2014 Bizarro World North Texas Final Four
Just as we have for the previous three seasons, we can’t help but wonder what the 2014 Final Four would look like if college basketball’s best players still routinely stayed all four years.
We’re not decrying the quality of play in this year’s Big Dance (which has been entrancing thus far). We just instinctually wonder how the sport’s one- or two-and-done players would’ve turned out had they chosen to use up all of their college eligibility rather than take off early for the NBA.
Herein is our 2014 Bizarro World Final Four.
[Editor’s Note: We picked the four best teams to reach the Final Four instead of trying to predict March Madness upsets, which was beyond the scope of this article. And we assumed all players went to the same schools despite playing time issues that would have arisen.]
Starters: PG Brandon Knight (Sr.), SG Doron Lamb (Sr.), SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Jr.), PF Terrence Jones (Sr.), C Anthony Davis (Jr.)
Even more than he is now, John Calipari would have an embarrassment of riches. Already in the 2014 Final Four with another band of freshmen, just imagine how great the Wildcats would be if the 2012 national champions were still playing together and led by Brandon Knight (who went pro following the previous season) at point guard. Rising NBA star Anthony Davis in particular might have averaged Wilt Chamberlain-esque numbers this season against college squads.
It’s not just the skill level of Kentucky’s hypothetical starting five that’s awe-inspiring, but also the depth that Coach Cal would have backing each starter up. With the snap of his fingers, Calipari could summon stud reserves at point guard (Marquis Teague and Andrew Harrison), shooting guard (Archie Goodwin and Aaron Harrison), small forward (James Young and Alex Poythress), power forward (Julius Randle) and center (Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson).
Oh, and don’t forget about that guy in street clothes sporting the high fade top at the end of the bench, Nerlens Noel. He’d be patiently biding his time in his recovery from a torn ACL, getting ready for what would be a dominant redshirt sophomore season.
Yes, we’re talking about Kentucky challenging the 1968 UCLA Bruins as the greatest college basketball team ever and Coach Cal as the college hoops equivalent of that Russian oligarch from the DirecTV ads (“Opulence! I has it!”):
Starters: PG Shabazz Napier (Sr.), SG Ryan Boatright (Jr.), SF Jeremy Lamb (Sr.), PF DeAndre Daniels (Jr.), C Andre Drummond (Jr.)
The Huskies made a surprise run to the Final Four with a Big Three of Napier, Boatright and Daniels. Just imagine how dominant UConn would be if you threw two NBA players - Lamb and Drummond - into the mix. It would be especially enticing to see Drummond dominate at the college level after a solid-but-unspectacular one-and-done career in Storrs. Now averaging 13.0 PPG, 12.7 RPG and 1.7 BPG for the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, Drummond would be a man amongst boys playing against other college kids right now.
It still wouldn’t be enough to beat Kentucky, but this could have gone down as the greatest UConn team of all time.
Starters: PG Michael Carter-Williams (Jr.), SG Dion Waiters (Sr.), SF C.J. Fair (Sr.), PF Jerami Grant (So.), C Fab Melo (Sr.)
That same 2-3 zone that flummoxed Syracuse’s opponents en route to the 2013 Final Four would prove even more nightmarish with the above lineup. Carter-Williams (6-foot-6) and Waiters (6-foot-4) would provide a lot of length on the perimeter, while the 7-foot Melo as a senior would make things very difficult on those occasions when the ball would find its way inside.
A Syracuse team that really struggled to put the ball in the net this season wouldn’t have that problem with MCW and Waiters helping Fair pile up the points for the Orange, with Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney coming off the bench.
Starters: PG Kyrie Irving (Sr.), SG Austin Rivers (Jr.), SF Rodney Hood (So.), SF/PF Jabari Parker (Fr.), PF Amile Jefferson (So.)
At first glance, this bizarro Blue Devils team would appear ripe for the same lack of size and experience problems that plagued them during the real-life, 2013-2014 season - particularly in a Round of 64 upset loss to Mercer.
One thing they would have, however, that would greatly help offset that is much-needed experience from Irving and Rivers, who would form perhaps the nation’s most talented backcourt. That’s right, the 2014 NBA All-Star MVP would still be a senior at Duke right now if he had elected to stay in school all four years instead of leave for the NBA after 11 career games in Durham. While it’s tough to leave a Bizarro Florida team out of the Final Four that would include current Washington Wizard Bradley Beal, we just see the Blue Devils scoring at will too much to keep them from Arlington, TX.
Florida: PG Scottie Wilbekin (Sr.), SG Bradley Beal (Jr.), SF Casey Prather (Sr.), PF Will Yeguete (Sr.), C Patric Young (Sr.)
Michigan: PG Trey Burke (Jr.), SG Tim Hardaway Jr. (Sr.), SF Nik Stauskas (So.), SF/PF Glenn Robinson III (So.), PF Jordan Morgan (Sr.)
North Carolina: PG Marcus Paige (So.), PG Kendall Marshall (Sr.), SG Reggie Bullock (Sr.), SF Harrison Barnes (Sr.), PF James Michael McAdoo (Jr.)
Kansas: PG Josh Selby (Sr.), SG Ben McLemore (So.), SF Andrew Wiggins (Fr.), PF Perry Ellis (So.), C Joel Embiid (Fr.)