On Saturday, four teams will meet under the bright lights and among the standing-room-only binocular salesmen of AT&T Stadium. At tipoff, the four well-compensated men who led said teams to said bright lights will, for the most part, be in the same position as the rest of us. UConn coach Kevin Ollie, Florida coach Billy Donovan, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and Kentucky coach John Calipari will have timeouts, substitutions and play calls at their disposal, but at the end of the day, they, just like us, will be at the mercy of their players to make or miss the shots, and win or lose the games. And you thought you were nervous?
The idea, of course, is that each coach will have prepared his team for anything before the game begins. With this foursome, that much is a given. So, who are these four final coaches? And how will their systems, styles and matchups affect what we see Saturday night? Let's dive in:
Background: Is it any surprise Ollie is already exceeding expectations? The undrafted and mostly unwanted former UConn point guard made a career of maximization in the NBA, clawing his way up from the CBA in 1995 to a 13-year NBA career spread across 11 franchises. When Ollie was hired at UConn two years ago, NBA coaches and players (including Kevin Durant) raved about the decision. Now, in his second year, Ollie has reached his first Final Four with the No. 7-seeded Huskies. The feat has at once quelled all doubts about his ability to succeed legendary coach Jim Calhoun, and established Ollie as, as he put it this week, his "own man."
System: With only two seasons under his belt, Ollie hasn't had nearly as much time as his contemporaries to establish a defining system, per se. Nor is it clear that he wants to. Ollie has spent much of the past few weeks reiterating his belief -- an understandable one coming from the Association -- that coaching is overrated. "It's a player's game," Ollie said last month, and plenty of times before and since.
Still, there are some stylistic consistencies. On offense, the Huskies run a ton of pick-and-roll; almost everything UConn does begins with at least one screen for a ball handler. This is, for lack of a better term, a "pro-style" offense. And rightfully so. Among other things, star guard Shabazz Napier is borderline unguardable on pick-and-rolls. Napier and guard Ryan Boatright lead UConn in usage rate, and both players' most frequent play type, according to Synergy, is as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls. Napier begins a third of his possessions in the pick-and-roll and his ability to get to the rim, hit a midrange shot, launch over the screen or create for a shooter makes him so deadly. Ollie sends screens at his guards and keeps the rest of the floor spaced, allowing a team that shoots 39 percent from 3 to force defenses into one scrambling rotation after another.