Sports 56 WHBlog Q

April 4, 2008

Tournament logic and some Birdfeed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ed Lane @ 5:25 pm

Magically, I managed to pick all teams in the Final Four correctly. How did this happen, considering I was a terrible prognosticator for sports I know? I will not divulge this secret totally, but the one temptation I greatly resisted was the “logic,” that there had never been a scenario where all four number one seeds made the tournament. Oh sure, history offers a compelling case for refraining from picking four number ones. Possibly, though, four number ones had never made it because they were not the best teams. Take 2006 (when no number ones made it). Top seeded UCONN had a chance to reach the Final Four, but bowed out to George Mason in the Elite 8. On paper UCONN was by far possessed a talent advantage, but the knock on them all year was that the Huskies lacked the ability to play as a team. Certainly they played well enough to reach the Elite 8, but that number one seed was not the best TEAM because they did not play a TEAM game.

Fast forward to 2008, when UCLA, Memphis, Kansas, and UNC made history by becoming the first quartet of number one seeds to reach the Final Four. Certainly this could have never happened. UCLA barely pulled out a four point win over Texas A&M in the second round, and Kansas survived Davidson by two in the final Elite 8 game last Sunday. But by and large, these four squads were the best TEAMS in 2008, and blended their talent with the concept of TEAM ball. Having just talent is crucial, but it’s not the sole factor in reaching the Final Four. Teams must be willing to share the ball, set screens, sacrifice their statistics and highlights for the good of the team, if they wish to cut down the nets at the end of the tournament, and even just to enjoy the spotlight of the Final Four.
In 2006, George Mason had nowhere close to the talent that UCONN had. George Mason’s best player, Jai Lewis was the only one who went pro, and that came via a tryout with the New Jersey Giants (more on the New Jersey part later). That UCONN roster was loaded with talent. They had Rudy Gay (now of the Grizzlies), Josh Boone (now of the Nets), Hilton Armstrong (Hornets). They also had two suspended players, Marcus Williams (now of the Nets) and A.J. Price (member of the egregiously large eleven player All Big East first team). The point is the 2005-06 UCONN Huskies were loaded with NBA talent, yet did not have the ability to consistently put forth a TEAM effort, and thus failed to reach the Final Four.

This year, the Four Teams in San Antonio this weekend are all blessed with considerable talent, yet they have done what many number one seeds of the past have failed to do: consistently apply that talent with TEAM ball to reach the Final Four.

Birdfeed: I had UCLA defeating Kansas in the Championship game, and I’m sticking with that. Sure Memphis or Carolina could win it all, but the national media seems to have forgotten UCLA and Kansas. In reality, it’s anyone’s game right now and I won’t be shocked if any team from this bunch wins it all, but I’ve got a hunch about UCLA, after having lost in the Title game two years ago and in the Final Four last year. They still have solid guards, and play excellent defense. Now they have Kevin Love, the missing piece of that puzzle.

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