Recipe for NCAA hoops success

The Kentucky Wildcats are not only favoured to win the NCAA basketball title, but they also have...

The Kentucky Wildcats are not only favoured to win the NCAA basketball title, but they also have the best fans. (GETTY IMAGES)

RICHARD ZUSSMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:57 PM ET

People get paid a lot of money to win. That is why Peyton Manning just inked a $96 million contract over five years after not taking a single snap in a regular season game. That is why Phil Jackson made $10 million last year as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

That is also why nine of the coaches left in this year’s NCAA tournament are reported to make more than a million dollars a year. Money talks this time of year for universities. More wins in March means more students applying for September. It means more nationally televised games. It means more money flowing through the ivory gates of institutions across the United States. When you enter the city of Syracuse, below the city’s name on the highway sign is a clear message: 2003 NCAA Basketball Champions.

It is better for a university to have a NCAA basketball champion (or football champion) then it is a Noble Prize winner. So everyone is looking for the recipe for success and here are my ingredients.

WHO HAS THE BEST FANS?

Fans make a big difference. In the college games free throw shooters are a little more prone to missing shots because of nerves. A lot of those nerves come from fans holding up massive signs of your opponent’s face or screaming insults they have researched from your Facebook page.

Year after year the best fans come from Lexington. The Kentucky Wildcats don’t just boast more fans at home than anyone else, they also pack gyms on the road as well. The ‘Cats are in Atlanta this weekend, known as Catlanta to fans. The number of alumni in Atlanta and a rabid student base make for a lethal combination.

It takes a real man to wear Orange. And there will be a lot of real men in Boston. Syracuse fans travel in the east as well as any team. The Cuse’s allotment of tickets for the regional finals was sold out by Monday, less than 48 hours after being released. With Fab Melo out of the lineup, I think the Orange’s only advantage in a potential matchup against Ohio State is the fans.

Don’t be surprised to see a lot of Ohio, N.C. State and Xavier fans pop out of nowhere. The thing about regional finals is that many of the fans have no vested interest in a team heading into the game. The surprise teams often get the support of the fair weather fans.

HELPS: Kentucky, Syracuse, Louisville, Kansas

HURTS: Baylor, Cincinnati, N.C. State, Florida

WHO HAS THE BEST COACH?

There is a reason why basketball and football coaches get paid more than university presidents. A win on national TV is better than anything an administrator can do in an ivory tower. Kentucky and Syracuse do very well in this category too. ‘Cats coach John Calipari is the only coach in history to lead three teams to the Final Four (UMass, Memphis and Kentucky) but he has never won a title. The best recruiter in basketball should change that this year. Orange coach Jim Boeheim has won 889 games, the most ever at a single school. Roy Williams (UNC) and Billy Donovan (Florida) are the only coaches in the field with multiple national championships.

HELPS: Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina, Syracuse, Louisville

HURTS: Ohio, Cincinnati, N.C. State, Marquette

WHO HAS THE HOTTEST PLAYER?

* There is no player hotter than Brady Heslip. The Canadian sharp shooter does the one thing that can swing a basketball game quickly and that’s hit three pointers in bunches. Heslip shot his way onto the scene in Albuquerque with nine three pointers against Colorado.

* Marquette’s Jae Crowder has upped his board game. Over the last five games he has averaged 13.4 rebounds a game, while scoring 19 ppg.

* In watching the first weekend it was hard to take my eyes off Draymond Green. The Michigan State senior went from hard fouls, to court to cleaning to scoring at will. He can do it all and is upping his game at the right time.

* Aaron Craft has emerged as a really great point guard for the Buckeyes this March.

HELPS: Baylor, MSU, Ohio State, Marquette

HURTS: Wisconsin, Syracuse, Louisville, Kansas

WHO HAS AVOIDED INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS?

Success in March can also be a lot about luck. Syracuse was my pick to win it all, until Fab Melo got suspended. Indiana was a real threat, until its point guard went down with a season ending knee injury. Now UNC fans are forced to wait and see on Kendall Marshall. The point guard has the tournament’s most talked about body part with fans anxious to see how his wrist is doing. The Heels also are still not sure about how healthy John Henson is?

HURTS: Syracuse, Indiana, UNC

Now mix up all these ingredients and see what rises to the top this weekend.

richard.zussman@sunmedia.ca

 


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