FINAL FOUR TEAMS
Youth will be served. The Wildcats may have three freshman starters—including Marquis Teague at the most important position, point guard—but they play with uncommon maturity and poise. More important, this is the best defensive team John Calipari has ever coached (and that includes his New Jersey Nets). That was clear last Saturday night, when Kentucky held Vanderbilt scoreless over the final 4:08 to win 69--63.
February 20, 2012
That 58--48 win at Ohio State last Saturday was no fluke. Coach Tom Izzo's Spartans have been playing smart, tough basketball all season. This is also one of Izzo's better scoring teams. Michigan State ranks 16th nationally in offensive efficiency and is shooting 47.2% from the field.
There is no surefire NBA starter on this roster, but the Orange has a collection of talent and leadership that will propel the team to New Orleans. Fab Melo, the 7-foot sophomore center, has improved dramatically from his freshman season, and 6'2" senior point guard Scoop Jardine has all but eliminated the costly miscues that plagued him his first three years.
You'd have to be crazy to pick a midmajor team to make the Final Four, right? Actually you'd have to be crazy not to. George Mason, Butler and VCU have proved in the last six years that the world is flat in college basketball. Now it's Wichita State's turn. The Shockers embarrassed No. 17 Creighton, 89--68, last Saturday to improve their record to 22--4. They also throttled a very good UNLV team in December by 19 points.
ALL-AMERICA, PLAYER OF THE YEAR
ANTHONY DAVIS KENTUCKY, FORWARD
Nobody dominates a game defensively like the 6'10" Davis (top), who leads the nation in blocks (4.9 per game) and is the SEC's second-leading rebounder (9.9). Davis has also become a scoring threat, averaging 17.4 points over his last five games.
ISAIAH CANAAN MURRAY STATE, GUARD
Canaan has been the catalyst for the Racers' storybook 24--1 season. No other guard in the country can change a game so dramatically with his scoring. He's fourth nationally in three-point shooting (48.1%) and 20th in scoring (19.6). He is also third in the Ohio Valley Conference in assists (3.8).
DRAYMOND GREEN MICHIGAN STATE, FORWARD
Green is the most versatile frontcourt player in America. He leads the Spartans in scoring, rebounding and steals and is second in assists. He also brings the leadership and charisma that Michigan State once got from Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves, who both won national titles in East Lansing.
THOMAS ROBINSON KANSAS, FORWARD
T-Rob has been a paragon of consistency this season. Robinson (middle) is the nation's second-leading rebounder (12.1) and ranks second in the Big 12 in both scoring (18.1) and field goal percentage (54.9).
JARED SULLINGER OHIO STATE, FORWARD
Big Sully has been a dependable scorer and rebounder despite facing double teams every game. He is ranked in the top three in the Big Ten in scoring (17.4) and rebounding (9.3) and he's sixth in field goal percentage (56.2).
COACH OF THE YEAR
FRANK HAITH, MISSOURI
Tigers A.D. Mike Alden was roundly criticized when he plucked the little-known Haith from Miami last spring to replace Mike Anderson. Then Haith (bottom) lost Laurence Bowers, the team's best big man, to a season-ending injury in the preseason. Yet despite having just seven scholarship players, Haith has piloted Mizzou to a 23--2 record and the No. 3 ranking.