This is a Final Four from Hollywood. Destiny, melodrama, even a few tears. This Final Four is a gift from the basketball gods.
How do we love thee, what is about to happen in New Orleans on April 2? Let us count the plots.
Everyone is invited to the Official Mike Krzyzewski Retirement Party.
After 1,569 games on the sideline, it has — with a flash of perfect storybook timing — come to this. One last game, or maybe two, on the stage he has owned like none other, and that now even includes John Wooden. Krzyzewski has won three of his national championships in Indianapolis, the other two in Minneapolis. He’ll try to get the last one in New Orleansapolis.
Might this 13th Final Four team — passing Wooden’s 12 — be his best? “Just like I don’t rate my daughters or my grandchildren, I’m not going to do that,” he said. One other thing he mentioned. “Let’s don’t talk about me.”
Yeah, good luck with that this week.
By the way, did you happen to notice who he’s playing?
Duke vs. North Carolina. This time it really, really counts.
FINAL FOUR: Coach K makes 13th Final Four
Yeah, they’ve have met 257 times. All those nights on the outskirts of Krzyzewskiville or beneath the Dean Smith dome. But never in the tournament. Is it easy to prove just how even this rivalry has been, with the results of the past 100 meetings: 50 wins for Duke, 50 for North Carolina. We will finally see what it looks like in April’s glare.
Incidentally, know who has met before in the Final Four? Kansas and Villanova, just four years ago. The Wildcats hit a record 18 3-pointers, jumped ahead 22-4 and rolled to a 95-79 rout. The rematch comes Saturday.
Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Villanova. All the school colors are blue, and so is the blood.
These four teams have combined for 61 Final Four berths and 17 national championships — nearly 21 percent of the titles ever decided. They have also taken turns providing four of the most iconic shots in the history of the NCAA tournament.
Three Hall of Famers and a rookie.
Krzyzewski, Self and Jay Wright have won 2,605 games. North Carolina’s Hubert Davis has won 28. In case it comes up, the only man to win the national championship in his first season as a head coach was Michigan’s Steve Fisher, 33 years ago.
All the bumps in the road to get here.
The ACC was often questioned about losing a step this season. Only one ranked team in Duke, several of the familiar names having troubles. But two of the members will be in New Orleans and the ACC is guaranteed a team in the title game for the fifth time in the past seven tournaments. And maybe a fourth champion. To put that in perspective, in the past nine tournaments including this one, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC have combined for exactly zero titles.
The most ominous words for any opponent trying to catch Villanova in the final minutes.
“Now at the line for the Wildcats . . . “
Villanova kept out of trouble against Houston by making all 15 free throw attempts. The Wildcats are now at 83 percent for the season, and if that holds up, would beat Harvard’s 82.2 in 1984 as the best ever recorded. Odd thing. In an age where free throw shooting often seems a neglected art, four of the best six high season percentages have come in the past two years.
The rankings might mean something. Or not.
Kansas, Villanova and Duke were all in the top nine of the final Associated Poll. North Carolina was down in the also receiving votes section, five spots behind South Dakota State. Guess that makes the No. 8 seed Tar Heels the underdog story of the bunch. Right, Cinderella with six national championships.
The last AP unranked team to go all the way was Kansas with Danny Manning, 34 years ago. The last one before that was Villanova in 1985. These programs seem to always be in the conversation about a Final Four.
What’s left are four giants, with auras to enhance and history to make, at the expense of one another. The Caesars Superdome this weekend will be a college basketball Camelot. Something Self said about his Jayhawks: “They have a strong belief that they can accomplish anything.”
They’re going to the right place. In this very, very special Final Four, anything seems possible.