A coaching view of the Final Four
A quick scouting report on the four Final Four teams by coaches who faced off against at least one of the teams multiple times:
Notre Dame split with the Mountaineers, beating West Virginia 70-68 in South Bend on Jan. 9 and losing in the Big East tournament semifinals in New York, 53-51.
Here is Irish coach Mike Brey's take on the Mountaineers:
"The toughest thing offensively is how to guard their screens. They can cut you for 40 minutes. It takes a toll. You may want them to take a lot of 3-pointers. We did in the first meeting and it worked, and then they shot the hell out of the ball against Kentucky [in the Elite Eight].
"What you can't do is chase their five-out motion. That will also take a toll. West Virginia also does a great job on second shots. They do a great job of getting on the backboard. If you're able to run on them, then do. You've got to leak someone out against them.
"Defensively, that 1-3-1 was tougher lately than it was in January when we played them. It might help Duke that they just played against zone for 40 minutes against Baylor. They do a good job of staying in that zone. But against it, you have to do a good job of offensive rebounding.
"West Virginia's depth is also something that can wear you down. Deniz Kilicli might play a few minutes one game, and then 10 minutes the next. The length of [Devin] Ebanks, [John] Flowers, [Kevin] Jones and [Da'Sean] Butler seems to make the court smaller. There isn't as much room to work because of their wingspan defensively.
"Butler seemed to hit every big shot this season except the one to beat us at Notre Dame. He's on quite a roll.''
Georgia Tech played the Blue Devils three times this season, beating Duke 71-67 in Atlanta on Jan. 9, losing 86-67 in Durham on Feb. 4 and falling in the ACC tournament title game 65-61 on March 14 in Greensboro, N.C.
Here is coach Paul Hewitt's take on the Blue Devils:
"They're a great screening team. [Brian] Zoubek and [Lance] Thomas do a great job freeing those guys on the wings. The first time we played them, they were patterned-oriented. We did a good job scouting them. And then we play them the second time and we had all their offensive sets down, and they run motion the whole game. They shredded us.
"[Coach Mike Krzyzewski] is going to keep Zoubek and Thomas around the basket and use the offensive rebounds to turn into 3s. We tried to keep them out of the middle of the floor and keep them from driving the middle to get to the line. You've got to help off the baseline, or if you stay home they can kick it out for a 3. So you've got to keep them out of the middle of the floor.
"If you can wear [Jon] Scheyer down you can have success against them. When Scheyer doesn't have the energy, it can get to them. You have to watch chasing Zoubek on the pick-and-roll. He does a great job of getting those three guys [Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler] shots. Pressure will bother them, but if you pressure them too much the floor can be open for 3s.
"The one wild card and the guy who could come up with a big game is Mason Plumlee. He has the ability to do that. Sometimes he's a bit wild. In the first game against us, he took chances and it hurt us. The second game, he took chances and it hurt them. Plumlee is the best pro prospect.''
Butler won all three games against Milwaukee: Jan. 2 in Indianapolis, 80-67; Jan. 31 at Milwaukee, 73-66; March 6 in Indianapolis, 68-59, in the semifinals of the Horizon league tournament.
Here is coach Rob Jeter's take on Butler:
"They're a very patient group and they defend very well as a group. They are very good at keeping the ball out in front. All those teams that try to ball-screen them and attack them from the perimeter, they do a nice job of switching on those ball screens out front. They try to make you beat them with jump shots.
"They're also very good in the last five minutes of a game. They're poised and confident.
"To hurt them, you've got to go inside with your 5-man. If you're looking for a 4-man to attack [Gordon] Hayward, then you could have problems. He gets his work done early and doesn't allow you to catch it; 5-man [Matt] Howard does allow you to catch it. If you get Howard off the floor, [backups] Avery Jukes and Andrew Smith aren't as good. Hayward is a much better post defender than Howard.
"You've got to study them, but you can't help off [Ronald] Nored. If there's too much pressure, he's fast enough to drop off layups. You've got to keep him in front of you.
"[Shelvin] Mack is probably their weakest defender on the perimeter. But he's so good on the offensive end. You can't allow him to score. He can score quickly.
"Gordon Hayward is the man for them. Wow, you have to be real solid and keep him in front of you. You have to be more disciplined than them. If you don't box out, they're going to get the tip back. If you can't get two hands on the basketball, they'll tip it back. Late in games, they make plays and get stops. They are very patient. They don't settle for jump shots. If you make Butler make jump shots late in the game, then that's to your advantage rather than making them score in the paint. You have to attack Howard and Mack. [Willie] Veasley might be their most underrated player. He's their wild card. He's a great defender who brings the intangibles.''
Illinois faced Michigan State twice during the season, beating the Spartans 78-73 in Champaign when MSU point guard Kalin Lucas was out with an ankle injury on Feb. 6. The Illini lost to the Spartans 73-63 on Jan. 16 in East Lansing.
Here is coach Bruce Weber's take on the Spartans:
"It's [coach] Tom Izzo. It's the Michigan State system. It's the transition, it's the rebounding, it's the solid defense where they've prepared to make you earn things.
"When they played without Lucas [who will be out for the Final Four with a ruptured Achilles] they lose their zipper, the guy who makes plays, may hit the buzzer-beater shots, and who could bail them out through their system.
"Obviously, [Durrell] Summers stepped up and became the go-to guy. When we played them without Lucas it was [ESPN College] GameDay, so there was so much emotion in the building. We played as well as we had all year. We were able to fight them off at the end. But that's why I felt they had a chance to be successful. We were able to score on them a little easier. They don't normally give up that many points.
"We had a lot of different people step up. To me the big key is: Is [Chris] Allen OK [arch]. Is Delvon Roe [knee] OK? Because those guys -- Allen is a veteran player who can make shots and a pretty good defensive player, and Delvon has the toughness in setting screens and rebounding. I think if they have those two guys, it will be a great matchup against Butler -- a tough, hard-fought game."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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