Mar 26, 2012, 12:48 AM EDT
There’s something in this Final Four for everyone. Well, except fans of the underdog.
After back-to-back Final Fours featuring at least one team from a non-power conference, the 2012 field is much more similar to 2007 or 2008, when it was essentially college basketball bluebloods and former champs. Consider it four teams grandfathers, fathers and sons have all seen at the top at some point.
Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State. Those four are already causing quite a stir.
Some stats on the four:
- They’ve combined for 13 national titles (7 by UK, but everyone has at least 1).
- All of ‘em have been this far at least nine times, and 49 times total.
- Kentucky leads in NCAA tournament appearances (52), followed by Kansas (41), Louisville (38) and Ohio State (28).
- Louisville coach Rick Pitino leads in Final Fours (6), followed by Kentucky’s John Calipari (4), Kansas’ Bill Self (2) and Ohio State’s Thad Matta (2). Pitino and Self each have one title.
- Kentucky tops all NCAA teams in wins (2,088). Kansas is second (2,069), Louisville 16th (1,662) and Ohio State 37th (1,529).
- In the last 42 years, the Final Four usually includes one of these four schools.
But it’s more than just about numbers. There are plenty of storylines, too. Here are eight to keep an eye on.
Kentucky vs. Louisville and John Calipari vs. Rick Pitino
Look for another post on this later, but it’ll be the week’s big topic. This is one of the game’s heated rivalries and the coaches don’t like each other. Also, the teams are great.
Already did a post on this, but forgot to mention that if Kansas and Kentucky meet in the championship, it’ll be another rematch from this season. That’s all kinds of odd.
Returns pay off for Sullinger, Jones
Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger earned some sweet satisfaction by returning to school and earning a Final Four berth. But he wasn’t the only one. Kentucky sophomore Terrence Jones went to the Final Four last season, but passed on the NBA to bolster his status and earn another title shot. Well done, both.
Cheer for Thomas Robinson
Kansas’ junior forward was another guy who passed on the NBA for a season, but he had a little more at stake considering his mother died last season – weeks after he also lost two grandparents. Now Robinson’s a few months away from ensuring his little sister never has to worry about money every again.
Louisville’s amazing run
The Cardinals lost a starter and a key player this season to injuries. They ended the season losing four of their last six. But they’ve won eight straight thanks to the nation’s most efficient defense. This is the underdog of the Final Four.
Big men will rule
Four of the game’s top frontcourt players – Robinson, Sullinger, Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng – are still around. They’re either the team’s focal point or the defensive backbone.
Kentucky’s freshman phenom banged his knee during Sunday’s win against Baylor, but said he’s fine.
Who runs the show?
The big men are studly, but the point guards might be the reason a team wins or loses. All four – Louisville’s Peyton Siva, Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor, Kentucky’s Marquis Teague and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft – play a ton of minutes and do the primary ball-handling for each team. If they struggle, their teams usually do too.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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