Observations

Ken TysiacApril 3, 2010 

Looking at the last three teams from so-called mid-major conferences to make the Final Four is a great way to understand the diversity of teams that succeed in this tournament.

In 2006, George Mason of the Colonial Athletic Association was a No. 11 seed that nearly was left out of the NCAA tournament. Coach Jim Larranaga, who long had a reputation for being a bit abrasive, was extremely gracious with the media and created fantastic publicity for the school.

But he's still at George Mason, and just signed a contract extension this week.

In 2008, Memphis of Conference USA was a No. 1 seed and lost a heartbreaker to Kansas in the NCAA championship game. Coach John Calipari bolted a year later for Kentucky, before NCAA violations that occurred under his watch forced Memphis to forfeit all its 2008 wins.

This year Butler of the Horizon League comes to the Final Four as a No. 1 seed with a baby-faced, 33-year-old coach in Brad Stevens who left a marketing job at Eli Lilly 10 years ago to pursue a career in coaching.

He appears to have a promising career. But with the success Butler has had in recent NCAA tournaments, he can afford to be selective.

A brokers' bonanza

The Final Four must be a bonanza for ticket brokers, who are eagerly looking for publicity this week by contacting reporters.

One marketer from an online broker called the office this week, seeking to give information for the Final Four tickets story we're sure to be writing.

It's a hot story, she says.

Sorry. No thanks.

But she's persistent.

"Can you transfer me to the city desk?"

Another ticket and hospitality provider emailed an invite to parties where you can meet John Salley, NCAA coaches, former players and (no kidding) "celebrities." And there's free food and an open bar.

Sorry. No thanks.

Waters picks Duke

People in Indianapolis have been stopping Durham's Bucky Waters all week.

"Hey," they've told him. "You coached both of these teams."

Waters was Duke's head coach from 1969 to 1973 and also served as a Blue Devils assistant. He was West Virginia's head coach from 1965 to 1969.

He has fond memories of the Mountaineers and their fans. He said no matter where the team played, fans from that area who had left West Virginia because of difficult economic times would come support the team.

"They never lost the affection for their Mountaineers," Waters said.

Waters' heart, though, is with Duke, and he said he predicts that the Blue Devils will win the NCAA title.

"I like Duke for the great experience and confidence," Waters said. "This is Mike [Krzyzewski's] best coaching job. People may argue with that. They may not win out here. I think they will. I think Baylor was the toughest thing between them and the championship, because of the matchups, the zone."

PREDICTIONS

Michigan State over Butler: Spartans are too experienced and strong on the boards.

Duke over West Virginia: Three-point shooters will solve West Virginia's zone defense.

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