BY THE NUMBERS
This is an article from the April 2, 2012 issue
Consecutive seasons the champion of the Big East tournament has reached the Final Four: West Virginia in 2010, UConn in '11 and now Louisville, which will try to become the second straight member of the conference to win the national title.
Blocked shots per game by Kentucky center Anthony Davis, the first player to lead the nation in blocks and reach the Final Four since Houston center Akeem (now Hakeem) Olajuwon had 5.6 rejections for the national runner-up in 1984.
Blocked shots for Kentucky in 2011--12, the most in NCAA history. The previous record of 315 was held by the 2003--04 UConn team, which won the title that season.
Points scored by UNLV to beat Duke in the 1991 national championship, the only time a team has reached triple digits in the final game. The Runnin' Rebels also set the record for victory margin with their 30-point win.
Combined Final Four appearances for Kentucky (15), Kansas (14), Ohio State (11) and Louisville (9).
Times the teams in the Final Four have all been past national champions. Ohio State (51 years) has the longest title drought.
"THE KIDS PLAY SO WELL TOGETHER, SOMETIMES YOU JUST SIT BACK AND ADMIRE THEM."
"Teams make the mistake of pump-faking Anthony Davis. You must go right at his chest; he's not a kid who'll take charges. On defense, keep Doron Lamb inside the three-point line—he's their biggest long-range threat—and get physical with Terrence Jones in the post. The player you want to make beat you is Marquis Teague, because he can struggle."
"YOU DON'T WORRY ABOUT PREPARING FOR THEIR OFFENSE—IT'S THEIR DEFENSE."
"Their zone is very challenging, it's got a lot of man characteristics. They pressure the ball handler and do a good job of keeping Gorgui Dieng inside. Obviously you have to be mindful of aggressive three-point shooting from Chris Smith, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric. Dieng is going to try to make post moves about three times per half, to try to get the other big guy in foul trouble."
The Bluegrass State is horse country, so it's safe to assume that Louisville coach Rick Pitino knows that keeping up with Kentucky is like trying to outrace Secretariat. But as one of the worst outside shooting teams in the Big East this season (31.7% from three), the Cardinals will need to get transition baskets. No matter the pace, Kentucky will cross the finish line first in this intrastate battle.
Post men Thomas Robinson of Kansas and Jared Sullinger of Ohio State will bang each other with such force and friction that it wouldn't be a surprise if they spontaneously combusted. The difference maker, though, will be KU's 7-foot junior center, Jeff Withey. The Big 12's defensive player of the year has 20 blocks in four tournament games, and his weakside help will stymie Sullinger.
THE LAST TIME JOHN CALIPARI FACED BILL SELF IN AN NCAA FINAL, IN 2008, MISSED MEMPHIS FREE THROWS ALLOWED KANSAS TO PREVAIL. THE WILDCATS WILL ENSURE A DIFFERENT OUTCOME FOR CAL, WHO WILL WIN HIS FIRST TITLE IN HIS FOURTH TRIP TO THE FINAL FOUR
EAST OHIO STATE
"IF YOU CAN DEFEND JARED SULLINGER WITHOUT CONSISTENT HELP—THAT'S HUGE."
"Aaron Craft is so tough on the ball that dribble penetration and high ball screens don't work. Teams that run sustained series of actions—cuts, screens, flares, dribble handoffs and back screens—do best. Force Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas to be helpers on multiple screens, especially when the guy using the screen is not being guarded by Craft."
"YOU CAN HELP OFF TRAVIS RELEFORD A LOT. MAKE HIM BEAT YOU FROM THE OUTSIDE."
"On offense, they run a side ball screen. If you let Tyshawn Taylor into the lane, they do the lob or he shoots the floater. You have to take that away. And you have to move Thomas Robinson around before he gets the ball. Then double him, help, fake—keep him off balance. You don't want to give Taylor, Elijah Johnson or Conner Teahan wide-open looks."
BY THE NUMBERS
Title games held at the Louisiana Superdome. Only Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium (9), New York City's Madison Square Garden (7) and Louisville's Freedom Hall (6) have hosted more.
Times a Final Four matchup has been decided by one point. Six of those came in the title game; the last was in 1989, when Michigan guard Rumeal Robinson hit two free throws with three seconds left in overtime to beat Seton Hall 80--79.
Times since 1978--79 (the first season the NCAA seeded all teams) that two squads from the same state have advanced to the Final Four: Duke and UNC in '91, and Kentucky and Louisville this year.
Times two No. 2 seeds have faced each other in the Big Dance. Arkansas-UNC in 1995 was the only other meeting before Ohio State--Kansas.
The highest seed at last year's Final Four, the only time that neither a No. 1 nor a No. 2 seed advanced to the championship site. All four top seeds reached the national semis just once, in '08, with Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA.
Points per game for Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, the highest average of any player going to New Orleans, but the lowest to lead the Final Four field since UCLA guard Arron Afflalo's (16.9 points per game in 2006--07).