NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.14 EditionPosted by Griffin Wong on April 4th, 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.
- Kentucky’s presence at the final weekend of the season may seem like a routine occurrence, but coach John Calipari continues to make the Wildcats’ presence interesting. In particular, Calipari seems to get frustrated when asked about fielding a team of mostly NBA-bound freshmen. “We don’t talk about the NBA,” said Calipari. “We’re worried about winning college games and being a great college team — losing yourself in the team, doing less, which ends up being more, losing yourself in the game. So, I don’t think that kids are thinking those things.”
- He’s never boring, and John Calipari has seemingly outdone himself again. Yesterday the most effective user of the “one-and-done” strategy stated that he thought the phenomenon should end. In an excerpt from his book, Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out, Calipari says, “I’ve made it work for the teams I coach—and for the players—as best I can. But I don’t like it one bit. Some people say I’m renting players or I’m working the system. Let me make this very clear: I want to coach players for four years. Very few of the young players are truly ready for the rigors of the NBA. All but a handful would benefit from more time playing college basketball, more class time and more time on a college campus.”
- John Calipari is often disrespected as in-game coach because he’s so good on the recruiting trail, but Dick Vitale credits Calipari for turning a “disappointing” regular season to a Final Four berth, and possibly more.
- Effective (and sometimes dominant) guard play is a necessity for success in college hoops, and recently, the Harrison twins have given Kentucky just that. Their talent has never in question, but Calipari believes that their struggles came down to him. “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,” Calipari said. “I can’t believe it. I was angry when I realized what I had done. I coached all different kinds of point guards. We had to get Derrick Rose to shoot more. We had to get Tyreke [Evans] and Brandon Knight to shoot less.”
- Coming in as a McDonald’s All-American, Kentucky sophomore forward Alex Poythress didn’t live up to expectations last year. This year, however, his move to the bench has seemingly sparked his game, as he is now averaging nine points and 11 rebounds in only 23 minutes per game. “Alex is playing out of his mind,” coach Calipari said. “Alex went from the starter to the sixth man, from way too many minutes to probably a few minutes less than he needs, less shots, and all of a sudden … he’s skyrocketing. That stuff doesn’t matter. The shots and points, that’s all ego. It’s how are you playing?”
- Kentucky as a #8 seed may look like a conspiracy, but in reality, it just happened to be bad luck for Wichita State and Louisville. Expressing his discontent with seeding after his team beat Wichita State in the Sweet Sixteen, Calipari said that “The winner of this [game between Kentucky and Wichita State] should have gone to the Final Four, that’s what this was.”
- The families of Wisconsin players have become a team of their own through supporting their Badgers. “Everyone just enjoys each other’s company,” said Jonathan Brust [and father of Wisconsin senior, Ben], whose mother, Barb, is cited as the ringleader of much of the group’s social activities. “We’re all enjoying the experience together.”
- Wisconsin senior Zach Bohannon doesn’t play much, but he’s made a huge impact in the classroom during his time in Madison. Bohannon already has a bachelor’s degree and a masters degree, and is in the process of adding an MBA to the list.
- A longtime coach in the state of Wisconsin, Badgers coach Bo Ryan was ecstatic when he received an offer to be Wisconsin’s head coach in 2001. Before he took the job, athletic director Pat Richter asked Ryan one simple question: “Are you ready?” I think we all would agree that Ryan’s resounding “yes” was the correct response.
- Bo Ryan hasn’t found any new validation in his coaching career by reaching the Final Four, and his peers feel the same way. In the words of his coaching adversary on Saturday, John Calipari: “So I don’t think we evaluate any coach based on Final Fours or who made it, national titles. We just know who can coach, who is a good guy, who gets their teams better, who cares about those kids. We know those guys. If they made it to the Final Four, great. If they didn’t, that didn’t change my opinion of them.”
- Over the years, Bo Ryan has developed a close connection with his players. As a result, he is enjoying his first Final Four with them and hopes that a National Title will be icing on the cake. “It would be so exciting if we were to be the last team standing,” Ryan said. “I would just stand back and look at those guys and just smile inside and outside.”
- Kentucky coach John Calipari has seen success in Lexington through his one-and-dones, but Bo Ryan is proving that you can still reach Final Fours the old fashioned way: “Four-and-Dones.” Ryan, however, was lighthearted when asked about Coach Cal’s methods of winning. “Here’s all I’ve got to say to Cal,” Ryan said. “When somebody asks me about one-and-done, all I remember is when Mom would give me a pork chop or piece of meatloaf and I would ask for another piece and she would say, ‘No, one and done.’ “
- Coach Billy Donovan has made Florida into what it is today, but CBS’s Gregg Doyel argues that he has also done wonders for himself as a coach, particularly when it comes to his recruiting strategy. Doyel states, “Florida has gone from looking like a future NBA team to looking like a mid-major deluxe, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. The one-and-done thing works for John Calipari at Kentucky. The mid-major thing works for Gregg Marshall at Wichita State. Donovan is somewhere in the middle, getting the occasional superstar recruit like Young or Bradley Beal but surrounding those guys with pieces that are brimming with character and growth.”
- For Billy Donovan, patience has helped him become one of the best coaches in college hoops. Even after the Gators repeated as National Champions in 2006 and 2007, Donovan went through two straight NIT years before building a recruiting class that would reach four straight Elite Eights. “When things don’t go your way, it causes you to pause and reflect and to try to find out a solution,” Donovan said. “I think one of the greatest things and one of the most difficult things in life is when something doesn’t go the way you want it to go [you must] legitimately find the answer and the reason of why it didn’t go and make the correction.”
- Everyone talks about Florida’s four seniors, but sophomore Michael Frazier II has been key to the Gators’ success this season. Frazier’s ability to shoot the three gives Florida a boost from the outside and keeps opposing defenses from packing the paint.
- After a December battle that resulted in Scottie Wilbekin getting injured while Shabazz Napier hit the game-winning jumper, Florida and UConn’s outstanding point guards will have a chance to get after each other again on Saturday. The winner of this individual match-up will have a great shot to reach the National Championship game.
- UConn guard Shabazz Napier is great at getting open looks off of ball screens, but Florida center Patric Young is one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the country and is poised to shut down the Huskies. ”He [Young] is, by far, the best guy I have ever had in the frontcourt at defending the pick-and-roll,” coach Billy Donovan said. Assistant coach Rashon Burno added that ”he has an unbelievable memory and understanding of pick-and-roll, but also of the other team’s offensive players. Pat has an innate ability to really anticipate the game’s next play. This game is about movement and adjustment and he does that on the fly.”
- Of all the players in the Final Four, Patric Young is probably the most intimidating guy left. Young stands 6’9”, but what makes him so scary are his massive arms and his shoulders. Thanks to unorthodox, high-intensity offseason workouts, it’s safe to say that Young is absolutely jacked. Check out the link for a video of one of Young’s workouts. I guarantee you’ll be impressed.
- An NBA journeyman, UConn coach Kevin Ollie never really had a home as a professional. However, after taking his alma mater to the Final Four, Ollie may just find some “stability” in Storrs.
- UConn was embarrassed at Louisville on March 8, losing by a margin of 33 points. However, for the Huskies, success came after learning from their mistakes. “I think that through struggle, you get progression, and that [loss] was a struggle for us,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “We were looking at it as a possibility for us to get better as a team.”
- UConn suffered from academic sanctions, but it used them to motivate itself both on and off the court. “We took care of business, and we took care of business on the court, won a lot of games,” Ollie said. “Then we came into this season with one goal in mind, and that’s improve and get back in the Tournament. And I think we did that, and we’re playing our best basketball.”
- Although the Huskies don’t think that their victory over Florida in December is significant, the game reminded them all season that they could play with the best. “We were playing good basketball before that win,” he [Kevin Ollie] said. “But we have so much respect for the program of Florida and how hard we have to play to get a victory like that. It really allowed our team to understand what level we have to play and compete to ultimately get to a Final Four.”
- Kevin Ollie deserves a lot of credit for bringing his team together and becoming an “NCAA Tournament overachiever.” Despite being banned from postseason play last year, the second-year coach was able to keep his team engaged. “It takes a lot of character to keep believing when nobody else believes in you,” Ollie said. “People saying we were banned, but we weren’t banned from caring for each other, loving each other, making each other better, challenging each other.”
- UConn’s dynamic backcourt duo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright didn’t get along at first, but became closer both on and off the court after becoming roommates last year. Even though they argue with each other sometimes, they maintain that it’s nothing too harmful. “Just being together every day throughout the years, we just naturally started bonding,” Boatright said. “Now, we’re brothers. We’re going to bump heads sometimes, but we love each other, and we want the best for each other.”