EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It has been said that Syracuse's entry in the Final Four this year marks one of Jim Boeheim's best coaching jobs.
Boeheim doesn't agree.
"I don't think I got real smart over the summer," he said. "I don't subscribe to that theory that some years coaches do a better job than they do other years. If that were the case, then why wouldn't we just do a better job with each team?
"The bottom line is some teams might listen better, some teams might execute better. Last year's team took a timeout we didn't have or we might have been in the Final Four [then]. If John Wallace doesn't make the jump shot against Georgia, did I do a great coaching job this year? Nobody would have said yes. Nobody would have said really anything."
Boeheim passed the credit for the team's 28-8 success to his two seniors, Wallace and Lazarus Sims.
"They've been tremendous, and the coaching task is to give those guys the situation they can be productive in," he said. "They have to do it. And they've both done it from the beginning. They've led this team, and they're the guys that are responsible for us being here, the way they've led the team, more than anything else."
Lightning in the air
There is an almost eerie resemblance in this Final Four to the 1983 Final Four, when North Carolina State shocked top-ranked Houston (and Phi Slamma Jamma) in the championship game.
That was the year Houston outlasted Louisville in a dunk-athon in the national semifinals. Much like tonight's game between Kentucky and Massachusetts, it was a game characterized by many as the national championship game.
In 1983, the late Jim Valvano led the Wolfpack past Georgia in the "other" semifinal game, then devised a strategy to control tempo of the title game and ultimately beat the Cougars.
Thirteen years later, Mississippi State and Syracuse fit that "other game" description.
Planting crab grass
In the wake of the Kentucky-Massachusetts matchup, there has been speculation about re-seeding the Final Four teams in future years. Count Boeheim and Massachusetts coach John Calipari as opponents.
"My general feeling is that the tournament committee has done a great job in seeding," Boeheim said. "I don't think I would want to re-seed the teams, really."
Calipari argued that in a re-seeding of this year's Final Four, Mississippi State, by virtue of having beaten Kentucky this month, might earn the No. 1 seed . . . and still face a game with Syracuse. "That's opening up another can of worms," Calipari said. "Leave it alone."
No place like home
It's not a coincidence that Mississippi State's roster is distinctly home-bred. Ten of the Bulldogs' 13 players are Mississippi natives, and two more come from just across the state line in Alabama. The farthest recruit was Dontae' Jones, a Nashville, Tenn., native who played junior college ball at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville.
Coach Richard Williams said he's careful in matching recruits with the school's location in Starkville.
"It's a small Mississippi town located in the northeast portion of the state, and there's nothing around it," Williams said. "There are no major highways, no major airports, and for a youngster to come to Mississippi State thinking he's coming to the city would be a mistake. And we try to point that out in the recruiting process. So we try to recruit players we think will be comfortable with Mississippi and comfortable with our university."
New York, New York
What is probably the last Final Four in a basketball arena is the first in the New York metropolitan area since 1950, when City College of New York swept the NIT and the NCAA, but a year later became the focus of a point-shaving scandal.
The NCAA basketball committee has lined up the next six Final Fours for domed stadiums. If you're not affiliated with one of the four participants, a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches or have political connections, there's no chance of getting tickets without being scalped, and there appears to be no turning back to arenas that aren't big enough to hold football-sized crowds.
Bright battles slump
Donta Bright is regarded as one of the premier finishers in college basketball, but the senior forward from Dunbar High has missed some short-range shots in the tournament. Bright averaged 14 points in wins over Stanford, Arkansas and Georgetown, but it could have been more, as he made only 15 of 41 shots.
Bright can complete a rare double, as two more victories here would give him an NCAA title to go with the mythical national prep title he led the Poets to in 1992. Reggie Williams accomplished the feat, taking Dunbar to a prep crown in 1983 and hitting the winning shot for Georgetown the next year.
The hairdresser knows
Ted Cottrell has held a number of odd jobs in his UMass career.