A most improbable Final Four convenes Saturday in Atlanta.
We’ve got Wichita State, the first No. 9 seed to reach the Final Four since Penn in 1979. We’ll see a pair of unlikely No. 4 seeds face off. Michigan and Syracuse stumbled badly down the stretch of their conference seasons, but found magic in March.
They’ll be joined by the only No. 1 seed left, the top seed in the entire tournament. No team rides into Atlanta on a wave of talent — and emotion — like Louisville.
So how’d this Final Four evolve? We’ll let the coaches explain. Thanks to post-game press conferences transcribed by asapsports.com, here’s Tournament Coachspeak, Part II:
Jim Larranaga, Miami: “You ever have days where you’re just out of sync or things just don’t run along smoothly? Almost like our trip over here. You know, our hotel is a mile and a half. It took us 45 minutes to get here; we had to go on nine different streets, weaving our way in and out of traffic and everything, and that’s the way it seemed on the court. We were trying to find our way, and never could.”
Translation: We finally get off the bus, we shoot 6 of 28 the first half, and make 1 of 12 3s. Halftime, we’re down, 29-16. I was ready to get back on the bus!
Tom Crean, Indiana: “We didn’t take care of the ball enough. You’ve got to make enough shots against the zone to spread it out a little.”
Translation: We had 10 turnovers in the first 10 minutes, and we missed our first six 3s. Really busted that Syracuse zone.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse: “Our defense has been good all year, and I thought it was really good.”
Translation: Our defense has been good all year, and I thought it was really good!
Thad Matta, Ohio State: “I think the biggest thing for us was in the second half we defended. We got our defense back.”
Translation: We held Arizona to no field goals in the first 5:20 of the second half, and outscored them 16-4 in the first eight minutes. That’s playin’ some defense, boys!
John Giannini, LaSalle: “Wichita State won the game in the first half.”
Translation: They started with a 14-2 run, led by 16 at the half, and won by 14. It’s not molecular geomicrobiology.
Billy Donovan, Florida: “It’s a 40-minute game.”
Translation: Did you watch the LaSalle game?
Andy Enfield, Florida Gulf Coast: “Florida is a great basketball team.”
Translation: We enjoyed our week as America’s Team.
Bill Self, Kansas: “This will go down as one of the toughest games that obviously we’ve been a part of and certainly I’ve been a part of.”
Translation: We were up by 14 with seven minutes left and lost. We were up 10 with 2:19 left and lost. We were up five with 21 seconds left and lost. We shot 55 percent and lost. We scored 60 points in the paint and lost. I saw it all and still don’t believe it.
Dana Altman, Oregon: “Don’t feel like we put our best foot forward in the first half. Dug ourselves a pretty big hole and weren’t able to come back. Louisville is a very good basketball team.”
Translation: It’s a 40-minute game.
Tom Izzo, Michigan State: “The difference was in that one stretch, it was just free throw after free throw and we can’t do anything about it.”
Translation: Duke made 24 of 26 free throws, and we went 14 minutes in the second half without a field goal. Ciao!
Thad Matta, Ohio State: “We played so well for such an extended period of time, and we weren’t very good to start the game. You’re not going to win in the Elite Eight shooting 24 percent in the first half.”
Translation: It’s a 40-minute game.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: “If you get to this point, you can win the whole thing. You beat a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed. I think Cinderella just found one glass slipper. I don’t think she found four. So that’s just the way it is.”
Translation: Bring on Louisville!
Buzz Williams, Marquette: “They beat us from start to finish. They were fabulous.”
Translation: We shot 23 percent, missed 21 of 24 3s, missed 32 of 36 shots outside the paint, and had more turnovers than field goals. We were lucky to score 39 points against Syracuse.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse: “Our defense was tremendous.”
Translation: Our defense was tremendous.
Billy Donovan, Florida: “I thought we dug ourselves a hole very early in the game because I think to start the game at one point I think we were like 3 of 17 from the field.”
Translation: All together now, it’s a 40-minute game.
John Beilein, Michigan: “Seeing it all come together, I don’t know what to say.”
Translation: After 16 minutes, we’re up, 41-17. I’m still speechless.
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke: “They played a great game. They played so hard. We tried to match them, and we couldn’t match them. And they wear you down.”
Translation: We went eight minutes in the second half without a field goal. Louisville made us look like Michigan State.
Rick Pitino, Louisville: “I don’t think any of us, with what we had to witness, could overcome it, if it wasn’t for Kevin Ware 12 times saying to the guys, ‘I’ll be fine. Win the game!’”
Translation: No way we weren’t taking Kevin back home to Atlanta.
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His columns appear each Thursday.