Not since 1976 has a men’s college basketball team finished undefeated. That team was Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers: They were 32-0. I remember it like it was yesterday — I went to college in Indiana. Indiana State that is, in Terre Haute, about an hour south of Bloomington, Indiana.
The last time someone was undefeated playing in the Final Four was 1979. Yes, I was there with Indiana State. We were 33-0 playing Michigan State from the Big Ten in the National Championship.
Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser teamed up that night and denied Larry Bird and Indiana State a perfect season. Ouch! 33-1 — not bad but not perfect. It was and still remains the highest rated basketball game ever seen on TV when it was broadcast on CBS.
Last year, Wichita State was 34-0 and failed to reach the Final Four. Kentucky will have a near-home court advantage in nearby Indianapolis. Lexington is less than two hours south of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Kentucky is no stranger to the Final Four: Last year, they lost the title game to Connecticut. Coach John Calipari is back in the Final Four again; what a great coach he is. And my goodness they are tough on defense — who said defense wins championships? Kentucky is outstanding on defense, and they are athletic and long. So is Wisconsin: The big champion is 35-3 and in the Final Four again, as is Kentucky for the second straight year.
Last year, Kentucky beat Wisconsin in the National Semifinal. The Badgers would love to spoil Kentucky’s bid in the rematch for a perfect season. Wisconsin and Coach Bo Ryan might do it this time; the Badgers are really talented, and this is his best team with star center Frank Kaminsky.
Duke is back also in the Final Four for the 12th time under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, who ties the immortal John Wooden for most Final Fours as a coach all-time. Duke also has the consensus Player of the Year, 6-11 freshman Jahil Okafor, and Minnesota’s own Apple Valley star guard Tyus Jones. This is the youngest team Krzyzewski has ever guided to the Finals, but talented they are.
Michigan State is the long shot of this Final Four. The seventh-seed Spartans with the great Tom Izzo in his seventh Final Four have refused to lose. Everybody is deserving, and this will be a tough out.
What’s makes this Final Four special? How about four Hall of Fame coaches who combined have 26 Final Four appearances and six national titles — counting next Monday, make it seven!
Before Kentucky survived Notre Dame 68-66 in the Elite Eight, I was confident Kentucky could go 40-0. Doubt has set in; Wisconsin and Duke are really good also. Las Vegas odds have Kentucky 50-1 to go 40-0!
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.