If the Final Four was played this weekend, here's the lineup
Kentucky - Back to its old soul-crushing defense and overwhelming offense.
Virginia - Solid, solid, solid. Great defense (Take note, Duke), very good offense.
Utah Arizona - Okay, they crushed my favorite dark horse: Utah. They did it on Defense. (Duke?) And what does defense do? Defense wins championships. I don’t know if they have enough offense ... but their defense shows grit and determination (Duke?)
Villanova - Same ol’ goodness.
WINNER: Virginia in a close one. Their player's experience would make the difference.
What a crazy week.
Texas wakes up, shows up, acts like they knew each other, play like a basketball team - a very good basketball team against West Virginia whose strengths exploit every weakness Texas showed against Oklahoma. Amazing.
Iowa State beats West Virginia at West Virginia and Kansas at Ames in an 8-day period. Two different opponents, West Virginia is brutal and constant pressing defense and Kansas is run, run, run. Pretty impressive.
Wisconsin. Even without Kaminsky, losing to Rutgers was a stunner. Now, Trayvon Jackson is hurt. They're a blip above the next category.
Maryland. They keep looking better and better. They ended this week with a big win against a revived and motivated Michigan State.
LOST THEIR STEEDS
Duke. It's hard to stink up a week like Duke stunk up last week, at least until Saturday.
NC State and Miami JUST.EXPOSED. Duke’s weakness: Defense and footspeed. They could not figure out how to play pick’n roll defense. I’m scratching my head wondering about that. I was a gym rat, not very fast and not very big, but even I could figure out how to play pick’n roll. Even if they could, I'm not sure their players could be in position in time or wold make the effort to be there in time. Hard to tell. Their body language says 'yeah, yeah. hurry up and give me the ball so I can launch a three.'
But Coach K isn’t 2 wins away from 1000 for nothing. He realizes that A. Duke can’t play man defense even with the best recruiting class and four or five top 20 picks on his roster. Go figure but they haven’t; B. Louisville cannot score. Just can’t. Imagine a game with them and VCU. Might get to 30 points, each, in overtime. I digress.
So Coach K has them play ... zone. Z.O.N.E. Sure enough, Louisville can’t score. inside or out. Duke’s guards can’t either but that’s okay because Okafor is 8 of 10, Amile Jefferson who plays with passion and smarts was 6 of 7 and a double-double with rebounds.
Is Duke back? Hell no. They can’t depend on an opponent’s horrific shooting to bail them out every game. Zone defense is not going to work against a NCSU or Miami or Virginia or Syracuse (whose coach taught Coach K how to play zone). The question is whether Duke’s players want to get scrappy and dig down deep on defense. They sure do on offense, though.
I know Okafor is the consensus player of the year. Amazing offensive machine. Double, double, points and rebounds every night. But his effort on defense ... well, he looks bored or unsure of himself. Never holds his hands up, never shows much passion. I don’t know, that’s what I see.
Louisville. Ummm ... yeah. How many open shots did you miss? Oh my goodness. Had you hit a mere 30% of your shots you would have won. 30%. And that's against a very soft zone defense. For the rest of the year you should have shooting drills every practice.