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Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart Prove Elite Coaching Can Get You to the Final Four

The Final Four is set, and the four teams headed to Houston are Kentucky, Connecticut, Butler, and Virginia Commonwealth. While both Kentucky and Connecticut are from power conferences and have the pedigree to warrant a Final Four berth, many people are surprised to see Butler return and VCU to be there at all.

Both Butler and VCU did not build their teams recruiting 4 and 5-star high school players, and you won’t find many McDonald’s All Americans on their rosters. Neither school is an NBA player factory unlike their colleagues in the Final Four. So how did Butler and VCU get to college basketball’s ultimate stage? Superior coaching is how.

All four schools have elite coaches, and in the case of Butler and VCU, their two coaches are some of the best around, and have the brains, organization, and personalities to get their kids to play at a high level.

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Two Out of 5.9 Million ESPN Brackets Picked Final Four Correctly

If you have been following the 2011 NCAA Tournament, you don’t need any numbers to tell you that it has been a wild ride.  The lack of a powerhouse team has led to Butler returning to the Final Four, VCU’s fans going crazy in the streets, and Derrick Williams emerging as arguably the nation’s best NBA prospect two days before getting bounced by Kemba Walker and UConn.

The Final Four are set.  Kentucky will play UConn and VCU will play Butler.  That’s right — VCU against Butler for a shot at the National Championship.  VCU probably shouldn’t have gotten into the field of 68, and all of a sudden they have won five tournament games and are two wins away from cutting down the nets.  Brad Stevens has won as many tournament games in two years as Bob Knight won in his final 15 seasons as a head coach.  The world seems completely out of tilt, and as a result there are millions of useless pieces of paper floating around that were once considered tournament brackets.

According to ESPN Research, only two out of 5.9 million people who filled out a bracket on ESPN picked the Final Four correctly.  For those of you who like numbers, that’s .00034 percent — not even close to a full percentage point of the contestants.  That is truly insane.

This is just a guess, but I bet Jay Bilas isn’t one of the two. He’s obviously a great analyst and knows his stuff when it comes to college ball, but something tells me he knocked VCU out a little sooner in his bracket.  Maybe the Sweet 16?  Just speculating.

VCU Fans Rush Streets After Kansas Upset

If you didn’t think VCU reaching the Final Four was big, then this video of the town of Richmond celebrating after the upset win over Kansas will set you straight:

The streets were packed as you can tell in that video. Here are some pictures of what it looked like from the ground level:

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North Carolina Press Conference Interrupted by Fire Alarm

North Carolina was almost lucky enough to be bailed out by a fire alarm Saturday, but it wasn’t to be. While attending a press conference to answer questions from the media ahead of their Elite 8 game with Kentucky, a fire alarm went off inside the Prudential Center in New Jersey. The Tar Heels were excused by the NCAA moderator and exited the building.

Unfortunately the burden of facing the media wasn’t forgiven because of the fire alarm.

The players and coach Roy Williams were asked to return after they had filed onto their bus to continue answering questions. Williams did get off one line when the alarm went off saying “The good news is we can make it out of here faster than some teams,” a reference to the team’s up-and-down playing style.

Originally I thought Williams’ crew was behind the move as a clever ploy to get them out of the tedious session. Even if they were, the plan didn’t work because they had to return. Honestly, there isn’t much that’s more boring than a pre-game media chat.

Brad Stevens Says Billy Donovan Outcoached Him in Butler Upset

After Butler pulled off a shocking comeback and overtime win over Florida in the Elite 8 Saturday, Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens embraced Billy Donovan and said the Florida coach outcoached him. His words and praise were quite surprising given the way Butler came back to win the game, and the words were probably a weak consolation for Donovan.

A day later, Stevens appeared on CBS and explained why he said that. “I’ve just got a lot of respect for them,” Stevens said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him. I thought they did a great job. It’s another one of these games that comes down to the last possessions and our guys’ will to win just kind of carried us through.”

Stevens may be generous and kind towards Florida in victory, but I’ll say what he didn’t: he outcoached Donovan. When Butler was down by nine with seven minutes left, Stevens went to his bench for a lift and got it in the form of a three-pointer from Chrishawn Hopkins. Then, the most egregious offense by Donovan was allowing his team to slow things down offensively and stop going for points to maintain their lead. The lack of aggression from the Gators allowed Butler to charge back and seize momentum.

Lastly, Florida was hurt by Erving Walker in a similar fashion that William Buford hurt Ohio State. Walker was 1-for-10 and only had four assists, hardly creating for his teammates. It was the worst time for the 39% three-point shooter to go cold and it cost his team. Ultimately, Stevens was being generous and unnecessarily gave credit to Donovan because he was not outcoached in the game.

William Buford Takes Final Shot for Ohio State over Jon Diebler?

This post will have an extremely bitter tone and it’s because I picked Ohio State to win the entire tournament. The Buckeyes only lost twice in the regular season and seemed to have every key ingredient necessary to succeed in March. But after blowing out their first two opponents, they got bounced by a Kentucky squad that played lock-down defense.

DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrelson deserve tons of credit for stepping up for the Wildcats and leading them to victory, but it still hurts me to see a team that went 32-2 in the regular season end up as a failure. What stings even more is that they were eliminated by an eight-loss team, but that’s the nature of the tournament, like it or love it.

In a single-game elimination style, it’s win or go home and teams can’t afford to have off games, which is exactly what happened with the Buckeyes.

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John Calipari Credits Himself for Brandon Knight’s Winning Shot

It wasn’t quite as bad as Melo tipping his hat to himself in this infamous quote, but Kentucky coach John Calipari was pretty conceited after his team upset Ohio State Friday. With the game tied following a Jon Diebler three pointer, Coach Cal allowed his offense to run a play without calling a timeout to stop the game.

The result was point guard Brandon Knight sinking yet another winning shot late in the game, giving Kentucky a 62-60 win.

When asked about not calling a timeout to set things up, Calipari deflected credit to his player took the credit for the decision. Speaking about his decision, Cal answered “How bout, he don’t make a shot, he makes one three, and I still have all the faith in him that he’s going to make that play. I don’t want to call a timeout and give them a chance to switch. We know what we’re doing — we do it in practice every day. So I like to go home with timeouts.”

I was with him on the part about them practicing that and knowing what they’re doing, but he loses me when he praises himself for having faith in his player. I got it John, that was a smart move that paid off. But you can leave it to us to point out how smart you are instead of telling us so. Let’s try a little modesty next time, OK?