Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
All week long we have read and will continue to read about the specific breakdowns of each upcoming Final Four matchup. Check out our own Zach Hayes’ previews here and here for the on-court analysis. One of the other important factors to keep in mind on an enormous stage like the Final Four, though, is the experience and preparedness of the players and coaches from each team. Coaches will tell the media that they prepare for the National Semifinals just like it’s any other game, but we all know that the circus and spotlight surrounding the postseason finales, in any sport, can be trying on the competitors. That’s why we put so much emphasis on “big-game players,” the “clutch” factor, and coaches who can win the “big one.” Here’s a look at how each team shakes out historically on the biggest stage and whether or not that will play a factor:
- Rick Pitino is the most experienced and successful head coach in New Orleans, as Pitino is making his sixth trip to the Final Four with three different schools. He has compiled a 3-4 record in the Final Four up to this point, which includes a National Championship with Kentucky in 1996 and a return to the National Title game the following season (Kentucky 1997), that time with a loss. His 1987 Providence, 1993 Kentucky and a 2005 Louisville teams all lost in the National Semifinals.
- Bill Self has caught flak for several early NCAA Tournament upsets, but he got the full job done during his one visit to the Final Four in the past, when the 2008 Kansas Jayhawks won the National Title, giving Self a 2-0 record at the Final Four.
- Thad Matta brought his 2007 Ohio State team to the National Finals before a loss to Florida, making his record 1-1 all time at the Final Four. He’s looking to best Bill Self in each coach’s second trip to the National Semis.
- This is John Calipari’s fourth trip to the Final Four, with three different schools, where he is a combined 1-3 in the past. Kentucky detractors need to find something to nitpick about the overwhelming favorites, and Cal’s inability to win it all is a key criticism. His 1996 Massachusetts team and last year’s Kentucky (2011) team both lost in the National Semifinals, while the 2008 Memphis team beat UCLA before falling to Kansas in the National Championship.
- Kentucky is making its 15th appearance in the Final Four, seeking its 8th National Championship and first since 1998.
- Kansas is making its 14th appearance to the Final Four seeking its 4th National Championship. The Jayhawks have the most recent title, coming in 2008.
- Louisville makes its 9th all-time appearance in the Final Four in search of its 3rd National Championship. The first two came during the Denny Crum era in 1980 and 1986.
- Ohio State is making its 11th appearance in the Final Four but is seeking just its 2nd National Title. Its only National Championship banner is from 1960 under Fred Taylor.