NCAA Tournament Final Four 2011: Top 10 Questions Heading into the Final Four
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By now, most sports fans already know to expect mayhem in every March Madness, but this year's Big Dance is leaving a lot of people dumbfounded after all the, well, madness. With Shaka Smart making nearly every bracket filler look dumb and Ohio State getting bucked out of the tournament fairly early, it's impossible to turn off the TV and not think, "What on earth just happened?"
In this top-10 list, we dive into the heads of the fanatic tourney crowd and answer this month's most popular questions.
10. What Does VCU Owe Their Dominance To?
There's no doubt that the VCU Rams have raised eyebrows in March, but why is that so?
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Well, there are actually two winners that stick out in the field: their bench and the First Four.
In only two games this tourney has the opposing bench scored more than 10 points, and only once has the Rams bench not scored more than 20. Everyone knows a deep bench is essential to a tournament run, but nobody expected these guys not only to spread the points around amongst their starters, but their bench as well.
Also, how could they not credit their success to the First Four? Not only would they not be in this tournament without the new bracket addition, but some people think they shouldn’t have even been in that. I bet they feel stupid thinking that, because I know I do.
9. How Is Gus Johnson Still Alive?
Rise and Fire! That's exactly what Gus Johnson's heart rate is doing this tournament.
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Fifteen games have been decided by one possession, so it’s nothing shy of a miracle his blood pressure hasn’t failed him yet. I’m going to need to pull in a doctor to answer this one, so I’ll be back in five.
8. What's the Biggest Disappointment So Far?
Tthe Kansas Jayhawks may have been the last championship worthy team left on the bracket.
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Easy one, the same five commercials they keep playing. I’m tired of the meat ponchos, I’m not going to listen to Alec Baldwin, and for goodness sake, let me say “Like a good neighbor State Farm is there…with a new line of commercials.”
But on a serious note, I would say the fact that this tournament won’t decide the best team of the year. With a No. 8 or 11 seed guaranteed in the finals and not even a No. 1 seed in contention, there’s no way that you could say, for example, VCU was the most outstanding team this year, where in years past, the odds of seeing a No. 1 and No. 2 seed in the finals were undeniable.
7. Did the Big East End Up Being Overrated?
This photo pretty much sums up how the Big East feels after falling to six different conferences.
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In the regular season, the Big East was making headlines for all the right reasons, but with the early exits of Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville, etcetera, the thought of the conference being a little overrated had to be looming in your head for a little bit.
With 11 teams starting out in the tournament, 10 of them have lost to, get this, seven different conferences (two of them against Colonial teams). The reason I say that is to point out that it wasn’t just one conference’s style of play counteracting the Big East, it was seven of them.
So were they overrated? I’m actually going to have to go with yes, they were a LITTLE overrated (don’t let me blow this out of proportion).
6. What’s a Mid-Major?
Both Morehead State and Richmond rocked some brackets early on against big name schools.
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Before this year, the definition in the Vanilla-Webster dictionary read “(sm-ALL con-fur-en-ss) n.- A conference with primarily two-three star athletes with talent big enough to maybe walk on to a big name conference team. also see NCAA Sacrificial Lamb”.
Today, rather than big-name teams sticking out in bright colors, the bracket seems to be taking on a camouflage appearance with two Final Four teams coming out of a “mid-major” conference. Not only is their play getting better, but the recruits are starting to spot the Final Four banners in gyms that house small teams like George Mason and Butler.
So what’s a mid-major? You tell me.
5. What Was the Most Surprising No. 1 Downfall?
Unfortunately for the Big Ten and the state of Ohio, the strongest team in the field was broomed in the Sweet Sixteen.
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Without a question, I’m going to have to choose seeing the Ohio State Buckeyes fall. Why is this unquestionable? Because 1) Pitt has never been a solid tournament team in recent history, 2) Duke getting Kyrie Irving back from injury; the team chemistry between him and Nolan Smith wasn't near the way it was to start off the year, and 3) VCU had the Midas touch, and you knew that after they smeared Purdue, so a Kansas upset wasn’t as unexpected as it would have been, say, midseason.
The Buckeyes were also the clear-cut No. 1 seed to win the whole enchalada with its senior leadership, tough defense lead by Aaron Craft, and post presence in Jared Sullinger, so seeing the Kentucky Wildcats oust them was quite the surprise.
4. How Close Is Brad Stevens to Being Considered an All-Time Great?
This is a feeling Brad Stevens should be getting used to.
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Right now, there is not a single question that he is a great coach, but what else would it take to put his name in the same sentence as Bob Knight, Coach K and Adolf Rupp? Well, let’s break it down.
If he coaches until he is 70 at the same rate he is right now, he will have 812 victories and 14 Final Four appearances, but in reality, he probably won’t reach the second number (or so I think). If he hopped into a time machine and his fine career ended with his projected win number today, he would be in eighth place of all time.
Now, is that enough wins to consider him as a historical coaching icon?
Maybe so, but also take into account that early in his career, he would turn 2-star and 3-star athletes into a giant-slaying team that went to back-to-back Final Fours in 2010 and 2011, and I believe that is why Brad Stevens has a shot to achieve coaching greatness.
3. Up to This Point, Who’s the Tournament MVP?
Sorry Kemba, but the numerous clutch plays Matt Howard has put on his tournament resume gives him MVP contention.
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I don’t mean to hop on the Butler bandwagon, but to me, it has to be Matt Howard of the Bulldogs. Right behind him is Kemba Walker, undoubtedly with him playing like, well, Kemba, but without Howard, the Bulldogs would still have their name stuck in the first round, the second round and maybe even in the Elite Eight.
Just hear me out on this one. Without his layup they go into overtime against a decent Old Dominion team, and without his full-court shot flop against Pitt they go into overtime, and without his rebound at the 15-second mark, who knows what could have happened to that one-point lead?
Bottom line is that I could see UConn filling in the cracks without Kemba, but you can’t replace clutch performances at the end of a game.
2. What Does the Tournament Even Decide?
Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies are getting white-hot at the right time.
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Even though I asked it, I still like this question a lot, especially this year. With a No. 3, 4, 8 and 11 seed sitting as the last four teams in the Big Dance, you can’t possibly tell me that any of them was the best team this season.
True, you may be able to convince me that any of them are the best team this minute, but to say they had the most success as a team this entire year would make you looks sillier than Donald Trump’s hair.
I mean, just look, VCU shouldn’t even be in this tournament, but they’re thrashing through teams now. I would love to say this year's tournament will crown the best team of the year, but I’m afraid this year it will only mean who got hot and caught the most breaks at the end of the season.
Nonetheless, it's still a cool banner to hang up in the rafters.
1. What on Earth Is Going On?
No one could have seen this coming...or nearly anything thats been going on for that matter.
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OK, I may have somewhat of an answer to everything else, but I can’t answer this question that enters everyone’s mind when they look at their mutilated bracket.
VCU going from First Four underdog to Final Four? Butler going to another Final Four? UConn displaying their superhuman bodies and winning nine games in 19 days? Ohio State going up against an inexperienced Kentucky team and losing? The Big East being thrown around like ragdolls before the team bus even gets cold?
Sure, they don’t call it March Madness for nothing, but there are more twists in this tournament than an OJ Simpson trial.