By Jon Rothstein
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– A major element in Saturday’s Final Four showdown between Louisville and Kentucky will be the Cardinals’ match up zone. In their Elite Eight game with Florida, Rick Pitino’s team watched the Gators make so many outside shots in the first half that they had to switch to man to man after halftime and the move ultimately was the difference in the game. Look for the Wildcats’ perimeter shooting to be put to the test from the opening tip and both Darius Miller and Doron Lamb to have plenty of opportunities to extend the floor.
– I’ll be the first one to admit that I did a terrible job this season focusing on what Ohio State didn’t have versus what they did. After watching the Buckeyes dominate at will last season thanks to the blissful outside shooting and the intangibles of David Lighty, I had concerns all season of whether or not this team would be able to have enough offense to advance deep into the field. Those concerns were quickly dismissed when Thad Matta’s team were clearly the toughest team in Boston this past weekend, owning 50-50 balls at will. Ohio State has also gotten a tremendous year out of Lenzelle Smith, who’s stepped nicely into the role vacated by Lighty.
– Both Arizona assistant James Whitford and Ohio State assistant Dave Dickerson are in the mix at Miami, Ohio. The Redhawks represent one of the better jobs in the MAC and have a strong tradition of winning.
– Drexel made a wise move in locking up Bruiser Flint to a multi year extension on Monday. Flint has never made the NCAA Tournament as head coach of the Dragons but has positioned the program to be a player each and every year in the CAA. Drexel only loses senior power forward Samme Givens from this year’s team that won the conference regular season title and lost to VCU in the CAA Tournament Finals while finishing with a 29-7 overall record after losing to Umass in the NIT. Point guard Frantz Massenant figures to be one of the floor generals in the country next year as a junior — he’s that good.
– Frank Martin returned closer to his South Florida roots by taking the South Carolina job on Monday. Martin had created a nice niche with the Wildcats but a move to the SEC makes sense for the fiery coach, who now has more access to some fertile recruiting areas like Atlanta and his native Miami. Whomever takes over Kansas State will inherit a heck of a team. The Wildcats should be a Preseason Top 25 squad as long as junior wing Rodney McGruder doesn’t opt for the NBA.
– Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos has received interest from both Duquesne and Charlotte but is likely to ink a long term extension with the Greyhounds this week. Patsos is very happy in Baltimore and should have a chance to win a MAAC title again next season. Patsos’ has deep roots in the Mid Atlantic region dating back to his days as an assistant at Maryland under Gary Williams and isn’t looking to leave for just any job.
– Missouri coach Frank Haith seems refreshed and eager to begin a new chapter after the Tigers had a remarkable season before being upset by Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament. Haith feels the combination of Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon will be the best back court in the country next season and Laurence Bowers should be more than ready to return after missing this season with an ACL injury. Missouri also has three strong transfers eligible next year in Earnest Ross (Auburn), Jabari Brown (Oregon), and Keion Bell (Pepperdine).
– Working on a Preseason Top 25 for right after the Final Four is going to be harder than usual this year. With so many early defections to the NBA along with many top prospects still uncommitted, it’s going to be tough to prognosticate who’s going to be ranked where before individual workouts start in the fall.
– Washington has three really strong players that are red shirting this year in Andrew Andrews, Scott Suggs, and Jernard Jarreau. The Huskies, despite winning the PAC-12 regular season title did not make the NCAA Tournament but could win the NIT this week in New York. Lorenzo Romar should have a Top 20 squad next season if starting guards Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten return to school.
– Keep an eye on Stanford this week at MSG. The Cardinal have a slew of talented underclassmen and one of the best unknown freshmen in the nation in combo guard Chasson Randle.
What’s your prediction for Louisville-Kentucky? Be heard in the comments below!