Early-week Final Four commentary

Rick Reilly, ESPN.com: There’s no point in going over all the reasons Huggins is bad for basketball. That’s just kicking a man when he’s up. And boy, is Huggs up. Eighteen years after his last Final Four, eight years after his heart attack in the Pittsburgh airport, six years after his DUI, five years after choosing to “resign” over “be fired” at Cincinnati (where he had four years of 0.0 graduation rate), three years after pulling a one-and-done at Kansas State and leaving them with a crazy-eyed, death-staring Huggins wannabe named Frank Martin, the world is cuddling The Huggy Bear again. “The first time I heard he was coming,” remembers West Virginia’s best player, Da’Sean Butler, “I was like, ‘I’m getting ready to go to Michigan.’ But I’m glad I didn’t leave. It’s been great. I’d be doing all kind of nothing right now.”

John Feinstein, Washington Post: There may not be such a thing as a perfect Final Four, but the one that will begin on Saturday in Indianapolis comes pretty close. It has a Cinderella practically playing on its home court. It has a team that hasn’t been to the Final Four in 51 years but is going back after a prodigal son came home. It has a team whose coach always seems to find a way this time of year, playing in its sixth Final Four in 12 seasons. And it has a villain, the team people love to hate, whether because it wins so often or because people have to have someone to root against once their team has gone home.

Bob Kravitz, Indianapolis Star: History and common sense tell you a school with an enrollment of 4,200 students, a mid-major affiliation and, most important, mid-major revenues, shouldn’t be able to stare down the likes of No. 1 seed Syracuse and No. 2 seed Kansas State. The coaches and players, though, weren’t satisfied with being this cute little underdog story who upsets one or two teams and reaches the Sweet Sixteen every few years… How many times have they been told this year they were too small and too, ahem, un-athletic (which, let’s be honest, is code for “too white”)? Here’s what we saw all tournament, and especially Saturday against massive Kansas State: Butler outrebounded the Wildcats by 12. Twelve… The “Hoosiers” comparisons began again after the game, when players and Stevens were asked how often they’d seen the movie. (There are some parallels: Two small schools. Two teams who built up to the moment; recall how good Milan was the year before the Milan Miracle. The shocking resemblance between Gordon Hayward and Jimmy Chitwood. Fine. I mean, it’s unavoidable, right?)

Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press: Unless Durrell Summers or Kalin Lucas pulls a surprise and leaves for the NBA, MSU should be the preseason No. 1 team in the country next fall. The Spartans will lose Raymar Morgan but bring back everybody else in the rotation and a highly regarded freshman class. What does that have to do with this year’s Final Four? Maybe nothing. But sometimes a surprise national champion is simply a team that peaks before we expect it. In 1991, Duke was a surprise national champion … but the Blue Devils dominated college basketball the next year and won a second title. In 1992, Michigan was a surprise national runner-up … but the next year, the Wolverines earned a No. 1 seed and made the title game again. In 1997, Arizona was a surprise national champion … but the Wildcats were probably the best team in the country the next year, before losing in the Elite Eight. In 2006, Florida was a surprise national champion … but the next year, the Gators were the best team in the country and won another title.

Thomas George, FanHouse: [Coach K’s] trio of seniors — forward Lance Thomas, center Brian Zoubek and guard Jon Scheyer (left to right, photo right) — took the old-school route to Final Four glory. There was nothing microwave about their journey. They went 22-11 as freshmen, 28-6 as sophomores and 30-7 last year. Yet, no Final Fours. They were labeled underachievers. They lacked Duke blue and royal blood. A sham. A bunch of louses. But this trio never stopped fighting, believing, working. Old-school values, sure, but the difference when you’re “not that good.” The Duke assistant coaches will tell you that Scheyer, Thomas and Zoubek did not spend a second griping and moping and doing the things that kill a team, that kill a program. That this trio is the team’s rock. And they have been that for each other. When it was over, after they had popped Baylor 78-71 in front of a Baylor-friendly crowd of 47,492, Zoubek said the seniors just looked at each other. No words needed.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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