Having been forced to watch 32 other teams in the tournament since G'Town crashed out, several things stand out in terms of what has gotten Butler, West Virgina, Duke (ugh) and Michigan State to the Final Four.
1. Winning Ugly - Teams that find a way to win on a bad shooting night stay in the tournament. This comes from defense, foul shooting and rebounding..............things that can and should be consistent every game. West Virginia does this every day, Duke did it yesterday.
2. Staying Focused For 40 Minutes - And staying within 3-4 points of the other team. Five minutes of mental lapse on both ends of the floor that buries a team a dozen points behind is not a good recipe for winning.
3. No Excuses - West Virginia and Michigan State are in the Final Four....WITH ONE STARTER HURT AND GONE! Duke won yesterday with Kyle Singler having a career night (that is, the first time in his career where he has NOT made a field goal). Other players need to step up when required. Coaches need to make a plan that works with the most effective players on the court that day.
4. Actually Making the Key Plays - Whether it is putting the ball in the basket in the last minute when you are down a point or two, making a key defensive stop or getting that critical rebound - it just has to happen. In so many of the games in this tournament, players made key plays at the end. I can think of only Monroe in the Temple game and Wright in the West Virginia game where we actually put the ball in the basket when we needed to at the end of the game. When we won this year, it was by cruising (albeit after some comebacks) by big enough leads over the last few minutes to prevail.
A lot of the above speaks to discipline, will to win, coaching and confidence. Not just talent.
No one can claim the the teams in the the Final Four are the most talented............they just have the moxie to string together enough wins over diverse competition to get there.
I hope our players and coaches are watching these games....................................