As Robin Williams or Kim Basinger would be happy to tell you, supporting roles can be worthwhile. And this weekend's Final Four could be decided by role or bench players.
North Carolina's Six Pack team probably needs to pop the top on another big body against Utah. That means that freshman center Brendan Haywood could see significant time.Utah's reserves aren't asked to do much more than defend and set screens. But David Jackson, Britton Johnsen and Trace Caton fill those roles effectively.
Stanford has a deep bench that helped win two games last week in the Midwest Regional. Ryan Mendez, David Moseley, Jarron Collins, Michael McDonald, Mike Seaton and Pete Van Elswyk do a lot more than wave towels for the Cardinal.
Kentucky will need some quality minutes from Jamal Magloire inside, Heshimu Evans and Cameron Mills on the perimetem.
Other thoughts and observations before embarking on the road (really, I'm driving) to the Final Four in San Antonio.
For those few new to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky's coach is not nicknamed for his girth. Orlando Smith got the nickname Tubby because he was one of 17 children, and he loved to hog his bath time in the family tub.
Before we move ahead, a quick look back. The teams that lost leads Sunday, Duke and Rhode Island, were both coached by men who have combined for three national championships. Considering the stock put into coaching experience, one would expect the Midwest and South results to be reversed.
This is the first time since 1959 that all four coaches are making their Final Four debuts. This season, Stanford's Mike Montgomery is the least experienced. Smith spent time on Rick Pitino's Kentucky staff; Majerus was an assistant for Al McGuire when Marquette won the 1977 title; North Carolina's Bill Guthridge has been to a Final Four as a player (with Kansas State in 1958) and 12 times as an assistant.
North Carolina sophomore Ed Cota can continue his up-close-and-personal assessment of the nation's top point guards when the Tar Heels face Utah and junior Andre Miller. In the NCAA Tournament, he has faced North Carolina Charlotte's Sean Colson, Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves and Connecticut's Khalid El-Amin.
Duke's loss prevented a semifinal matchup with Stanford. And that spared you folks from reading about SAT scores, macroeconomics and geophysics finals and student-athletes balancing class work with basketball. You've heard enough about that during the Luke Axtell-Texas soap opera.
I did so much want Arizona to reach the Final Four. Not so much because I picked the Wildcats, but because I had made a personal vow. I wanted to ask coach Lute Olson and his players this question: "How much has arrogance contributed to your success?" Utah knocked the arrogance out of the Wildcats before I got the chance.
NCAA's statistical geeks can come up with lots of minutiae, but they couldn't verify the fact that Utah's Hanna Mottola is the first player in the Final Four with three umlauts in his name. He breaks the record previously held by North Carolina's Henrik Rodl, one umlaut. (I knew those four years of German would come in handy.)
Our education moment: An "umlaut" is two dots over a vowel that aids in pronunciation. Mottola's are over the three vowels in his last name. So, every game, he gets credit for a pronunciation triple double.
Who would have thought the Western Athletic Conference would place a team in the Final Four (NCAA) and the final four (National Invitation Tournament). You know the WAC office is a bit more proud of the Utah Utes than it is of the Fresno State Swordsmen. (Jerry Tarkanian's recruiting pitch: "Ya get a bail bondsman with yer scholarship, kid.")