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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sportaholic 2012 Final Four Round-Table Debate

After a tumultuous three weeks of the NCAA tourney, the Final Four has finally been cast for New Orleans. We have an overwhelming favorite in the Kentucky Wildcats, a hot team riding a wave of momentum in Louisville, a solid and consistent team in Ohio State, and last but not least a tough and rugged Kansas team. Every one of these teams have at least one championship under their belt so for the most part you can say this is a blue-blood rich national semi-final. The four finalists have combined for an astonishing 49 Final Four appearances and 14 National Championships. Ohio State has the longest drought in the championship department as they won their one and only championship in 1960 led by the great John Lucas. Kansas was the last of the teams to win a ring in 2008 which by Jayhawks fans is probably an eternity.

This makes for interesting blend of storylines as both of the match ups feature rematches from earlier in the season. Kentucky defeated Louisville Dec. 31st 69-62 and score isn’t really indicative of how much the Wildcats dominated that game. Kansas took down a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State team 78-67 back on December 10th. You can throw all that out the window though as the previous battles mean absolutely nothing more than each team knows what the other team likes to do. Kentucky and Louisville have been playing each other since 1912 so I doubt there are any secrets either can hide from each other at this point.

So with it all down to this, the Sportaholic team has decided to tackle the Final Four with a good old fashioned round-table debate. We have our regular contributors in Carlos Paige, Michael Williams, Quawn Dowell and Taylor Cannon but we also are shaking things up by welcoming new Sportaholic contributor Latoya Walton and (of the Memphis Tigers) Adam Douglas in as well.

1. Is it Kentucky against the field at this point?

Carlos Paige Sportaholic Blog Editor and host of Sportaholic Radio Show: Well let’s just say if I were a betting man I would definitely put my money on the Wildcats. They have just steam rolled opponents in the tournament averaging a margin of victory of over 21 points. That’s historic domination. They have the most talented team and the tournament has only made it more evident. John Callapari can’t even screw this one up with his sketchy X’s and O’s so yeah I think this Final Four is basically Kentucky and everybody else.

Adam Douglas of Tigersportsreport:com: I believe it is Kentucky against everyone else. They are just head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. Point blank period.

Michael Williams: Sportaholic blog contributor: I believe it is. I don't think that they will have any trouble handling Louisville and frankly I don't see Ohio State contending with them. My underdog is Kansas. Thomas Robinson looks like a man amongst boys whenever he hits the court and you just gotta root and love for the guy who had everything go wrong for him last season with the unexpected deaths of his grandparents and mother in a span of 30 days.

Latoya Walton: Sportaholic blog contributor: Yes it pretty much seems its Kentucky against the field at this point. In my opinion it’s been this way since the tournament started. No team in the tournament feels they can play with them or beat them everyone is intimidated so it’s us vs. them. The talent on Kentucky’s team is like no other team in the tournament so it’s easy to love to hate them so for me being a Kentucky fan and having to argue with people on a daily basis about their talent it’s pretty safe to say its UK vs. the nation!

Taylor Cannon Sportaholic blog contributor: Yes, Louisville has come off very strong winning the Big East Tournament and just playing well if not inspired ball throughout the tournament. Plus don’t rule out KU who can play tough defense. Coach Calipari has not been able to close the deal either UMASS or Memphis

2. Which Final Four coach would you choose to lead your team and why?

Carlos Paige: I’m taking Rick Pitino because of all the teams left his has less talent then all of them. He has done a masterful job of getting the most out of a team that was left for dead after a three game skid in February. He was able to get the most out rail thin center turned dominate center Gorgui Dieng and also was able to corral lighting quick guard Peyton Siva. This may be Pitino greatest ever coaching job.

Adam Douglas: The only coach I trust THE most is Rick Pitino. His track record of taking unproven teams all the way to the top is impeccable. Right now, Pitino has this Louisville team peaking at the right time and it's a shame that it's not Kentucky/Louisville for the Championship on Monday

Michael Williams: Bill Self - Dickie V once told Self not to take the Kansas job because he wouldn't be able to live up to Roy Williams. Look at what he's done now. Who pictured Kansas in the Final Four at the beginning of the season? It's too easy to say John Calipari because look at the immense amount of talent he has on the court at any given time. Sure he's a great coach but if you don't have as stacked of a roster that Kentucky has I don't think they are in the position they are in now.

Latoya Walton: I would choose Callapari to coach my team. Why you ask? It’s because he accepts nothing but excellence. If you were watching them play Baylor the other night the commentators said “How do you get 4 freshmen to play almost mistake free for an entire season?” You practice and preach excellence and it becomes habit. Not many coaches can get a group of freshman to play that mentally tough I don’t care how much talent they have. He still has control of the locker room 'obviously'. No coach left would be more deserving to cut down the nets than Callapari.

Taylor Cannon: Rick Pitino, He has won it once before and right now is just full of energy and the players seem to feed off of that. He seems to be relaxed and having fun with the guys.


3. Which impact post player in Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, Thomas Robinson of Kansas, Gorgui Dieng of Louisville, or Anthony Davis of Kentucky will have the biggest impact for their team?

Carlos Paige: The easy answer here would be Anthony Davis with the season he is having but I’m going will Jared Sullinger. He is the main offensive threat for the Buckeyes and his play could set the tone early against a rugged Jayhawks team. Sully’s stock has tumbled a bit this year with his injuries and also the excellent play of the other post players named in this column, so if there was ever a time for him to make his presence known, now would be that time. I look for Sullinger to bring his A game

Adam Douglas: This question was really asked? No doubt Anthony Davis is the biggest impact. I don't think the Wildcats can win without him, therefore he will be the biggest impact to his team.

Michael Williams: Thomas Robinson - See Above - Man amongst boys and a hands down unanimous All-American which hasn't been done since Blake Griffin.

Latoya Walton: Anthony Davis is the post player to have the biggest impact for his team, in my opinion. He’s a Naismith candidate as a freshman. Even if he’s not scoring he is still blocking shots and getting rebounds. He’s a special player. His wingspan and defense is amazing. He broke Kentucky’s all time block record in like 20 games. Who does stuff like that? It took someone 4 years to get that record he broke it in half a season. I’m not saying we can’t play with out Davis. But when he’s in the game He pretty much seals the deal. His presence is an intimidation. He’s a special kid and i feel without him Kentucky wouldn’t have made it this far.

Taylor Cannon: Dieng, If Louisville is to pull the upset Mr. Dieng has to have a huge game on defense and play an important part in rebounding (offensive ones and defensive ones)

4. Which team has the most to gain from winning the championship?

Carlos Paige: Even though Ohio State hasn’t won a championship in 5 decades, I believe Kentucky should be the choice here. The Wildcats haven’t won since 1998, which problem seems like 5 decades as well to the rabid fan base. Their facing the annual mass exodus at the end of the season as always under Callapari with Anthony Davis, Terrance Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all expecting to leave for the draft. This may be Cal’s best team ever so if he doesn’t pull this out I don’t if he ever will

Adam Douglas: It is clearly John Calipari. After all he has been through between the Memphis debacle and being so close the last 5-7 years, the NCAA championship has clearly eluded him -- and he wants one bad to validate all the talent he brings in year in and year out.

Michael Williams: Definitely Louisville, this would give their recruiting a huge boost and help Rick Pitino solidify his legacy. They are the complete underdog team and everyone would love to see David take down Goliath.

Latoya Walton: Kentucky has the most to gain from this national championship. The whole country thinks we choke in the national championship games its time for them Kentucky boys to just finish. I feel this crew Callapari has is the best team he has had others disagree. But Kentucky and Callapari will no longer be known as the choke team if we win it all so we have the most to gain. Getting to the national championship game isn’t good enough anymore nobody remembers second place. We will win full respect once we cut down the nets.

Taylor Cannon: Louisville, they beat their in state rival, won not only the best basketball playing conference (Big East) and to win the national championship as a 4th seed can somebody say WOW.

5. How do you think the media will handle the Kentucky-Louisville and Callapari-Pitino Rivalry?

Carlos Paige: Well I have family in Louisville and let’s just say this is basketball Armageddon in the commonwealth. Every state has its trademark and the state of Kentucky and basketball share a love affair that borders insanity. Louisville is considered the big city where the hipsters live while the rest of Kentucky is dedicated to the rural population .They live, eat, and breathe it there so the media really can’t make this match up any bigger than it already is there. Throw in the lighter fluid of Pitino being the former UK coach and his sacrilege of coaching the arch enemy Cardinals and you all the makings of an intense pressure packed game. For the first time since 1962 when Cincinnati faced off against Ohio State, we have an in-state match of Final Four teams. As for Cal and Pitino, those guys are so much alike it only right that they don’t like each other. The two were actually good friends at one time and Pitino even helped Cal get hired at UMass but that’s where the pleasantries ended. The state is a fever pitch and all kind of deep fried hell should break loose in Kentucky once tip off begins in this one. The only thing that could make this bigger than it is would be if these two met in the National Championship.

Adam Douglas: Bananas. Simply bananas. It has already gotten out of hand.

Michael Williams: I think they will take it to its extent. Not too far because let's be real here this isn't Tim Tebow we're talking about! It's an interstate battle that hasn't happened in quite a long time and of course people are going to talk about it. I'm just hoping that the game isn't a blow out and that we can talk about how good of a game was played instead of anything else.

Latoya Walton: The media is all ready in love with the Kentucky-Louisville match-up. And it’s great for the state of Kentucky. Callapari vs. Pitino it doesn’t get any better than this. I wish it was the national championship because I feel that those are the best two coaches in the final four.

Taylor Cannon: So far they have handled it well, but look for it to heat up as the week drags on.

6. Which battle of the blocks are your most interested in seeing the most:

Carlos Paige: Jared Sullinger vs. Thomas Robinson or Gorgui Dieng vs. Anthony Davis? I’m so excited to see the Sully vs. T-Rob dual because both guys play so hard. This will be a grown man party that will feature some tough physical play. Both players are the tone setters for their respective teams so whoever wins this battle down low should determine who wins that game in my opinion.

Adam Douglas: Davis vs. Dieng will be more entertaining because those two are certified shot blockers. I just don't think Robinson and Sullinger are those types of shot blockers.

Michael Williams: Sullinger vs. Robinson - Sullinger has kind of been floating out too far on the wing this year but I think this is going to be an excellent battle. I truly think that Kansas wins the game because Robinson is able to dominate the key and the boards

Latoya Walton: I feel Sullinger vs. Robinson is the more interesting match up. Davis is going to have a field day with Dieng so that’s irrelevant. But ever since I first seen Robinson and Sullinger play I said to myself they play almost exactly alike its scary how similar in play they are. This is going to be the best match up of bigs in the entire tournament.

Taylor Cannon: Dieng vs. Davis, I guess this is an instate rivalry this could turn out to be an intangible match-up cause Davis got hurt in the Baylor game so how hard is he going to go and is Louisville going to penetrate the middle and test Davis or is UK going to test Louisville in the middle

7. Who wins the championship and why?

Carlos Paige: Again for the all the reasons I named above it has to be the Kentucky Wildcats. They are just so talented across the board that’s its hard for teams to just stay in the game against them. They are ranked in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency. They have beaten every team they’ve faced in the tourney by at least 12 points. And to top everything off they have the best player in the country in Anthony “I’ll cut my unibrow when I want to” Davis. This is year Cal finally joins the ring club and Wildcats fans can put an end t the 14 year drought as they should cut the nets down in the Big Easy.

Adam Douglas: This year's championship is Kentucky's to lose. Like I said in the first question, they are just better than the rest of the field. The only team that can beat KY is themselves.

Michael Williams: Kentucky - Through and through they have the best roster and are the best basketball team in the tourney. But hear me out on any given day any team can get hot and beat any team. Here's hoping we have an excellent championship game!

Latoya Walton: KENTUCKY WILDCATS will cut down the nets!!!! Nobody left in the tournament can play with these boys. I said they would win it all from the first game i seen them play it shocked me to see a young college team that complete. They do it all they play offense and defense. They have the purest shooting and best shooting guards in the nation. They have the best front line in the nation and the best 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 in the nation. These boys are unselfish. They all averaged 25 point in high school but yet the trust their teammates enough not to always take the shot. They pretty much score when ever they want. They do it all 30-1 in the regular season. And the one loss was at the buzzer. They play 7 players and everybody knows their role and plays their role well. No one of the team tries to over do it. Anthony Davis is the star player yet he takes the 5th least amount of shots on the team. Any other Naismith candidate leads their team in shots taken. Pretty much they are athletic, unselfish, great shooters, and smart, the most complete team and no way in blank that Louisville or anyone left could send them home

Taylor Cannon: I’m going to go either Louisville or Ohio State, because both these teams are playing with energy and energetic coaches

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