MINNEAPOLIS – The call went out for the offensive difference-maker in the Boston College lineup.
"You're going to have to find Craig or Dudley then," B.C. point guard Louis Hinnant suggested.
Not true. Craig Smith averages 17.7 points per game, roughly the same as the 18.0 he averaged a year ago. Jared Dudley averages 16.7, almost identical to his 16.5 from the 2004-05 season.
Hinnant, however, has been a changed man during B.C.'s last three games.
Though he has averaged just 5.8 points as a four-year starter, he struck for a career-high 20 in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game against Duke. He followed that up in the NCAA tournament with 14 against Pacific and 10 against Montana.
It was the first time he had strung together three 10-point games over his 125-game career. If you consider that he scored 19 of his points in the second half against Duke, he is averaging 17.2 points over his last two-and-a-half games. Smith and Dudley remain B.C.'s best players, but Hinnant (averaging 7.6 points this season) could be the difference between the Eagles going home Friday or advancing Sunday to the school's first Final Four.
What has gotten into the former "Lou Who" of B.C.'s offense?
"The sense of urgency kicked in," Hinnant said. "I just wanted to do the best I could, so that I didn't have any regrets."
Hinnant, an Eagle actually known as "Bird" (his father was called "Tweet"), has been content during his career to be a complementary player, whether it was to All-American Troy Bell and the hyper-frenetic Ryan Sidney as a freshman, or to Smith for all four seasons, or to Dudley the past three. He suggests that he has always had this newly unveiled offensive game, but he has instead led his team on defense (and the ACC with a 2.22 assists-to-turnover ratio). And it will be fine if that's how things resume.
"When it's all said and done, people are going to remember that me and Craig were part of the winningest class (at B.C.)," said Hinnant, who is 96-34 in his four seasons as an Eagle. "I'll take that. That's something you can definitely live on and be comfortable with.
"I'm pretty positive that if I had taken an individual approach to this entire season – to my career – we wouldn't [have gone] this far."
Hinnant also will continue to take what shots he is given. Unfamiliar NCAA tournament opponents have concentrated so much on Smith and Dudley that the other B.C. guards have had room to roam. That could change in Friday's game against former Big East rival Villanova, though Hinnant never gave the Wildcats too much to worry about (averaging 4.6 points in five games). Perhaps he'll surprise them with a soaring dunk, like he did against Duke's Greg Paulus in the ACC title game.
"Even my coaches were saying that (dunk) was a long time coming, because they hadn't seen me do that for awhile," Hinnant said.
"Hopefully, there's still something left in that old bag of tricks."
He nearly pulled out another stunner in that Duke game – a desperation 50-foot heave at the final buzzer that would have won the game. Instead, the shot grazed the right side of the rim.
"If that shot had gone in," Hinnant said, "we might be looking at a whole different level of media craziness."
IT WASN'T PRACTICE THAT MADE PERFECT
Villanova's four-guard offense not only was borne of necessity following the knee injury to forward Curtis Sumpter, but it also was a plan that coaches have been ready to abort – at any minute. For 31 games now.
"We're prepared every game to not play four guards," Villanova coach Jay Wright said, "and it surprises us every game how far we're able to go with it. We actually practice more without the four guards."
Villanova went with three guards, rather than four, against taller Arizona in the second round of the NCAA tournament for a longer period than at any other point in this season when all four guards were healthy.
Georgetown allows opponents 59.0 points per game, second only to UCLA among the remaining NCAA tournament teams. That's also an indicator of the deliberate pace of the Hoyas' Princeton-style offense.
Faster-paced Florida doesn't rank among the NCAA's top 50 in scoring defense, but the Gators have been every bit as impressive over their seven-game winning streak, allowing opponents only 60.4 points per game. During that stretch, the Gators have allowed opponents to shoot only 37.7 percent from the field and 28.3 percent from three-point range.
John Akers, the editor of Basketball Times, is covering the Minneapolis regional exclusively for Yahoo! Sports.