Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NCAA-Top Team Historical Comparison

Mike Miller beat Butler in 2000 en route to the Final Four. Fast forward ten years later and Butler star/Mike Miller clone Gordon Hayward has his Bulldogs in the Final 4.

2004 was the last time Duke went to the Final 4 and the last time a Big East school won the National title. It was also the last year that only a single 1 seed made it to the Final 4. Well history always repeats itself and once again the Dukies are in the Final 4 and just like in 2004 they are the only 1 seed left. Just like 2004 they will be playing a very talented 2 seed from the Big East. In 2004 it was UConn that beat Duke in one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball history en route to a National title. This time around they will play West Virginia who just like UConn was a number 2 seed from the Big East.

This year's Duke team is very similar in many ways to the team of 2004. This leads me to my historical team comparison. I compare the top teams of this year to top college basketball teams of the past.

Duke-2004 Duke (Final Four)
Both teams had a star inside/outside player. The 04 team had Loul Deng while this year's team has Kyle Singler. Both had great guards. The 04 team had Chris Duhon, Daniel Ewing, and J. J. Reddick coming off the bench. This year's team has a great duo with John Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The 04 team had a slightly better front court led by Shelden Williams and Shavlick Randolph. This year's team lacks a star up front but has good depth and experience with Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and the Plumlee brothers. The main difference between the two teams could be experience. The 04 team was very young. Deng was a Freshman while Williams, Randolph and Reddick were all Sophomores. This year's team has 3 seniors and 2 juniors starting. That could be the difference between a Final 4 loss and Coach K cutting down the nets for the fourth time in his legendary coaching career.

Michigan St.-2000 Michigan St. (National Champion)
Last year I compared Michigan St. to their 1999 Final 4 team. Just like the 2000 Spartan team that won the National Title this year's team returned most of their key pieces from last year's Final 4 team. Both teams had great guards and wings leading the way. The 2000 team had Mateen Cleaves, Charlie Bell, and Morris Peterson. This year's team is led by Kalin Lucas, Korie Lucious, Durrell Summers, and Raymar Morgan. Both teams had role palying big men who stepped up big time in the NCAA tournament. The 2000 team had Aloysius Anagonye, Andre Hutson, and A. J. Granger. This year's team has Delvon Roe and Draymond Green who are playing great right now. That's the good news. The bad news is the 2000 team had two major things this year's team doesn't have. A healthy star PG (Kalin Lucas is out) and a star Freshman dunking machine by the name of Jason Richardson. Don't count out Coach Izzo, but I'd be shocked if Michigan State can somehow win the National Title without Lucas.

Butler-2000 Florida (Runner-Up)
Exactly ten years ago, an unlikely 5 seed made it all the way to the National Title game. They became the only team to beat both Duke and UNC in the same NCAA Tournament. They were a a young team being led by a very young coach in Billy Donovan. Ironically, this young Florida team won their first round game in the dance on a last second shot by Mike Miller. People might forget the team they beat in the first round was Butler. Now it's 2010 and another young team, Butler is led by a young coach in Brad Stevens. Butler's star slasher is Sophomore Gordan Hayward who reminds me so much of Mike Miller that it's scary. Butler's Matt Howard is a little short for a star center but is very effective just like Florida's Udonis Haslem was back in 2000. Both teams keys to success were depth and great guard play. Both teams had guards that played great defense and hit open shots. Florida had Brett Nelson, Ted Dupay, Justin Hamilton, Major Parker, and Matt Bonner. Bulter's Shelvin Mack is better than any guard that Florida team had. He combines Hamilton's athleticism with Dupay's scoring abilty. Butler has great guard depth with Ronald Nored, Willile Vesley and sharpshooter Zach Hahn. Florida lost to Michigan St. in 2000. Butler play Michigan St. on Saturday night. History always repeats itself.

West Virginia-1990 and 1991 UNLV (National Champion in 1990, Final 4 in 1991)
I had to go back twenty years to find a team with such incredible strength, skill and athletic ability at the forward spots. Those UNLV teams were led by forwards Larry Johnson and "Pasticman" Stacy Augmon. They also had great guards in Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt. This year's West Virginia team is led by star forwards Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks. Bulter may not end up being the number one pick in the NBA draft like "Grandmama" but he has been one of the best player's in college basketball this year. West Virginia has good guards in Truck Bryant (who could still be out come this weekend), Joe Mazzulla, and sharpshooter Casey Mitchell. This West Virginia team might have a slightly better front court duo with Wellington Smith and Kevin Jones than the Runnin Rebel's duo of George Ackles and Moses Scurry. The 1990 UNLV team beat the living crap out of Duke in the National Title. A year later Duke got their revenge in the Final 4. My guess is the winner of the Duke-West Virginia game will beat either Butler or Michigan St. So West Virginia will be exactly like one of the two great UNLV teams of the early 90's.

What could have been:

Kansas-1997 Kansas (Sweet 16)
Both this year's Kansas team and the 97 Kansas team went into the dance as the top ranked team in the country. The 97 team was led by a senior PG in Jacque Vaughn, and star big man in Raef LaFrentz and an underclassmen star slasher in Paul Pierce who would end up being the best pro of the three. This year's team was led by senior PG Sherron Collins, a star big man in Cole Aldrich and a good young slasher in Xavier Henry. Just like LaFrentz and Pierce, Aldrich will be drafted higher but in the long run Henry will have the better pro career. Just like in 97, a lot of people's brackets were burst when Kansas lost (myself included). Other than the 1991 UNLV team that went undefeated until they lost to Duke in the Final 4, these two Kansas teams are the best teams I've seen in my lifetime that didn't win
the National Title.

Kentucky-2007 Ohio St. (Runner-Up)
We heard all year long how the youth and inexperience of the Wildcats would eventually hurt them. Well eventually became the Elite 8 game against West Virginia. Ohio State's Freshman trio of center Greg Oden and guards Mike Conley and Daequan Cook went two steps further than the Wildcats did this year. The Fab 4 Freshman of guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe along with big men DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton didn't even see the Final 4. To make matters worse, this year's Kentucky team also had star PF Pattrick Patterson. The Ohio St. team had Othello Hunter playing power forward. Both teams were 1 seeds who spent pretty much the whole season in the top 5.

Syracuse-1999 Maryland (Sweet 16)
The last time I can remember a transfer coming in a taking a team that had average pre-season expectations and taking them in top a high ranking was Maryland in 1999. That Maryland team was led by JUCO transfer Steve Francis and got a 2 seed. They eventually lost in the Sweet 16 to St. John's led by Ron Artest. The Terps were also led by a good front court that featured Obinna Ekezie, Terrence Morris and slasher LaRon Profit. This year's Syracuse team also exceeded expectations and they were led by a star transfer in Wesley Johnson. Like Francis, Johnson will likely only play one year and be a top draft pick. The Cuse had a great front court with Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson. They also had a stud in guard Andy Rautins. Both teams ended up losing in the Sweet 16.

Kansas St.-1994 Arizona (Final 4)
This year's K-State back court duo of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente reminded me so much of the Arizona back court of Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire. All 4 of these players were scorers trapped in point guards bodies. Both teams had great depth and toughness up front to go along with their incredible back court duo. Both teams were also two seeds in the West Region.

Ohio St.-1994 Duke (Runner Up)
When Kansas lost to Northern Iowa, I thought Ohio St. Has a great chance to not only win the Midwest Region, but to possible win the National Title. Ohio St. of course was led this year by National Player of the Year Evan Turner. I hear a lot of people comparing Turner to Brandon Roy, but he reminds me more of Grant Hill who in 1994 almost single handily led Duke all the way to the championship game. Both teams were 2 seeds and both ended up losing to very athletic SEC teams (Ohio St. to Tennessee and Duke to Arkansas). The only difference was Ohio St. lost in the Sweet 16, Duke lost in the National Title.

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