If there was a ever a postseason that displayed the importance of the bench, it was this year’s Final Four. The Louisville Cardinals are national champs thanks to junior forward Luke Hancock, who became the first reserve player to win Most Outstanding Player honors at the Big Dance. First, Hancock saved Louisville from being upset by Wichita State in the national semifinal with a superb offensive game that breathed life into a flat Louisville team. Then he single-handedly matched an offensive outburst by Michigan, Player of the Year Trey Burke and surprise sensation Spike Albrecth in the title game to ensure the win for the Cardinals. The overnight star hit four three-pointers in a 90-second span to erase the Wolverines’ lead and ensure the game did not get away from the Cardinals.
Hancock’s story is remarkable: he began his career at George Mason and then transferred to Louisville after Patriots coach Jim Larranaga left for Miami. This was actually Hancock’s first season playing for the Cardinals, so you could say it’s beginner’s luck. He doesn’t think so and neither does his coach, Rick Pitino. Hancock was voted a team captain by his teammates before he even played a game at Louisville, so it’s obvious he’s a pretty popular guy. When he’s leading the team in the tournament next year, nobody will be able to argue that he’s the real deal.