Duke and Rest of Final Four Had Time To Simmer, Simmer, Simmer

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Duke and Rest of Final Four Had Time To Simmer, Simmer, Simmer
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My mom’s spaghetti sauce is thick, flavorful and a real treat. It combines all of the ingredients in a way that yields great flavor that features a bit of southern spice without losing its Italian base.

Today while attempting to prepare it for the first time on my own, a fear came over me: What if the end product does not measure up to the consistent goodness she always delivered?

With her recipe card in hand this should have been easy to deliver, except there was one problem: The major ingredients were all there in specific quantities. How much meat to add and what amount of tomato sauce was required were easy, but like so much of her cooking the real spices were listed with only one quantity: season to taste.

It was while pondering how much do I add to season to taste that the thought came to me on just how hard it is to build a great basketball team. We all know that reliable scoring and good coaching are critical, but there is more needed to build a championship team

Consider the teams in the just completed NCAA tournament. They all had players who could put the ball in the goal. But a tournament fact is none of the teams who went to Indianapolis with a chance to win it all had a freshman in their top three scorers.

Here is how the scoring leaders ranked by class among the four: Seniors-3; Juniors-5; Sophomores-4.Only Butler featured a sophomore (Gordon Hayward) as the team’s leader in points per game.

Looking at the Final Four teams you also have to agree they all had solid coaching. Brad Stevens is young, but did a masterful coaching job all year. Izzo is becoming one of the best in the game, Bob Huggins is a task master with a long record of success and Coach K may be the best since Wooden.

Every team had players who could score and obviously there were great coaches stalking plenty of other sidelines, so what made the difference in these teams that made it through their draw to the final four?  It comes in the part of the recipe card that says season to taste.

For Butler there was the defensive play of sophomore Ronald Nored, and his instinctive ability on when he needed to make a big shot for his team. For West Virginia it was not just the points from Da’sean Butler, but also his leadership ability.

It might have also been the caring nature of his head coach. Huggins providing comfort to his injured star is one of the images that will always endure from the tourney.

More of Brian Zoubek was an ingredient adjusted just in time for the Blue Devils to make their ACC and NCAA runs. He was always there, but a dash more was needed to get the final mix correct.

Michigan State would add a strong measure in games of sixth man Draymond Green to spice things up on the floor for the Spartans. Without starting he led the team in rebounds.

In each of these cases the coaches had the ability to blend all the ingredients at their disposal together to create a winning combination that others could not quite put together.

There was something else on mom’s recipe card that these coaches were able to take advantage of, something Kentucky and Kansas were missing out on. The last note she wrote on the fading recipe card was: Combine all ingredients together and simmer, simmer, simmer. 

The teams that made it to the Final Four all had freshmen on them, but they played supporting roles. They were not the lead players on their teams. Obviously, Kansas had a great player in Sherron Collins, but Xavier Henry was a key cog on the team. Kentucky was almost completely driven by freshmen.

If these two schools had another year to play together they would belong at the top of the list as teams that could make a strong run next year. That won’t be the case though, as both will lose key players to the NBA.

So who can we expect to see make a strong run to the Final Four next year? It is hard to say just yet, but we will be looking for a team that has experienced scoring, great coaching and time. Time to simmer long enough that all of the ingredients can blend together in just the right way.

Meanwhile, there will be spaghetti tonight at our home. If you are in the neighborhood come by and try it. There are no promises it will be as good as mom’s.

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