Final Four: Cinderella & More!


Not a single top seeded team remains in this year’s NCAA Men’s Division 1 basketball tournament, with one team, Virginia Commonwealth University, making it to the Final Four despite needing a play-in game to get seeded. Butler is back, joining Kentucky and UConn as the three other teams who will soon learn if their magic is enough to pull down a national championship this year.

VCU Cinderella

VCU is, of course, this year’s Cinderella team. After being bounced from the Colonial Athletic Association tournament by Old Dominion, few people thought the Rams would get a tournament bid after finishing fourth in a conference where placing two teams is enough of a challenge. But, they managed to get in and after beating USC in its play-in game, the Rams methodically began to knock the giants, defeating Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas in succession to grab the Southwest title. Each win was a “surprise,” but also offered an emphatic statement: even the little guys can be unstoppable when they get on a roll.

And, now we’re left with just two games Saturday evening and one game on Monday night, as the Final Four comes to Houston. The first game has VCU battling Butler, another improbable Final Four team who was last year’s Cinderella pick and tournament runner-up to Duke. The second game pits Kentucky and UConn, the two highest remaining seeds. Thus, one the lowest seeded teams will get to play in the championship game, giving perhaps one upstart a fighting chance to win it all this year.

Bulldog Run

Butler’s run was supposed to have been stopped in the second round when it took on Pitt, the Southeast regional’s #1 seed. As they did to Syracuse last year, the Bulldogs vanquished another Big East Conference winner, following up that one-point squeaker with wins over Wisconsin and Florida to advance to the Final Four.

UConn, one of 11 Big East teams in the tournament, is the last team standing from what many say is an over-rated basketball conference. Regardless, the Huskies have adequately demonstrated that going 9-9 in the conference during the regular season offers little reflection of what this team can do, dispatching Bucknell, Cincinnati, San Diego State and Arizona on the way to winning the West.

Kentucky narrowly beat Princeton in its first game before knocking off West Virginia. On Friday, the Wildcats knocked off #1 Ohio State before shaking off North Carolina on Sunday to win the East. The Cats are proving that chemistry, not talent, is sometimes the best attribute for advancing. Indeed, last year’s talented team was supposed to make it to the Final Four, but failed. This year’s team was expected to do well, but Ohio State seemed insurmountable. Once the Buckeyes were out of the way, the Tarheels were viewed as beatable and were.

Fab Four

Thus, this year’s Final Four features four unlikely teams including one team, VCU, who didn’t even expect to make it to the tournament. March Madness is giving way to April Alacrity, offering three games in Texas that are certain to catch the attention of hoop fans the world over.

Photo: NCAA



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