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Leonard: Final Four a who's-who of coaches
0330DukeK
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski hugs Tyus Jones (5) after a college basketball regional final game against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Houston. Duke w on 66-52 to advance to the Final Four. - photo by Charlie Riedel

Final Four coaches

Duke: Mike Krzyzewski, 12th appearance

Michigan State: Tom Izzo, 7th appearance

Kentucky: John Calipari, 6th appearance (includes 2 vacated by NCAA)

Wisconsin: Bo Ryan, 2nd appearance

We’re down to the Final Four, and it’s like a reunion of college basketball’s best coaches.

Three led their No. 1 seed groups to the big stage, and naturally, the other is Tom Izzo making his seventh Final Four at Michigan State, this one as a No. 7 seed.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski leads this who’s-who of coaching that will assemble in Indianapolis for Saturday’s national semifinals. He is making his 12th Final Four appearance, with Kentucky’s John Calipari in his sixth (though two have been vacated by NCAA sanctions) and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan in his second.

Each coach has faced unique challenges in bringing his team to the final weekend of the season. Here’s a look at the accomplishment and how the Final Four could go for each.

John Calipari

Accomplishment: The Kentucky coach has guided a group with massive expectations to a 38-0 record, putting the Wildcats within two victories of a perfect 40-0 season and his second title at Kentucky.

What to expect: It won’t be easy for the Wildcats, with a matchup against efficient Wisconsin in the semifinals and a potential matchup with loaded Duke in the title game. Kentucky certainly has the talent to cut down the nets, but don’t be surprised if the Wildcats can’t finish off their perfect run.

Mike Krzyzewski

Accomplishment: The Duke coach ended the Atlantic Coast Conference’s four-year Final Four drought. He also led the previous most recent ACC Final Four participant: The 2010 national champion Blue Devils. Led by freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, Duke is playing its best basketball.

What to expect: Duke already beat Michigan State earlier this season and should end the overmatched Spartans’ surprising tournament in the semifinals. The Blue Devils also have the talent and coaching to knock off Kentucky for Coach K’s fifth national championship.

Tom Izzo

Accomplishment: The Michigan State coach knows how to take advantage when higher seeds slip up. That’s why he is leading his group to the national semifinals for the seventh time in 20 seasons as Spartans coach. He beat a Rick Pitino-coached Louisville team going for its third Final Four in four seasons in the regional final.

What to expect: Izzo is 2-4 in his previous national semifinals. That trend should continue against supremely talented Duke.

Bo Ryan

Accomplishment: He has brought the Badgers back to the Final Four for a second straight season, the first time that’s been accomplished at Wisconsin. Behind Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, the Badgers’ precision has helped them overwhelm opponents with regularity.

What to expect: Wisconsin probably can’t match Kentucky’s talent, but Wisconsin runs its system well and has the experience to be dangerous for the Wildcats. If the Badgers pull off the shocker, they would be a tough out in a rematch with Duke.

 

Clark Leonard: cleonard@gainesvilletimes.com; 770-718-3418; twitter.com/SportTimesClark

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