Four blue bloods. Coach K’s last dance. The greatest rivalry in the sport on its biggest stage. This weekend’s national semifinal slate has every storyline a sportswriter dreams of, but before we look ahead to the final three games of the season, let’s look back on the things we learned from an unforgettable second weekend that got us to one of the most anticipated Final Fours in college basketball history.
1. Find yourself a stretch-four
One thing that every remaining team has in common is the utilization of a stretch-four and we have some of the nation’s best still standing. Whether it is Paolo Banchero, Brady Manek, Jermaine Samuels or Jalen Wilson, each team knows how to spread the floor with their power forwards and open the lane for their explosive guards to get to the basket. When coaches are scouting the transfer portal or the recruiting trail, it is probably in their best interest to target this position, because it could be the difference between a first round exit and a trip to the Final Four like it was for the Tar Heels.
2. Never underestimate the importance of great coaching
It is easy to get caught up in the talent of a roster and how exciting it is to watch a team play, but the NCAA Tournament has no such infatuation with flashy play. If it did, Jay Wright wouldn’t be in his third Final Four in the past five tournaments. Bill Self, Hubert Davis and Mike Krzyzewski join Wright in what could be the best coaching group we’ve ever seen at the Final Four and they are all proving that they are just as important as the tremendous players they coach.
3. Shaheen Holloway deserves every penny he’s about to get from Seton Hall
I talked a lot about the great coaches in the sport above, but nobody came close to outperforming Holloway as a coach in this year’s tournament. It takes an incredible coach and person to tell your team you can win in the NCAA Tournament as a 15-seed, but Holloway didn’t just say it. He believed it. He believed they would beat Kentucky. He believed they would beat Murray State. He believed they would beat Purdue.
This belief in his team, regardless of their talent and size compared to the teams in their way, is the reason they were the first 15-seed to ever reach the Elite Eight. It is the reason his players knew they belonged on the same court as the five-star superstars surrounding them. It is the reason he is going to get a massive raise at his alma mater and bring the same level of success to the Pirates as he did the Peacocks.
4. Caleb Love is ready for the NBA
I’m now convinced that Love has experienced the biggest turnaround of any returning player in college basketball. The five-star guard looked hopeless as a shooter and a scorer in his freshman campaign, shooting 31% from the field and 26% from the perimeter in his debut season. The range Love is showing off in this tournament extends far beyond the NBA line and his elite quickness and finishing at the rim is more than enough to suggest he can be a contributing guard at the next level when this Cinderella story concludes in New Orleans.