FINAL FOUR TEAMS
Youth will be served. The Wildcats may have three freshman starters—including Marquis Teague at the most important position, point guard—but they play with uncommon maturity and poise. More important, this is the best defensive team John Calipari has ever coached (and that includes his New Jersey Nets). That was clear last Saturday night, when Kentucky held Vanderbilt scoreless over the final 4:08 to win 69--63.
That 58--48 win at Ohio State last Saturday was no fluke. Coach Tom Izzo's Spartans have been playing smart, tough basketball all season. This is also one of Izzo's better scoring teams. Michigan State ranks 16th nationally in offensive efficiency and is shooting 47.2% from the field.
There is no surefire NBA starter on this roster, but the Orange has a collection of talent and leadership that will propel the team to New Orleans. Fab Melo, the 7-foot sophomore center, has improved dramatically from his freshman season, and 6'2" senior point guard Scoop Jardine has all but eliminated the costly miscues that plagued him his first three years.
You'd have to be crazy to pick a midmajor team to make the Final Four, right? Actually you'd have to be crazy not to. George Mason, Butler and VCU have proved in the last six years that the world is flat in college basketball. Now it's Wichita State's turn. The Shockers embarrassed No. 17 Creighton, 89--68, last Saturday to improve their record to 22--4. They also throttled a very good UNLV team in December by 19 points.
ALL-AMERICA, PLAYER OF THE YEAR