Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

College Basketball Royalty Coming to Indy

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

College Basketball Royalty Coming to Indy

Article excerpt

Dr. James Naismith had long before conceived the game of basketball when he visited the Indiana high school state championships in 1925 and marveled at the Hoosier State's embrace of his invention. Years later, he wrote, "Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport."

The game's first craftsman would find joy in the foursome that will descend on Indiana for this year's Final Four.

Kentucky. Wisconsin. Michigan State. Duke.

On Saturday and Sunday, guided by their veteran coaches average age of 63 years, two months, with two already eligible for Medicare those four teams punched their tickets to the third weekend of the NCAA Tournament, setting up a weekend reserved for basketball royalty at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Though Michigan State was a No. 7 seed in the East Region, this year's Final Four is free of fairy tales. Three-fourths of this year's bracket was etched in chalk: Duke, Kentucky and Wisconsin were all No. 1 seeds. It's the most No. 1 seeds in the Final Four since all four advanced in 2008.

The field in Indianapolis will include the two leading candidates for national player of the year (Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky and Duke's Jahlil Okafor), the nation's only undefeated team (Kentucky), the winningest men's coach in Division I history (Duke's Mike Krzyzewski) and the indefatigable Mr. March, Tom Izzo.

There will be plenty of star power on the court in Saturday's semifinals Duke (33-4) and Michigan State (27-11) tip off at 5:09 p.m., followed by Kentucky (38-0) and Wisconsin (35-3) but the high- power wattage will come from the sweaty millionaires on the sideline. The four coaches in this year's field Duke's Krzyzewski, 68, Michigan State's Izzo, 60, Kentucky's John Calipari, 56, and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, 67 have led their teams to a combined 27 Final Fours and captured six national championships. Make it 10 if you count Ryan's four Division III titles at Wisconsin-Platteville.

If there must be a Cinderella in Indy, it's Izzo's Spartans, who finished tied for third in the Big Ten with Iowa and Purdue but fought off their region's No. 2 seed (Virginia), 3 seed (Oklahoma) and 4 seed (Louisville). Nobody rules March like Izzo, who's coaching in his seventh Final Four in 20 years at MSU. Only three coaches have led more teams to the Final Four: John Wooden, Krzyzewski and Dean Smith.

On Sunday, Izzo's Spartans needed overtime to outlast nearly as scrappy Louisville 76-70, denying another iconic coach, Rick Pitino, an eighth Final Four.

"I wasn't really planning on working this late, but, God, I love to work at this time of year," Izzo said Sunday in Syracuse, N.Y.

Sunday's win over Louisville improved Izzo's record against higher seeded teams to 13-9, the best in NCAA history. He'll face another higher seed in Saturday's first semifinal. Led by Okafor, the 6-11 freshman center and possible No. …

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