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Big Boys only in the Big Easy

By John Marshall

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 27 2012 1:30 p.m. MDT

North Carolina coach Roy Williams and Kansas coach Bill Self greet each other before the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Midwest Regional final Sunday, March 25, 2012, in St. Louis. Kansas, where Williams coached for 15 years, defeated North Carolina 80-67.

Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

It's going to be big boys only in the Big Easy.

After a couple years of mid-majors breaking into the party and little guys leading their teams to titles, the Final Four will feature power players from power conferences.

The players are as good as it gets when it comes to big men: Kansas' Thomas Robinson, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Kentucky's Anthony Davis. They're all first-team All-Americans, and Louisville's Gorgui Dieng isn't bad, either.

The teams, traditionally strong: Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, Ohio State. Every one of them has won a national title, been to at least 10 or more Final Fours — all at least once in the past seven years — and have coaches who have won titles or coached in the title game.

Did we mention Louisville and Kentucky are playing each other?

Yeah, this is going to be big.

THE STARS

You know college basketball, you know these guys. We're going to tell you about them anyway.

Robinson, Kansas. Big, strong, athletic, a double-double waiting to happen. Hard to believe this unanimous All-American wasn't much more than a bit player last season.

Davis, Kentucky. The 6-foot-10 forward has had as much an impact as any of coach John Calipari's recent run of freshmen phenoms. Athletic and with a pterodactyl-like wingspan, he scores, he swats, he disrupts.

Sullinger, Ohio State. The AP's first repeat All-American in three years, Sullinger is the prototype of today's big man: Big and physical, yet with good touch away from the basket and agile enough to get to the rim. Didn't play when Kansas beat the Buckeyes on Dec. 10 because of a sore back.

Peyton Siva, Louisville. The point guard can take over games with his scoring, but it's his ability to get everyone involved that makes him so dangerous. Quick enough to get around a lightning bolt, he'll keep probing the defense until he finds the best shot for himself or a teammate.

THE SIDEKICKS

Not the stars, but not far behind.

Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas. Ty is the guy when it comes to running Kansas' offense.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State. Sullinger gets all the attention, but Thomas has been the Buckeyes' leading scorer in the postseason, averaging 21.8 points per game.

Kyle Kuric, Louisville. The Cardinals' leading scorer barely needs to touch the ball to get a shot off.

Terrence Jones, Kentucky. The Wildcats have an NBA team in the making, so it was hard to pick just one player. We went with Jones, the super sophomore with the multidimensional skills who creates so many matchup problems.

THE COACHES

Rick Pitino, Louisville. The first coach to take three different schools to the Final Four, he's put together one of the best coach-'em-up jobs of his career this season, leading a team that had some big stumbles during the season into his sixth trip to the Final Four.

Calipari, Kentucky. Became the second coach to take three teams to the Final Four when he got the Wildcats to Houston last season. Only thing missing for this master recruiter is a title.

Thad Matta, Ohio State. Has the Buckeyes in the Final Four for the second time in six years after reaching the title game with Greg Oden in 2007. Kicking the team out of practice after a rough stretch in February, which prompted a team meeting, helped kick-start OSU's run to New Orleans.

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