Powering the Buckeyes’ turnaround from undisciplined to unbeaten is first-year Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s concept of juice: Who’s bringing the juice today? Who’s got the juice? Meyer uses juice to represent the relationship between hard work and production. Senior writer Pete Thamel looks at how Urban Meyer challenges his team, which cannot compete in the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, to not only maintain its surprising success, but also act as a catalyst for the Big Ten’s revival.
The 2012 NCAA Final Four features a quartet of storied programs, led by coaches who have all been on this stage. Of the four teams, Ohio State has suffered the longest title drought. The Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft, who hopes to lead his school to its first national championship since 1960, appears on the national cover of the April 2, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
At the beginning of the season, many predicted that Ohio State, Kentucky and Kansas would reach the Final Four, but not many saw Louisville getting this far. The Cardinals hadn’t been ranked in the top 10 since December, ended the regular season 2–4 and had been hit with a raft of injuries. But after overcoming an 11–point deficit to beat Florida, they have reached the pinnacle of college basketball (page 34).
Louisville coach Rick Pitino told Sports Illustrated senior writer Kelli Anderson, “I never wanted a Final Four more than for these guys. They give me every single thing they have in their bodies. They are just the most incredible team to coach.”
Louisville will be facing stiff competition in New Orleans in Kentucky, Ohio State and Kansas.
- Kentucky: Anthony Davis wasn’t the only Wildcat to receive national honors, fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took home one of his own when he was named the Southern Regional’s Most Outstanding Player.
- Ohio State: While Kentucky is led by freshmen, the Buckeyes are led by their sophomores. Point guard Aaron Craft sets the tone with his dogged defense and competitive approach.
- Kansas: Kansas center Jeff Withey has gone from bench warmer to the anchor of the Jayhawks’ basketball team, and he proved his worth mightily by outplaying North Carolina’s dominant duo of Tyler Zeller and John Henson in Kansas’s win in the regional final.
On the Tablet: Seth Davis breaks down the Final Four.