation is to “simulate Kentucky’s length.”