Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Who's who, what's what at the Final Four

Trivia-worthy teams remain

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Facts, figures and feedback regarding the 1999 Final Four:

        • 1. It's good to be a rookie. No player appearing in this year's Final Four has been there before. That has not happened before during this decade and last occurred in 1987, when Indiana, UNLV, Providence and Syracuse gathered in New Orleans.


        • 2. It's not good to be a rookie. There are three first-time coaches in the Final Four — Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Jim Calhoun of Connecticut and Jim O'Brien of Ohio State — plus Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, who has made it seven times previously. This does not bode well for the non-Dookies, since only five first-time coaches since 1980 have won the title: Kentucky's Tubby Smith in 1998, UCLA's Jim Harrick in 1995, Michigan's Steve Fisher in 1989, Villanova's Rollie Massimino in 1985 and NC State's Jim Valvano in 1983.


        • 3. It's good to be the king. Three teams seeded No.1 in their regions (Duke, UConn and Michigan State) advanced to the Final Four. This is the third time this has happened in the 15 years of the 64-team tournament.

        • 4. It's hard to come from nowhere. Ohio State is only the seventh team of the 60 teams to reach the Final Four since 1985 that was not in the tournament the year before. Of the other six, none had a losing record and only Michigan in 1992 had a sub-.500 mark the previous year.


        • 5. The Buckeyes have been gone a long, long time. Ohio State's 31 years between Final Four appearances marks only the 11th time a school has gone 30 or more years between trips. The longest drought was Stanford's 56 years between 1942 and 1998. DePaul went 36 years between trips in 1943 and 1979.

        • 6. The Big Ten is what the Atlantic Coast Conference thinks it is. This is the fifth time the Big Ten has produced two Final Four teams in the same year. The ACC has done it three times, the Southeastern Conference and Big East twice each. Only the 1985 Big East had three (Georgetown, St.John's and Villanova).


        • 7. Is a soft road the key to a Final Four trip? All four teams played at least two opponents with double-figure seeds during the tournament. That's happened only once in the previous 14 years (1987). The average seed of Duke's opponents was 10.8. Michigan State's was 10.3. Ohio State had the roughest road, with opponents averaging a seed of 4.8.


        • 8. The Final Four is shrinking. There still are four teams, but the teams aren't as big as they used to be. The starters in the Final Four, on average, are 6-foot-51/4. UConn has the shortest lineup at 6-43/4. Michigan State is biggest at 6-53/4, even though it has no starter taller than 6-8.


        • 9. The long and short of it. The tallest scholarship players among the four teams are 6-11 Jake Voskuhl of Connecticut and 6-11 Ken Johnson of Ohio State. The shortest are 5-10 Khalid El-Amin of UConn and 5-10 Scoonie Penn of Ohio State. All four are starters.

        • 10. It's fine to be from Carolina. The state of North Carolina has produced 10 Final Four teams in the 1990s. Kentucky is next with four — all of them being the same team, UK. Michigan is tied with Arkansas at three apiece, and Ohio now is one of four states with two. A total of 19 of the 50 states produced Final Four teams this decade.

        • 11. It's finer to be from Michigan. Of the 20 starters in the Final Four, seven are from Michigan, which is the only state to have starters on three different teams. Georgia has two players, both from Augusta (Duke's William Avery and UConn's Ricky Moore), and Ohio has two (Ohio State's Michael Redd of Columbus and Michigan State's Andre Hutson of Trotwood). • 12. Ball hogs need not apply. The leading scorer left in the tournament is UConn's Richard Hamilton, who averages 21.3 points. He is the only 20-point scorer still active. Ohio State's Michael Redd is second at 19.7 points a game.