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2007: MARCH MANIFESTO: SECRET #5

NCAA Tournament | All 65 Team Capsules | Win Your Pool

By Adam Stanco

BasketballWriter@cs.com

 

7 Secrets to NCAA Tournament Success: Star Power

 

In 2005, Chris Rock, while hosting the Academy Awards, said it best.

 

“You want Tom Cruise and all you can get is Jude Law? Wait.”

 

Nothing compares to a superstar. Nothing.

 

Tom Cruise’s pre-insanity talent gave Goose, Rod Tidwell, and a hooker on a train a part in some of the greatest moments in movie history. He raised the level of their games. The elite players in college basketball do the same.

 

Stars are vital for two reasons. First, they add a swagger to their teams. They give their teams someone to believe in, someone to follow, and – in doing so – they give them an identity. Secondly, stars are a safety net. When a tourney team falls victim to the inevitable scoring drought, go-to-guys live up to their namesake. A critical basket will shift momentum and instill confidence. The kind of confidence critical in surviving through a six-game winning-streak.

 

Seven of the previous eight championship-winning teams featured at least one All-American, who doubled as a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate. Rashad McCants (UNC, ’05), Emeka Okafor (UConn, ’04), Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse, ’03), Juan Dixon (Maryland, ’02), Jay Williams (Duke, ’01), Shane Battier (Duke, ’01), Mateen Cleaves (Michigan State, ’00), Richard Hamilton (UConn, ’99) all led their teams to titles after earning individual accolades during the regular season.

 

Florida didn’t have an award winner last year, but Joakim Noah morphed into a superstar in the midst of the Gators’ tourney run. By the time Florida cut the nets down, Noah was the name countlessly uttered by the NBA teams with a shot at the first pick in the draft.

 

But be careful. A team’s star is often not who you think it is.

 

Last year, UConn leaned on Rudy Gay. The sensational swingman owned the kind of skills and athletic gifts that only the basketball gods could give. But the problem was that Mr. Gay wasn’t the Huskies’ go-to-guy. Marcus Williams was.

 

Whenever UConn was backed into a late-game possession, Williams took the significant shot. When the Huskies saw a seemingly endless string of bricks, Jim Calhoun ran a play to isolate Williams. The problem was that for all of the brilliance Williams possessed as a distributor, he wasn’t a prolific scorer.

 

That weakness enabled a glass slipper wearing George Mason team to stay out past midnight against the Big East power.

 

The same may happen to Ohio State. The OSU wing players (Jamar Butler, Ron Lewis, Daequan Cook, and Ivan Harris) have firepower and Greg Oden receives more defensive attention than headlines, but Mike Conley is the heart of the Buckeyes. He takes all the gigantic shots and, as he proved in the regular season against Wisconsin, he can make them. Still, his inconsistent jumper might keep them out of the Final Four.

 

Examples:

Ohio State

Texas

Texas A&M

Wisconsin

 

Secrets For NCAA Tournament Success:

 

  1. Talent - NBA potential is no joke.

  2. Post Defense - The bigger, the better.

  3. Sharp Shooting - Simple math: three is better than two.

  4. Experience - Who has nerves of steel?

  5. Star Power - Winning is the All-American way.

  6. Guard Play - Little guys point the way.

  7. X-Factor - Fear of the unknown.

 

The March Manifesto is the secret to filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

 

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