Sunday, March 28, 2010
Stars aligned for new-era Final Four?
By Jeff Caplan
HOUSTON -- On Saturday the Final Four got an injection of new blood. Today, two blue-bloods could get in or it could be a totally fresh-faced weekend in Indianapolis.
First, who are the new guys already in? The Butler Bulldogs are for the first time ever, having upset Syracuse and Kansas State. The Bulldogs, coached by 33-year-old Brad Stevens, get to play in their hometown.
West Virginia is also in after stunning Kentucky. The Mountaineers, led by Morgantown native Bob Huggins, haven't made the Final Four since 1959.
And now we have Bruce Pearl's Tennessee Volunteers and Scott Drew's Baylor Bears attempting to make it a clean sweep for the renegades against the establishment.
Tennessee faces Tom Izzo's never-say-die Michigan State Spartans and the Bears -- truly the real Cinderella here after being picked to finish 10th in the Big 12 -- get the Duke Blue Devils, the final No. 1 seed standing, and coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The Volunteers are in the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Baylor hasn't been here since 1950 when the tournament field was eight. Krzyzewski is 10-1 in regional final games.
So, are the Stars aligned for a new-ear Final Four? Krzyzewski says get used to the parity and the unexpected:
"Different teams have a chance to win right now unless you get that super team that has guys sticking together who are pro caliber, pro caliber for a while," Krzyzewski said. "It will be like this from now on, which I don't think is bad. It's pretty darn interesting. But it's tougher to maintain a high level."