Clark Kellogg is in Texas preparing to broadcast the NCAA Final Four for CBS this weekend. Every year, he makes some time to chat about the big event, and his work as a board member for the Capital One Cup. Enjoy.
Storming the Floor: So, we have four teams left, and each one wants to win two games. What does each team have to do extremely well to win it all?
Clark Kellogg: When you get to this point, Eric, you really have to be doing what you do well. Whatever your M.O. is, you have to be doing that at a pretty high level.
For Florida, it’s balance, and it’s consistency defensively. Not giving up easy shots, being a little disruptive with your pressure. Then getting multiple contributions from a pretty balanced offense. And Scottie Wilbekin has got to be Scottie, which means making big plays and making big shots.
Wisconsin is a low turnover team. They’re really good at executing offensively. They can play to Kaminsky in the post, and they’ve got multiple guys who can step out and make shots from the perimeter. They’ve been pretty good defensively in the tournament. For them, they’re one of the lowest in the country for turnovers committed. So they can’t have a game where they’re out of character in that regard.
When you look at UConn, they need Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright to be really good. Those guys carry them. An X factor for them is DeAndre Daniels, because he’s versatile and talented, but he hasn’t been as consistent.
When you look at Kentucky, it’s really about what they’ve shown in the last three weeks, which is composure, cohesion and toughness at both ends of the floor. It’s the intangibles with them. We didn’t see that consistently in the regular season, but we’ve seen it in spades here in the tournament. They’re not flustered, they’re not taking plays off, they’re not distracted and they’re making big shots in addition to key plays.
If you look within the matchups, between Kentucky and Wisconsin, the thing Wisconsin has to worry about is defensive boards. You can talk about Randall, but rebounding on defense is going to be big for Wisconsin.
STF: We’ve seen just about every iteration of how a season can go for a Calipari team over the past few years. If you’re a Kentucky fan, are you willing to take the years where things just don’t gel if you still have that puncher’s chance to win it all every year?
CK: Have you been around any Kentucky fans? You don’t even need me to answer that. Are you getting a mixed reaction on that?
STF: (laughing) No, but nobody wants to go to the NIT and lose a game in Moon Township. But, yeah, if they can get more titles, I guess they’ll take it.
CK: They’re pretty crazy anyway, as a group. I mean, I love ‘em, but they are not always rational or objective. You can give them any number of places on that continuum. But I think the vast majority of them would say ‘hey, if we have a chance to get the whole enchilada…’ even if there’s the occasional NIT, most would probably be OK with that.
STF: Kevin Ollie is a bit of a mystery. He came in without coaching experience and yet here he is in the Final Four. Has he learned that much in a short amount of time, or is he lucky that he got to hold onto some of the experienced players from the Calhoun era?
CK: It’s a mixture, but if you know Kevin Ollie or been around him like I have - he played for the Pacers for a while and I worked for the Pacers after being a player there in the early 80s - you know his resume as a player. Never really a star, but always a valuable component on every team he played with because of his character, his work ethic and his IQ. That’s what makes him successful as a coach. He’s at his alma mater with the support and encouragement of Jim Calhoun.
Still, it’s surprising that he’s in a Final Four in just his second season, but for any of us who have been around him, I don’t think there was any doubt that he’d be successful. I’m not surprised. It might be a little premature in terms of the timeline, but the ingredients for his success were never in question in my mind.
STF: If Billy Donovan wins a third title, is he in line to be the Coach K of Gainesville?
CK: Oh yeah, even if he doesn’t win it. He’s already proven it over time. He’s the next face of college basketball. You have Roy Williams, Coach K, Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo in that top group right now, and in that next group there’s Billy Donovan, Bill Self, Thad Matta and guys of that caliber. That’s the next group. In fact, Billy’s Hall of Fame worthy right now. He’ll be one of the guys on Mt. Rushmore, if you will, for the next period of time. Whether he wins it or not.
STF: Do you think Bo Ryan has been underrated as a coach?
CK: It’s hard to give everybody the billing and the attention they deserve. Sometimes people get overlooked for whatever reason. But we all know Bo has been terrific. He’s hard to play for, apparently, but he develops guys and helps them get better, and his teams do things the right way. I have the utmost respect and admiration for him. I don’t know if there’s a coach in the Final Four that the basketball community is more happy for than Bo Ryan.
STF: What are the ramifications for the Capital One Cup standings after this weekend?
CK: There’s 60 points at stake for the national champion that emerges on Monday. The Capital One Cup rewards the top Division I men’s and women’s athletic programs based on points accumulated through the fall, winter and spring seasons. It rewards top ten finishes in 19 men’s sports and 20 women’s sports.
Florida is in the best position on the men’s side with the national championship in a couple of days to catapult to the top of the Capital One Cup standings. They’d be primed to win their third cup in four years. They’d have the Capital One Cup trophy, the national championship and a combined $400,000 in student scholarship money. The women’s winning athletic program gets that as well.
STF: I appreciate your time as always, and hope you enjoy the weekend!
CK: Yep, looking forward to it. Thanks a lot, Eric.