In addition to participating teams, this year's Final Four also has a foursome of hot-button issues. Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Law. Sexual assaults on college campuses. Paying players. And, the old reliable, the so-called one-and-done players.
All those topics got a workout in Final Four media sessions.
When asked about paying players, Kentucky All-American Willie Cauley-Stein had to restrain himself.
"I did a paper on it," he said. "The numbers are crazy. ... I have a really strong opinion on it, but I'm not gonna say on it. I'd get mad. I really would. I'd get really mad about it, so I'm not gonna say anything about it."
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NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged reading about some $700 million generated by March Madness. Because Wisconsin and Michigan State reached the Final Four, the Big Ten will receive a reported $8.3 million.
"That's a lot of money," Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker said.
Dekker took a philosophical stance on whether players should receive a portion of the revenue. Or does a free college education — ask parents who pay tuition, books and board what that's worth — serve as adequate compensation?
"You know, you can go both ways with that," Dekker said. "Personally, you know, there are some things you wish were a little different. Obviously. But you can't really let that bother you too much. We get a lot out of playing this game, and so I can see it from both sides, both angles. I can see it from my perspective, seeing all the money that has been brought in, but I'm not going to be one to be vocal about that. I'm not going to be angry about it, I'm just gonna do my thing.
"At the same time, I can see, the amateur status, we're representing the school. The school's name is on our jersey. We're put in this position to win games, and the money that comes from that, so be it. Who cares? So obviously I wish there was maybe a little change but I'm not going to get too fired up about it."
In the preseason, Aaron Harrison had a telling reaction to the idea of paying college players.
"It's pretty cool just to think of college players getting paid," he said.
Then Harrison noted how he and some other UK players will not be affected by a move to pay players.
"I mean, it'll kind of suck if they pass it next year," he said. "We won't be here."
Then Harrison, a sophomore, realized what he'd said. He inadvertently shifted to another of the hot-button issues: the one-and-done player.
A self-conscious smile crossed his face as he backtracked. "I mean, next year," he said. "Whenever."
When a reporter noted that a move to pay players would not happen in the 2014-15 school year, Harrison nodded.
"It's not going to happen this year," he said, "and that sucks."
Whatever happens in the Final Four, this coming week is a big one for ex-UK player Jarrod Polson. His book, Living Beyond the Dream, becomes available Wednesday.
To help tip off the book's release, Polson will appear at Wesley Village in Wilmore on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m.
"It turned out well," Polson said of the book. He said he was excited to see the reaction to the book. "Hopefully, after a championship," he said. "I hope it's a fun read."
UK Coach John Calipari wrote the foreword.
Besides retail outlets, the book also will be available online at Amazon.com.
UK basketball icon Rex Chapman, who worked a telecast of the Kentucky-Wisconsin game, spoke last week about his efforts to overcome addiction to prescription medicines like Vicodin and Oxycontin. He has been to three rehabilitation centers, the third coming after an arrest for suspicion of shoplifting last August.
"Something had to happen for me to get off that medication," he said. "I was just slowly killing myself."
Of course, Chapman shook last year's Final Four when he tweeted hours before UK and UConn played for the title that it was a "done deal" that John Calipari would leave Kentucky to become coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Look, I shouldn't have done that," he said. "It was a mistake. If I had to do it over again, I'd do it much differently.
"My apologies for people who were hurt by that."
'Hard to miss'
Robert Morris Athletic Director Craig Coleman followed Kentucky's ascendency in the two years since the notable 2013 first-round NIT game.
"As a basketball fan, I certainly have been (following)," he said before adding, "It's hard to miss them."
But not that hard
Robert Morris Coach Andrew Toole said he, too, followed the Kentucky team.
"I saw them play Cincinnati," he said of the NCAA Tournament game in Louisville. "I watched almost that entire game."
But Toole could not say the same thing for the riveting UK-Notre Dame game.
The made-for-TV late start was the reason Toole did not watch UK-Notre Dame to its conclusion. Too bad, because it was good to the last shot.
"I watched only the beginning of the Notre Dame game," he said. "As good as it was, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I have a 21/2-year old and a 7-month-old. I was worn out from the day."
40 years ago
This Final Four marks the 40th anniversary of John Wooden's last game as UCLA coach. Of course, he bowed out in style. His Bruins beat Kentucky 92-85 in the 1975 national championship game.
Here's an attempt to put in perspective Wooden's accomplishments as UCLA coach:
■ Going into Saturday's semifinals, the four coaches in Indianapolis had a combined record of 19-17 in Final Four games. That was 4-4 for John Calipari, 3-5 for Tom Izzo, 12-7 for Mike Krzyzewski and 0-1 for Bo Ryan.
Wooden's record in the Final Four was 21-3.
■ Michigan State lost 11 games this season going into the national semifinals. Wooden's 10 national championship teams lost a combined 10 games.
■ Wooden retired at age 64. Krzyzewski is 68. Ryan is 67. (By the way, Red Auerbach, arguably the greatest coach in team sports history, moved from the sideline to the front office at age 49).
■ Krzyzewski's 12 Final Four appearances came in a 30-year span. Wooden guided 12 teams to the Final Four in a 14-year span.
■ Krzyzewski has lost four times in national championship games. That's the most by any coach. Dean Smith lost three times in the finals. Wooden was 10-0 in NCAA Tournament championship games.
■ There have been seven undefeated national champions. Four were UCLA teams coached by Wooden. That leaves three by all other teams in the history of the NCAA Tournament: San Francisco (25-0 in 1955-56), North Carolina (32-0 in 1956-57) and Indiana (32-0 in 1975-76).
UK journalism graduate Todd Jones, now a reporter for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, worked a local angle for his readers. He spoke with UK assistant John Robic, who was a Division III All-American and two-time all-conference player for Denison University in the 1980s.
Robic is a member of the Denison Athletic Hall of Fame. Denison is in Granville, Ohio, which is about 35 miles east of downtown Columbus.
"I'm fortunate enough to get back there a couple times a year," Robic told Jones. "They're really good people. I went back for a big Hall of Fame deal this past fall. It was neat."
Denison played at Transylvania University this past season.
"I was fortunate enough to go," Robic said. "We had the team up to practice in our practice facility. I went and watched them play and had an opportunity to talk to their kids. It's a neat school. I have a lot of great memories there, a lot of great friends."
Hall of Fame
Late Monday morning, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will announce its class of 2015 inductees. The gala announcement will come at a downtown Indianapolis hotel (Jim Nantz of CBS served as master of ceremonies — "Hello, friends" — at last year's announcement.)
Of course, UK Coach John Calipari is one of the finalists. A finalist needs at least 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election.
It was announced on Valentine's Day that Calipari was one of the finalists. He said he was "humbled and honored," while noting that he still had to win election by the Honors Committee.
Whether or not Calipari is voted into the Hall, Kentucky basketball will be represented at the enshrinement Sept. 10-11 in Springfield, Mass. One of the Rupp's Runts, Louie Dampier, was elected by the American Basketball Association Committee as what's known as one of the "Direct-Elects." Before playing in the ABA, he scored 1,575 points (12th on UK's career scoring list) for the Wildcats.
Icon to icon
As his players loosened up before Duke's public shoot-around Friday, Mike Krzyzewski walked to the baseline and shook an elderly gentleman's hand. The two chatted for a few minutes before Krzyzewski returned to his team.
It turned out to be a moment involving not one, but two Final Four icons.
The gray-haired man was Richard Clarkson, an iconic photographer who has captured many iconic Final Four moments.
Clarkson, 82, was working his 60th Final Four. His first was in 1952 as a 19-year-old journalism student at the University of Kansas. He has photographed all of the greats of college basketball, from Adolph Rupp to Phog Allen to John Wooden to Bob Knight to Rick Pitino to John Calipari to Krzyzewski.
Clarkson photographs have appeared on Sports Illustrated covers more than 30 times.
When asked about how the Final Four has changed, Clarkson smiled and said, "You kind of lose track sometimes that it's a basketball game."
At the Midwest Region in Cleveland, Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton noted how he saw T-shirts and other Irish memorabilia when the team went on a trip to Italy last summer.
Of Notre Dame, Connaughton said, "Its world-wide brand is actually world wide."
To Brian Long. He turned 23 on Thursday. ... To Chris Gettelfinger. He turned 57 on Wednesday.