After perhaps the most exciting finish in last night's National Championship game, I took some time to reflect and think about what, if anything, could be learned from this past Final Four. 4 lessons really stuck out.
1. Luck is a Factor
Luck plays a factor for who makes it to the Final Four. I'm speaking specifically about #10 seed Syracuse.
This was touched upon earlier in the week by ESPN, but I believe it bears repeating: Syracuse was not one of the four best teams in the country. The case could easily be made and defended that had the Orange been in any of the other three regions, they would not have made it past the Sweet Sixteen.
Like it or not, sheer luck is a major role in this tournament when it comes to seeding and placement in the bracket.
2. Basketball is a Team Sport
For days leading up to the Villanova v Oklahoma game, the lion's share of media coverage was given to a single player: Oklahoma's Buddy Hield.
The media dubbed him "Superman." Sports Center ran his genesis story ad nauseum. While he is an incredible player, and his backstory is compelling and courage-filled, this kind of single-minded coverage has two negative effects.
1. It has the potential to psyche the player out. There's no way Hield did not see all this attention and hear about how great it was from family and friends. Ultimately, it's on the player to perform, but all that attention for a twenty-two year-old leading up to the biggest game of his life cannot be beneficial. (Hield played sub-par in OU's record-breaking loss.)
2. Most importantly, it takes away from a fundamental fact of basketball: it's a team sport. There are five guys out there working together on the court. How the team gels is always more important than singular talent.
That's why when the Lakers got Malone and Payton they didn't win it all; while they had a stable of Hall of Famers, they did not have the best team.
And no player in NCAA or NBA history has ever won a title all by himself.
3. 3-pointers Matter
Whether you love the three-ball, or you're a diehard purist who thinks it should be abolished, there's no question that three-pointers are a game changer.
UNC shot lights-out from downtown during the first half last night. It kept them in the game--they went into the locker room ahead at half--despite Nova's stifling defense.
Like it or not, 3s have fundamentally changed the way basketball is played.
4. Defense Wins Championships
Most cliches are cliches for a reason: they're true. This one is no different.
Villanova danced its way to the National Champions because of its stellar defensive performances.
They beat Oklahoma by the biggest margin in history--44 points--in a Final Four game. Nova shut down this offensive juggernaut with ease to punch their ticket to the championship game.
Last night they delivered an encore performance. UNC scored two second chance points and zero fast break points. This is incredible and speaks directly to Nova's commitment to rebounding and transition defense.
Furthermore, they had more points in the paint than the much taller Tar Heels.
While Jenkins' buzz-beater sealed the deal for the Wildcats, it was their phenomenal defense that put them in a position to conquer the heavily favored Tar Heels.