Shaka Smart has got his VCU Rams playing, without a doubt, their best basketball of the season. In the lose-and-go-home format of the NCAA Tournament, everything is about matchups and getting hot at the right time.
John Calipari has been to the Final Four twice before. This time, he’s managed to get to Houston by maximizing the play of his veteran leaders and without much help from star freshman Terrence Jones.
Jim Calhoun is the only coach in this year’s Final Four that has won a national title before. In fact, he’s done it twice. And he also has the best player left in the tournament at his disposal.
I’m riding with Brad Stevens.
Now, that’s not to say that I think Butler is going to win the national title. I think Kentucky is going to win.
But all things equal, I want Brad Stevens as my head coach.
And its not about Stevens being the best coach out of this group. Jim Calhoun is a hall of famer and John Calipari should eventually join him, assuming the voting committee can get past his baggage. Shaka Smart is this year’s hot commodity, the guy that is going to command a massive contract from whatever high major school he ends up decides on if he leaves VCU.
That’s some heavy hitting company.
They all know how to game plan. They all can work an official. They are know how to motivate a team.
But I’m not sure that anyone has a better feel for their team than Brad Stevens down right now.
In Butler’s Elite 8 game against Florida, the Gators were thoroughly outplaying the Bulldogs. Butler was lucky to be down just 33-32 at the half, and after a 12-1 run midway through the second half, the Bulldogs found themselves in a 51-40 hole with just 9:25 on the clock.
Chrishawn Hopkins is a seldom-used freshman on Butler’s bench. The athletic point guard had played seven minutes and just four games since January 12th, and six of those minutes came in a 27 point blow out of Illinois-Chicago. But Hopkins had been playing well in practice that week, so Stevens figured he would give him a shot.
And boy, did it payoff.
Hopkins found Matt Howard on a sweet, no-look pass for a layup that cut the lead to 51-44, and 30 seconds later drilled a three that cut the lead to four. That was, essentially, it for Hopkins impact in the four minutes of action that he saw, but those two plays helped swing the tide of momentum. They sparked Butler’s comeback.
“Hopkins made the pass to Howard, we scored,” Stevens said after the game. “We went down and got a stop, Mack made the pass to Hopkins, we hit a three. Now all of a sudden it went from nine to four. Now all of a sudden you’ve got a ball game and momentum late.”
The Bulldogs would go on to win in overtime.
Having that kind of feel for your team is what is going to make the difference in a Final Four with as much parity as this one.
That is why I want Brad Stevens as my coach.