How are your brackets? Demolished? Nearly perfect? This year was poised to return the heavy hitters, or the higher seeds, into the Final Four. That is exactly what has happened.
At this point, everyone is a (March) Mad Scientist. But not only did Ohio State, Kentucky, Kansas and Louisville advance to the Final Four, so will 10 officials.
Officials are evaluated throughout the year and in the tournament games. From the 36 who worked the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, 10 are selected to move on. In theory, those 10 are the best. Six of the 10 will work the two Final Four games. Three will work the title game. The remaining official is the alternate for all three games.
Here's a breakdown of the teams and the officials who will work the Final Four games.
Coach Bill Self has a team that knows its strengths. The Jayhawks methodically impose their will on their opponents.
Kansas by the numbers:
75.0 points per game;
36.9 rebounds per game;
15.6 assists per game;
.485 field-goal percentage;
13 Final Fours.
Here's the lineup (only listing starters, but that does not take away the contributions from the bench players):
Thomas Robinson, junior forward, 6'10", 237 pounds, 17.7 points, 11.8 rebounds;
Jeff Withey, junior center, 7', 235, 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds;
Tyshawn Taylor, senior guard, 6'3", 185, 17.3 points, 4.8 assists;
Travis Releford, junior guard, 6'6", 210, 8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds;
Elijah Johnson, junior guard, 6'4", 195, 9.6 points, 3.8 assists.
To put it mildly, coach John Calipari has gotten production out of his freshmen. They are playing spectacularly, especially on the defensive end.
Kentucky by the numbers:
77.1 points per game;
39.2 rebounds per game;
13.3 assists per game;
.487 field-goal percentage;
14 Final Fours.
Terrence Jones, sophomore forward, 6'9", 252, 12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds;
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, freshman forward, 6'7", 232, 11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds;
Anthony Davis, freshman forward, 6'10", 220, 14.3 points, 10.0 rebounds;
Doron Lamb, sophomore guard, 6'4", 210, 13.2 points; 2.9 rebounds;
Marquis Teague, freshman guard, 6'2", 189, 9.4 points, 4.8 assists.
Coach Thad Matta has a team that can be overconfident and even a bit cocky. When he can get the Buckeyes to play within themselves and not take the game or opponent for granted, they earn their victories.
Ohio State by the numbers:
75.1 points per game;
36.8 rebounds per game;
15.2 assists per game;
.486 field-goal percentage;
10 Final Fours.
William Buford, senior guard, 6'6", 220, 14.7 points, 4.9 rebounds;
Jared Sullinger, sophomore center, 6'9", 265, 17.6 points, 9.3 rebounds;
Aaron Craft, sophomore guard, 6'2", 190, 8.6 points, 4.6 assists;
Lenzelle Smith Jr,, sophomore guard, 6'4", 205, 6.1 points, 4.5 rebounds;
Deshaun Thomas, sophomore forward, 6'7", 225, 15.4 points, 5.0 rebounds.
Coach Rick Pitino has a very cohesive team. There is a bond between players and coach. This team seems to mirror last year's UConn team that won the national championship. The Cardinals are tenacious and never give up.
Louisville by the numbers:
68.8 points per game;
38.2 rebounds per game;
13.8 assists per game;
.425 field-goal percentage;
8 Final Fours.
Kyle Kuric, senior guard/forward, 6'4", 195, 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds;
Chane Behanan, freshman forward, 6'6", 250, 9.0 points, 7.4 rebounds;
Gorgui Dieng, sophomore center, 6'11", 235, 9.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.2 blocks;
Chris Smith, senior guard, 6'2", 195, 10.0 points, 3.7 rebounds;
Peyton Siva, junior guard, 6'0", 180, 9.1 points, 5.5 assists.
This game is going to be physical with an SEC team taking on a Big East team. Anthony Davis is the most likely college Player of the Year. He is a great defender and is the primary focus for Kentucky.
While he averages 10.0 rebounds a game, expect that number to increase in the Final Four, which will be his moment to shine.
Point guard Marques Teague needs only work on limiting his turnovers. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also figures to excel in this game.
For Louisville, it all starts with Peyton Siva. He has the leadership skills and point guard experience to feed the ball to his scorers. One of those is Kyle Kuric. If Kuric can gain confidence by making a couple of three-pointers early in the game, he can become a nightmare to guard.
Gorgui Deng is another key player. The more rebounds he gets, the more opportunities for Kuric to score from the perimeter.
This game will be won by whichever team wins the rebounding battle.
Prediction: Kentucky 82, Louisville 74 (The foul-and-chase game will be in effect the last 1:30.)
This will be another very competitive game between well-matched opponents.
For OSU, Aaron Craft just needs to do what he has done all season. That is to lead. He is a great facilitator and defensive genius. What he contributes on the defensive end doesn't necessarily show up in the box score.
Jared Sullinger doesn't need any advice. He will be dominant in the paint and will rise to the occasion.
For Kansas, the Jayhawks should rely on the dependable Thomas Robinson. One other player to watch is Jeff Withey. He needs to continue being active in the paint and a shot-blocker.
With both teams statistically well-matched, it will be a game in which no team has a lead larger than eight points. If you are a Buckeye fan, the term "so close" will sting.
Prediction: Kansas 78, Ohio State 75.
There are two lists of officials. The first is from the regions rather than by conferences, as is the current practice. The second is from the officials who worked the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games.
Officials are rated on a number of criteria. Each possesses the necessary requirements and skills, but some are more skilled in some categories than others. One official may be an excellent game manager (allows the players to dictate the flow of the game and keeps it at that pace), while the other may have great mechanics (reporting of fouls and violations).
From the first list of officials by region, the six officials working the indicated games are:
Kentucky vs. Louisville
Terry Wymer: Has excellent game-management skills and an even temper.
Joe Derosa: Brings NBA experience into the college game. Has a great understanding of the rules and their implementation.
Bryan Kersey: Very good mechanics and great positioning
Ohio State vs. Kansas
Doug Shows: Excellent in game management, mechanics and positioning.
Doug Sirmons: Crisp mechanics and good demeanor.
Brian O'Connell: Consistent in rules application and great court demeanor.
From the list of officials who worked in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games, here are the six selected for the Final Four games:
Kentucky vs. Louisville
Michael Stephens: Always has excellent positioning and a good on-court demeanor.
James Breeding: Along with positioning, possesses very good mechanics.
Joe Derosa: As already stated, with his vast NBA experience, he has great rules-application and game-management skills.
Ohio State vs. Kansas
Karl Hess: Despite some controversy (and opinions to the contrary), he is an excellent official in most categories. He is very strong in rules application, game management, mechanics and positioning.
Terry Wymer: Complements Karl Hess in game management and contrasts in court demeanor.
Verne Harris: Officiated last year's championship game and is strong in mechanics and positioning.
In the championship game, Kansas and Kentucky will meet. This brings the two best teams (at least in theory and in seeding).
As it should be, these teams will have a battle. This should be a physical game, with an emphasis on defense and rebounding. The freshmen of Kentucky haven't shown any signs of fatigue.
Prediction: Kentucky 76, Kansas 71.
Officials from the region list:
Mike Stuart: One of the better officials. Has great game management and mechanics.
Michael Stephens: Will serve as a great partner, complementing both his and Stuart's positioning and mechanics.
Antinio Petty: (Last year's alternate) Has great mechanics and positioning.
This crew would also serve to complement each other with their skills and communication. Game management will allow the teams to play at their pace.
Alternate official is John Higgins. John is consistent in game management and mechanics.
Officials from the list of those having worked in the tournament: Mike Stuart, Doug Shows and Antinio Petty.
This is a very strong crew. All three officials allow the players to play without stopping the game with too many "ticky-tack" fouls. The alternate would be Les Jones, who has superb game-management skills and on-court demeanor.