Friday, April 4 at 11 a.m. ET

Final Four

John Feinstein
Journalist and author
Friday, April 4, 2008; 11:00 AM

Writer John Feinstein, a regular contributor to The Washington Post, was online Friday, April 4 at 11 a.m. ET to take your questions about the NCAA men's college basketball tournament.

A transcript follows.

Feinstein is a former sports and political reporter for The Washington Post. He has worked at Sports Illustrated and at the National Sports Daily, commentated for National Public Radio and Sporting News Radio and has written columns for AOL and Golf Magazine. Feinstein has also contributed to the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of a number of bestselling books, including, "Caddy For Life," "A Season on the Brink," "A Good Walk Spoiled," "A Civil War," "The Last Amateurs," "A Season Inside," "The Punch," "Hard Courts," "Forever's Team," "First Coming," "Winter Games," "A March to Madness," "Play Ball" and "Open." His next book, "Living on the Black," will be released May 1.

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Arlington, Va.: Which player do you think is going to be the key performer in this Final Four?

John Feinstein: Whomever plays the best. There are obvious choices on each team. Hansbrough is the national player of the year and deservedly so. Rose was great in the regional for Memphis. Love is as mature a big man as I've seen in years. And Kansas, you can look at several of their players, but Rush has got to play big for them to win. How's that for hedging?

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Jayhawk, DC: Yes, Kansas has to stop Hansbrough, but how? Even when he's shut down for the first half, the Carolina bench keeps the game going and he comes back in the second.

John Feinstein: That's a very good point -- thats why they are 36-2. They are not a one man team, by any means. They have lots of scoring weapons. Wash. State shut him down by double teaming him, and the other guys stepped up and that's why they had a 14 point lead at half time even though he only had 2 points. That's why they're a tough out. I think his entire game has grown this year -- at the beginning of the year people said he couldn't play facing the basket, but clearly he can now. And he's a better passer. He's just a better player than he was at the start of the season. The great ones keep getting better.

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Bloomington, Ind.: Thoughts on IU's hiring of Tom Crean? How long is it going to take him to get the program back on track?

John Feinstein: First, it's a great hire. And it was one of those deals where when I heard about, it was like, I could have had a V-8! I hadn't really thought of Crean at all, and he's a great choice. He's a very good coach, he has experience in the Big 10 because of his time at Michigan State, and he knows how to recruit the Midwest.

I don't think it will take him long at all. Indiana was going to be a little bit down next year without White and Gordon anyway. So I think taking Rick Greenspan out of the hiring process was probably the smartest thing Indiana has done in years.

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Arlington, Va.: Okay, so Memphis completely surprised me. How was I supposed to know the team that only played one tough game and LOST it at home could get past Texas? What happened?

John Feinstein: Memphis surprised me too. I knew they were good, but not that good. The game that really hammered that home to me was the Michigan State game. You don't see Tom Izzo teams dominated like that. They're too well coached and tough minded, and they just got killed. The question will be if Memphis can dictate the tempo to UCLA as they did to Michigan State and Texas. Of the four No. 1 seeds I thought they were the least likely to make it here, and I have a perfect record on them -- I was completely wrong. That's why I don't make predictions.

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Yonkers, N.Y.: So we got the NBA to back off, at least partially, on the pillaging of college talent, and what do we get? A really boring tournament, except for the Curry kid. Are you surprised?

John Feinstein: Well, i don't know if the two are connected. Certainly, the last two years the freshmen who were forced to stay in college have provided some great basketball. I'm not one of those people who said this is a terrible thing because they're not going to graduate. That's been going on for a long time. Stephon Marbury never stepped into a classroom at Georgia Tech.

But you're right about the tournament being pretty much a snore, outside of the San Diego and West Kent. games and Davidson's fabulous run.

To be honest, I think we have a good chance of having exciting games in San Antonio, but to be honest, we're going to have a power team cutting down the nets on Monday night. And the only ones who are likely to care are their fans.

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Washington, D.C.: Making some logical guesses about who will be going pro -- Love, Rose, etc. -- which teams, not just the Final Four ones, but overall, do you think should be excited about next year?

John Feinstein: That's always a fun question, and it's harder and harder to speculate at this time because you don't know who is coming out. But, NC will either be great if Hansbrough comes back, or very good if he doesn't. I think UConn will be very good if Thabeet comes back. I think UCLA will still be very good, especially if Love comes back, though I think many people don't think he will. Texas should be very good next year. I think Florida and Ohio State, because they should not lose any kids from teams that were not quite there, but with their coaches and their kids growing up another year, I think they will both be threats, especially Florida.

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Leesburg, Va.: John: Phenomenal piece this morning. It fully captured what every Mason fan felt when we learned Coach L was sticking around with us. To say he's an "icon" on campus is an understatement. "Deity" might be a better word to use. But kudos to you; you always do a great, great job. Would you happen to have any idea what the terms of the new contract are? Did Merten and O'Connor have to up his salary or anything? Or did Coach do the unthinkable and just stick around for the same amount of money simply because he loves this place? If so, then holy crap... he's more incredible then I previously thought.

John Feinstein: No, they gave him an extension and they gave him more money. I heard around $800-900 K a year, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Which would make him the highest paid "mid major" coach in the country, and what's wrong with that, he's the only mid major coach to go to the Final Four. Thanks for your kind words about the piece.

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Coaching carousel: What coaching moves do you see on the horizon? Who are the hot coaching prospects and which coaches are on the hot seat still?

John Feinstein: That's a very broad question. I think I saw there was something like 20 openings, I could be off by a couple. Again, I had no clue Tom Crean was going to go to IU, so speculation is just that. There are rumors -- people are talking about Bill Self going to Ok. State because he's an alum and they can pay him a lot of money. The other name that's interesting for Ok. State is Billie Gillespie, apparently, T Boone Pickens is a big Billie Gillespie fan, and Gillespie never signed his contract there.

The school I'm really interested in is New Jersey Tech. Anybody who takes over a team that was 0-29, and lost all but 1 game by double-digits, is a very brave man.

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Bethesda, Md.: John,

I have read that Memphis was able to put that team together due to assistance from a very prominent "power broker" who has influences in the right places. How do you show gratitude for this type of "assistance" these days? Better yet, what's Calipari and Memphis doing to build these relationships that others can't? Thanks

John Feinstein: You know, power brokers in college basketball go back to Sam Gilbert, who some say was the real wizard of Westwood.

There are guys who have "relationships" with star basketball players, and if you want to recruit them, you have to go through these guys. There is a small handful of coaches who are powerful enough to ignore them, but most coaches have to deal with them, and will tell you they're really good guys, which is kind of like Bush telling you the war is going well.

How do you show gratitude? Really good tickets.

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Fairfax Station, Va.: John, what kind of game styles can we expect in the Final Four? Who can win a run-and-gun battle among North Carolina, Kansas, and Memphis? Will UCLA have an advantage because it can more easily force its opponents to play its slower tempo?

John Feinstein: The Memphis-UCLA game will be a battle of wills. UCAL will want to slow things down and Memphis will want to run. If it's a 1/2 court game in the 60s, UCLA will probably win. Especially if foul shooting comes into play.

North Carolina-Kansas will be a track meet. They might as well turn the 35 second clock off because they won't need it. It will be a matter of who has the best shooting night, because they'll both get up a lot of shots. And who stays out of foul trouble.

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Alexandria VA: Do you think that Duke will be able to rebound to elite status in the next year or two? It seems like Coach K has difficulty in recruiting inside players.

John Feinstein: He certainly has the last couple of years. I tihnk he's going to have to do a better job in recruiting to get back to elite status. They have one player coming in next year that people think can help, and he's similar to DeMarcus Nelson. I don't see a lot of help coming next year. They are definitely a couple of rungs below the elite teams right now, as we saw in the tournament.

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Richmond, Va.: John,

How do you think the NIT finalists (UMass and OSU) would have faired had they been in the NCAA? I was impressed by the no holds barred, up and down the floor championship game last night.

John Feinstein: I think each was certainly capable of being competitive for a round or two. They were in the conversation in the committee room. They were not among the last teams eliminated, those were Syracuse and VaTech.

The difference between the 30th best team and the 40th best team in the country is marginal. I did not think either deserved to be in the tournament based on their regular season play.

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Charlottesville, VA: How much of a factor is the return of Roy Williams to coach against his old team at Kansas? Is it a motivational factor for the Kansas players at all? (I know there are only one or to players recruited by Roy that are still on the team.) Or is it just hype by the sports media looking for a good storyline to add further interest in the game? I mean, it's been 5 years.

John Feinstein: None of the Kansas players care. The Kansas fans care. I think the reason it's lingered isn't that Roy left -- anyone who can't understand anyone leaving for his alma mater, especially after 15 years, just isn't being reasonable.

I think the whole Hamlet act, should I go, should I stay, calling players after he left, coming back for the banquet, that's what made it linger.

If I were Roy, I would say I loved coaching at Kansas, I've been at NC for 5 years now, Bill Self has done a hell of a job there, and I think it will be a great game Saturday.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi John -- for you, what's been THE big trend to come out of this tournament? Davidson has been the best story, but can we draw any conclusions about style of play or parity or anything like that?

John Feinstein: No, the only thing i would take away from this tournament is that htis was one of those years where there was no doubt about who the best 4 teams were. I don't know who the 5th best team is or the 6th best, but they're clearly the top 4.

These four were in the top four in the preseason, they were ranked in the top 4 all year, they were clear-cut No. 1 seeds, there weren't arguments about that. And they've all been close to dominant in the tournament.

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