As Frank Deford said on the Wednesday Morning NPR newscast, this year's crop of teams at the Final Four seems like world's Best in Show at the Westminster. On Kentucky's roster alone, there is perhaps more talent than the other three teams have combined.
And although Marquis Teague may often take a backseat to his teammates in the attention department, it is his impact that will be the most important when Kentucky faces Louisville on Saturday with a birth to the NCAA title game on the line.
Teague may not average a double-double like Anthony Davis, and he may not even rank among the top four scorers on the Wildcats, but his presence on the court could be the biggest difference between a win and a loss in the Final Four this weekend.
Take, for example, the Wildcats' performance against LSU in the SEC tournament. In a game Kentucky was supposed to "win comfortably," as the Associated Press put it, the Wildcats managed to merely hold off the Tigers, who led early in the second half. Kentucky eked out a 60-51 victory, but it was a sluggish, troubling performance.
If you look at Teague's line during that game, he went 0-for-5 from the field with zero rebounds, five assists and four turnovers in 34 minutes.
It would seem, from that performance, that the Wildcats go as Teague goes. Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist need to score the points and show up on the boards, but Teague must run the floor, and if he doesn't do it well, Kentucky is in danger.
Wildcats head coach John Calipari told the Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy:
I just told [Teague] again, "You can't play to score because that hurts our team. You've got a team that you need involved in this." He's gone from beginning of the year, basically playing at 100 miles an hour, making 100 hard plays and taking bad shots, to playing with unbelievable pace, making easy plays and having great shot selection, picking his spot. And that happened over four months.
This year has been a transition for Teague, who, like many Division I prospects joining a top team, must adjust to being among the best players instead of the best player.
Teague sets up the offense and is the best distributor on the team. He is not the guy who should take every opening he sees. He needs to be a facilitator, not a shooter.
When Kentucky beat Florida 78-58, four out of the five starters finished in double digits. Kidd-Gilchrist had 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Davis led all scorers with 18.
Teague had a career-high 10 assists, took the right shots, and went 4-for-6 from the field and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
If Kentucky plays like that in the Final Four, there will be no team that can compete with them. In short, it all comes down to Teague.