A Final Four to remember

By Joshua Huff

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The four coaches participating in Saturday’s Final Four are as monolithic in college basketball as Lucas Oil Stadium is to Indianapolis’ skyline.

Few Final Fours in recent memory have the intrigue as this year. No. 1 UK brings its pursuit of perfection, Wisconsin unleashes its spread offense with the intention of exacting revenge, Michigan State enters as the underdog, but has won with suffocating defense and Duke has a roster of talented freshman rivaling that of UK.

Despite the differences, all four teams have one thing in common: excellent coaching.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to be in the class with the people that are there,” Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said. “I think you get a lot of coaches that have worked hard to get there and put in their time, put in their years, been graduate assistants on up. That makes it great because I know I have great respect for the other three coaches that are in here.”

Save the Super Bowl, no other sport in the nation has a spotlight as bright and as large as college basketball does when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. With as intense as the pressure is each March, it’s a feat that each year the same teams find themselves in position to win the tournament; especially considering the one-and-done path that college basketball has gone down.

“It’s changed,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “It’s changed for all of us … we have universities here around this country, some of the top, that encourage kids to move on and do their things if they stayed one or two years.”

Teams like Wisconsin, however, follow the more traditional path.

“The really neat part for someone like me is to see these guys chasing their dream, getting a paycheck, getting paid pretty well overseas and then come back and finish their degrees” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. “My guys are leaving in a different sense more so than John’s guys.”

Unlike Wisconsin, UK has the track record and allure of potential future success in the NBA. A promise that Calipari understands and even embraces even though, on paper, players leaving after a year hamper the growth of his teams.

“The reason things are different, “Calipari said. “Twenty years ago NBA contract were $125,000. Now, if you’re a Top 10 pick, its $25 million. Your next contract may be $80 million. That’s $100 million. You have to respect that.”

As the tip to the first Final Four game approaches, take a moment and embrace the varied talent that will take to the court. Wisconsin’s roster boasts of unheralded veterans who have grown throughout their time as a Badger while UK sends out a roster geared around its talented freshmen.

Like Izzo said, it’s a privilege to see these four teams fight for a spot in the National Championship game on Monday. A treat that comes around only once a year.