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Final Four loaded with star power

April 4, 2003 at 6:27 PM   |   Comments

NEW ORLEANS, April 4 (UPI) -- With Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony, Texas' T.J. Ford, Marquette's Dwyane Wade and Kansas' Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison, it appears that one NCAA Tournament trend will continue.

Since 1987, every NCAA champion has featured at least one NBA first-round pick.

The stars are certainly out in a Final Four that will display some of the best individual talent in the college game. And it seems to demonstrate that to win it all in college basketball, the equation is simple –- find a marquee player and ride him.

"Obviously, Dwyane has done a lot for us," Marquette Coach Tom Crean said Friday on the eve of the national semifinals. "I'm sure when you talk about every other player -- T.J., Nick Collison, Carmelo Anthony -- there's no question they have a lot to do with the success of the programs."

Traditionally, college basketball is known for having a more team-oriented approach than the NBA. That approach has changed, although fewer players in the sport seem to be capable of playing at its highest level.

The stars players in this Final Four have different skills, but they do have one thing in common. Each is the go-to guy on his team with Kansas having a pair.

Anthony is the sure-fire NBA superstar, one who is certain to be a highly paid millionaire in June if he chooses that path.

"I can only tell you when I look for Carmelo, you've got to be impressed with him. He's got the total package," Texas Coach Rick Barnes said.

Wade is considered the flashy shooting guard, one who is lauded by his teammates for his amazing ability to outshine his competitors.

"That's just the type of player Dwyane is," Marquette guard Travis Diener said. "At any point, he can take over a game, whether it be scoring, rebounding, getting a key steal, doing the things he does."

Ford is considered the best point guard in the country while Collison is one of the nation's most versatile players. As for Hinrich, he may have the biggest heart of the group.

Although the star power is tremendous, each team features plenty of complementary players who are effective. And these players are too good to be considered role players.

"Every team has star players on them," Kansas guard Aaron Miles said. "(But) all of those stars appreciate their teammates."

Kansas could be a favorite because it has two stars in Collison and Hinrich. It worked last week at the West Regional, when Collison had a huge game against Duke and a poor outing against Arizona. It was the opposite for Hinrich.

"I don't look at it as an advantage," Hinrich said. "I look at it as more of a luxury."

What the star presence has done is made this Final Four very difficult to predict. Any one of the players is capable of a performance like Wade's triple-double against Kentucky or Collison's 33-point, 18-rebound output against Duke or Anthony's 20 points and 10 rebounds against Oklahoma.

"I think it's key," Syracuse guard Josh Pace said. "There's been teams without a great star (in the Final Four), but all four teams have some star here. You need that."

It comes at a time when the quality of college basketball is supposedly down due to the lack of stars, although Anthony and Wade have become big names in their sport. Not everybody favors the star system approach to the game, even those involved.

"We need marquee teams," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. "College basketball is about the teams. In reality I think we have a better game now than we did because there's more balance. They're not quite as many great players on a team, but I don't think that really makes a difference."

Boeheim may not want to say that the stars make a difference, but he has watched Anthony take 228 more shots this season than any other member of his team. Wade has taken 150 more shots than any other player on the Golden Eagles' team. Collison and Hinrich have combined for 42 percent of the Jayhawks' shots.

Only Ford is the exception, and that is because he is a point guard. Still, he ties for the team lead with 389 shots despite ranking 10th on the team in shooting percentage.

Forget all the "coach-speak" about teamwork, togetherness or cohesiveness. A team needs one player who can dominate in order to cut down the nets. And that should be the determining factor when the champion is crowned Monday night.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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