Bizarro World: 2013 Four-Year Final Four
Remember the days when the majority of college basketball superstars stayed all four years? Yeah, we don’t either.
As Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg wrote in the April 1 issue, “In college basketball these days, as soon as you teach kids to use a knife and fork, they leave to run a restaurant.” Indeed, the moment that most players achieve stardom or start to draw the attention of pro scouts, they declare for the NBA Draft — hoping to capitalize (and capitalize big) on their potential ASAP out of fear of future injury or skeptics jeopardizing their value as pros.
What kind of Final Four would we be watching this weekend if it was like the “old days” and stars didn’t habitually forego most of their college eligibility en route to the pros? Following in the footsteps of similar stories we wrote in 2011 and 2012, we present to you the 2013 Bizarro World Final Four — replete with superstar lineups and oodles of hypothetical drama.
The Heavy Favorite
Wildcats fans’ heads would explode at the thought of an armada of NBA lottery picks sharing the court. Almost the whole entire team would consist of future pros.
Here’s a breakdown by position of the starters:
PG: John Wall (1st pick in 2010)
SG: Eric Bledsoe (18th in 2010)
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd in 2012)
PF: DeMarcus Cousins (5th in 2010)
C: Anthony Davis (1st 2012)
That is a truly terrifying starting five, one that excels in areas of the game that predicate success in March: Playmaking ability at the guard positions, stout (and intimidating) interior defense and matchup nightmares at the forward/swing man positions.
It’s impossible to know what other star recruits would have come to Lexington if players stayed all four years, but we wouldn’t put it past John Calipari to convince the likes of Nerlens Noel, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb or Daniel Orton to play at UK and come off the bench.
And you thought the ’96 Kentucky team was “untouchable”...
The Other Final Four Teams
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: P.J. Hairston
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: James Michael McAdoo
C: John Henson
What’s evident about Roy Williams’ Tar Heels program is how much his players progress over the course of their careers. It’s no coincidence that his two title-winning teams, in 2005 and 2009, were spearheaded largely by upperclassmen — Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants in the former; Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green in the latter.
If players stayed all four years, UNC’s current point guard would be the steady Kendall Marshall. He’d have the option of feeding John Henson (also doubling as a dominant shot-blocker on the defensive side of the court) in the paint, Harrison Barnes on the wings or swingmen James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston cutting to the hoop.
This team wouldn’t be susceptible to the same offensive droughts or brain farts on defense that contributed to the Heels’ less-than-stellar 2012–2013 campaign.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Austin Rivers
SG: Seth Curry
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Mason Plumlee
Kyrie Irving’s outstanding first two seasons in the NBA are proof that he made the right choice in leaving Durham after his freshman year despite playing in just 11 college games. Had he stayed, however, he would have been the centerpiece of Coach K’s greatest backcourt ever.
With Irving as the primary distributor, Austin Rivers could thrive as a two-guard rather than having to tire himself out as the scoring point guard. And then there’s Seth Curry, who could have rained down 3-pointers as defenders worried about Irving and Rivers.
Thrown in an imposing front line featuring Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee and Duke would have the same inside-outside game that the program’s most dominant teams ever rode to success.
PG: Josh Selby
SG: Xavier Henry
SG: Ben McLemore
PF: Thomas Robinson
C: Jeff Withey
When you talk about bizarro Kansas, the first thing you have to highlight is a nightmare-inducing front line of shot-blocking extraordinaire Jeff Withey and rebound hound Thomas Robinson. The two of them would absolutely own the paint against anyone apart from Kentucky — who, at the very least, they would play to a draw.
And it’s not as if opponents would be able to rely solely on a perimeter based attack either, not with the long and athletic Xavier Henry (remember him?) and Ben McLemore guarding the wings while also giving opponents fits with their versatility on the offensive end.
Throw in Josh Selby — the No. 1 recruit in the nation in 2010 perhaps maturing as a point guard, player and person after an up-and-down freshman year — into the mix as a dynamic distributor and KU would have Allen Fieldhouse rocking.
On the Final Four Fringe
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
SG: Dion Waiters
SF: C.J. Fair
PF: James Southerland
C: Fab Melo
Michael Carter-Williams would still be the same heady point guard that keyed the Orange’s actual run to the 2013 Final Four. He’d be able to catch a breather every now and then — and perhaps be even more effective — with Dion Waiters coming off the bench to provide instant offense.
And if you thought Syracuse’s zone defense has been suffocating in 2012–2013, just imagine the effect that 7-footer Fab Melo would have on any opponents that made their way inside. Those 39 points that the Orange held Marquette to in the Elite Eight might be par for the course.
PG: Cory Joseph
SG: Avery Bradley
SG: J’Covan Brown
SF: Justin Hamilton
PF: Tristan Thompson
Texas’ back court of Cory Joseph, Avery Bradley and J’Covan Brown would be among the best in the country (with Bradley also adding stout defense on the opposition’s best guard). Joseph would have the option of dishing to Bradley or Brown on the wings or Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson inside.
Rick Barnes probably sighs at the thought of what might have been had so many of his Longhorns not left early for the NBA. Instead of wondering whether he was going to be fired, he’d likely have first say on where the school should build a statue in honor of him.
Kentucky Photos Credit: Derick Hingle/USA Today Sports