NCAA tournament: Points well taken
By Jim O’Connell
DETROIT ó It’s the big men who draw the stares and cracks about the weather.
It’s the high-flying forwards and scoring guards who dominate the highlights.And it’s the point guards who almost always decide which team will win a national title.
This Final Four is no exception.
North Carolina’s Ty Lawson and Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas were conference players of the year. Lawson, Connecticut’s A.J. Price and Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds were regional MVPs.
All made their teams good enough to win 30 games, good enough to reach Detroit.
“Point guard is obviously the most important position on the basketball court ó everybody knows that,” Price said with no trace of bragging.
“A point guard does deserve a lot of credit when they lead their teams to a victory, and 30-some odd victories says a lot about a point guard. When things aren’t going right, the point guard is who you have to look at as well.”
All eyes were on Lawson as he recovered from a right big toe injury. He didn’t play in the ACC Tournament and missed the opening-round win over Radford.
He has looked like himself the last three games, averaging 20.3 points and 6.7 assists while turning the ball over just twice.
“In the tournament I’ve worked on taking care of the ball, not going too fast, slowing down to make better decisions, and that’s why I’ve had only two turnovers in three games,” he said.
Lawson, who is averaging 16.3 points and 6.5 assists for the season, has a good relationship with Reynolds as opponents in high school and AAU competition. The two were roommates at LeBron James’ camp two summers ago.
“Ty is a cool dude; he’s very laid back,” said Reynolds, who is averaging 15.2 points and 3.3 assists this season. “We get along great. We have matched up against each other, we’ve played against each other and we have worked out with each other. I have good respect for what he has done this year, coming back from an injury and taking over that team and getting them to where he has taken them. I didn’t expect anything less from him.”
Reynolds is the reason Villanova is in the Final Four. He scored the winning basket with less than a second to play in the regional final against Pittsburgh.
It’s that kind of play that thrills fans and players alike.
“I watch a lot of college basketball, but I definitely watch a lot of point guards because I can learn from them and they’re fun to watch,” he said.
Price is averaging 14.7 points and 4.8 assists this season. In the four tournament games, those numbers increase to 20.0 and 5.2.
Lucas, a sophomore and the youngest of the Final Four point guards, is averaging 14.6 points and 4.6 assists for the season. In the Spartans’ four wins to get here, he averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 assists while committing nine turnovers, not bad for a player who specializes in driving to create opportunities for his teammates.
Former Georgetown coach John Thompson used to say the best point guards are the ones coaches share a brain with.
“You don’t have to call him over, you don’t need hand signals,” Thompson said. “He knows what you need, not what you want, but what you need.”
In just two years, Lucas has a relationship like that with Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
“Me and coach have been watching film, and one thing he wanted me to do more this year than last year was he wanted me to lead more, be more vocal on the court and create,” Lucas said. “I think that’s something I’m doing better this year. I’m creating as a point guard.”