Tuesday, March 27, 2012
More history to be made in New Orleans
By ESPN Stats & Information
After upsets leading into the Final Four the past two seasons, this year’s event is for blue bloods only.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time that every national semifinalist has made at least eight prior Final Four appearances.
The only other Final Four in which each team had made more than five previous semifinal appearances was 1993. That year was the 11th appearance for North Carolina while Kansas and Kentucky were making their 10th trip and Michigan its sixth.
Rematches provide rare second chances
For the first time since 1964, the national semifinals will feature two rematches of regular-season contests.
That season, Duke avenged an early-season loss to Michigan and UCLA beat Kansas State for the second time. The Bruins beat the Blue Devils in the championship game to finish the season 30-0 as John Wooden won his first title.
Both of this year’s matchups occurred in December.
On Dec. 10, Kansas beat Ohio State 78-67 in Lawrence, handing the Buckeyes their first loss of the season. Thomas Robinson scored 21 points to lead the Jayhawks while Tyshawn Taylor dished out a career-high 13 assists.
One big difference this time around will be Jared Sullinger, who did not play in December because of back spasms. Ohio State shot just 39 percent from the floor while Kansas shot 58 percent.
Kentucky and Louisville met on New Year’s Eve in Lexington. In the first matchup between the two as top-five teams since Rick Pitino arrived in Louisville, the Wildcats won by seven points.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 24 points and pulled down 19 rebounds, becoming the first Kentucky player to have a 20-15 game against a top-five opponent in 15 seasons. Russ Smith scored a career-high 30 points off the bench for Louisville, but no starter scored in double figures.
Seeing the game from both sides
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino spent eight years at Kentucky, leading the Wildcats to three Final Fours and a national championship in 1996. His semifinal matchup with Kentucky will be just the second time that a Final Four game pits a coach against a former team. In 2008, Roy Williams and North Carolina lost to Kansas in a semifinal.
ACC left out of party
What this year’s Final Four doesn’t have is a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. It’s just the second time since the tournament expanded in 1985 that the ACC has failed to have a Final Four team in consecutive years -- the other was 2006-07.
That makes four times in the last seven years that the ACC hasn't had a Final Four representative, matching the number of times the national semifinals were played without an ACC team in the 21 years from 1985-2005.
Championship ring redux
Looking ahead, it’s possible that the national championship game will feature two coaches who have already won a title. If Louisville and Kansas win on Saturday, Monday’s title game will be the sixth in the last 50 years between coaches with championship rings.