Final Four teams never lack for talent, and this year's no exception. Connecticut, Michigan State, North Carolina and Villanova all feature deep, balanced roster sprinkled with future NBA players.
The coaches read like a who's who in college hoops. Jim Calhoun, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams and Jay Wright all have won national coach of the year awards. Combined, they have 16 Final Four berths and four NCAA tournament titles.
But the real driving force behind these teams is at the point. Kalin Lucas, Ty Lawson, A.J. Price and Scottie Reynolds comprise four of the game's best floor generals. They score, pass, defend (to varying degrees) and are all touted as true team leaders.
Even better? They've been at their best in the Big Dance.
Lawson made like Willis Reed against LSU, shaking off a bum toe to score 21 of his 23 points after halftime in what's been the Tar Heels' biggest scare of the tournament. Price has been the Huskies' leading scorer in the tournament; his 20 points per game is nearly 6 points better than his season average. Lucas was clutch against defending champ Kansas, scoring seven points in the final 49 seconds.
And Reynolds? Well, no one's hit a bigger shot in March than the Villanova's guard game-winner against Pitt. It's already being touted as a classic March Madness moment.
Here's a closer look at each player's strengths, weaknesses and what it means for the Final Four.
Ty Lawson, North Carolina
It seems the only thing capable of slowing the 5-11, 195-pound junior is a toe injury. Nothing else has worked this year. The ACC player of the year notched career highs in points (16.3), assists (6.5), steals (2.0) and had a career-low in turnovers (1.8).
Part of it is because Lawson improved his shooting. He hits 54 percent of his field-goal attempts and nearly 49 percent from 3-point range. His speed has always made him tough to guard, but his improved shooting makes it even tougher.
"Ty Lawson is a great college point guard," said Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel before the Sooners were trounced by UNC in the Elite Eight. "I don't know how that will translate to the pros, but especially when he's doing now this year, and especially when he's been healthy over the past few months."
Even with that irritating injury – he jammed the big toe on his right foot near the end of the season and missed the ACC tournament and UNC's NCAA tourney opener as a result – Lawson hasn't missed a beat in the Big Dance. He's averaging 20.3 ppg (1.43 PPWS for tempo free fans) and has a 10-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, unheard of for a point guard during the March pressure cooker.
Part of it's because Lawson has a wealth of talent around him – the Heels feature nine McDonald's All-Americans on the roster – but also because he's comfortable as a team leader. Before, he'd just play.
"When I came to college I wasn't much of a talker on the court," Lawson told the Winston-Salem Journal. "I just try to lead off example, but now I'm talking to the other players."
If North Carolina (32-4) expects to claim its fifth NCAA crown, it needs Lawson to continue his impressive performance against Villanova on Saturday. The guard-heavy Wildcats rotate different defensive stoppers on opposing point guards, which puts most of the pressure on Lawson's shoulders.
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Lawson's counterpart Saturday also can play fast (ask Pitt), but he's more known for his hot-or-cold tendencies. As a freshman, he could go from a 0-point, 7-turnover game to a 40-point performance the next. He was a little more consistent as a sophomore, while his junior season marked career-lows in turnovers.
Still, don't think Reynolds is gun shy. He'll still do whatever he thinks is best.
"He gets a little out of control, and it's going to look bad," coach Jay Wright told a teleconference on Monday. "But most of the time he's making plays that people say, 'Wow'.
"He's making a lot of plays that other people are afraid to make. And he's got a great inner confidence. He really is a special kid. He never ceases to amaze me."
Reynolds averages 15.2 points a game, but his 1.13 PPWS is more in line with that of volume scorers like Allen Iverson. Sure, he'll still score 40 (like against Seton Hall in Jan.) or he'll finish with 2 points while playing 38 minutes in a loss to Louisville.
Not that Wright or Reynolds' teammates care. They trust the 6-2, 190-pound guard to do big things and make the big plays.
"I can get a little crazy out there sometimes. But it's all for the right reasons. I'm trying to make a play, get us going. It might not always work out, but it's always for the right reason," Reynolds told the Philadelphia Daily News after the Pitt game.
"When I hugged coach Wright afterward, he said, 'Your teammates respect you 100 percent. They're 100 percent behind you.' My freshman and sophomore seasons, I don't know if they respected me, as a man and as a basketball player, as much as they do now."
Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
That philosophy also sums up Lucas, the Spartans' 6-foot, 180-pound blur. The Big Ten player of the year leads the team in points per game (14.6) and assists (4.6), though his scoring has dipped slightly in the NCAA tournament.
Not that Lucas minds. As teams have keyed on him, center Goran Suton and guards Travis Walton and Durrell Summers have thrived. All three have boosted their scoring in the last four games.
"It's kind of fun to see somebody box-and-one (a player), and somebody else scores 18," coach Tom Izzo said before playing Kansas. "That's the kind of team we have."
Yet it's still a team that runs through Lucas.
Lucas hits just 39 percent of his field-goal attempts -- his 1.04 PPWS is the lowest among the four point guards -- but he also takes care of the ball better than most point guards. His turnover rate (15.6) is right behind Lawson's, and far better than Reynolds or Price.
He hit the big shots against Kansas and was instrumental in breaking down the Louisville defensive pressure in the Elite Eight. Without his ball-handling skills, the Spartans (30-6) are probably headed home instead of just down the road to Detroit and the Final Four.
"He's a big-time player," Spartans senior Travis Walton said of Lucas. "He wants the ball in his hands. He showed that to you all last year when he made big plays against Pittsburgh. When he plays another big-time guard, Sherron Collins, he wants to kind of prove himself to the nation. [Friday], I think he took it personal."
A.J. Price, Connecticut
It's been an eventful career for the Huskies' 6-2, 182-pound senior. He's dealt with a life-threatening brain aneurysm, a season-long suspension for his role in the theft of laptop computers from a campus dorm, and a wrenching ACL injury in last year's NCAA tournament.
Yet Price has thrived through it all. He led UConn in scoring and assists this season. He burned Texas A&M for 27 points in a second-round rout and dished 7 assists in a Sweet 16 win against Purdue.
If the Huskies need a bucket, Price is their guy. He'll either hit the shot or find the open man.
"I think his ability to create for them is very important, whether that's for himself, with 3s or pull-ups or drives to the basket, or it is for the other guys, kickouts for other shots or post moves or dumps," said Purdue coach Matt Painter.
"A.J. Price is one of the best points in the country."
He'll need to be on Saturday. The Spartans will likely use senior Travis Walton, a 6-2 senior who's a former Big Ten defensive player of the year, to guard Price. They'll want to limit Price's open looks at the basket and force him to take bad shots. He's not an efficient scorer – he makes 41.6 percent of his field-goal attempts, but at just 1.10 PPWS – but can heat up quickly, and he knows it.
"I'm playing with confidence right now," Price told the Hartford Courant earlier in the tournament. "And that's just coming with our swagger, a certain swagger that we talk about as a team. It starts with the point guard. It trickles down."