The Road to the Final Four: Obstacles Abound

The Road to the Final Four: Obstacles Abound

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The NCAA Field of 68 has been completed. The first play-in games were played yesterday and the remaining two will be played today. When the dust is settled the field will yield the 64 teams eyeing for the ultimate prize: the NCAA’s Division 1 national championship for men’s basketball.

Arizona (West), Virginia (East), Wichita State (Midwest), and Florida (South) have each pulled down a regional top seed and thus are favored to make it to the Final Four in Arlington, Texas, on April 5-7, 2014. But, we all know that in basketball it can take a strong run by any one team to get them to the finals. After all, if you win your first four games, you’re automatically in the Final Four.

Here are some of the obstacles facing the regional top seeds.

Arizona

It is hard to argue against the fact that Arizona has one of the cleanest paths to the Sweet Sixteen. That doesn’t mean it won’t have its hands full with the winner of the Gonzaga-Oklahoma State game. However, a geographical advantage will help early as the first games will be played in nearby Southern California.

The Cats may face San Diego State in Anaheim, but they’ve already have beaten the Mountain West regular season champion this year and that game was played in San Diego. For the regional championship the Wildcats would probably face either Wisconsin or Creighton, with the Badgers not playing with the consistency of a champion, while the Blue Jays would simply be outsized in their match up.

Virginia

Few experts think that the Virginia Cavaliers will make it to the Final Four. Some are thinking that they could be upset in the second round especially if Memphis knocks off George Washington to face the Cavaliers.

By advancing to the Sweet Sixteen the Cavaliers would likely match up against Cincinnati or Michigan State, the latter a dark horse to win it all. If the Cavaliers manage to maintain their march forward they’ll most likely face Villanova for the regional championship.

Wichita State

Entering the tournament at 34-0 is quite an accomplishment, regardless of the criticism levied against the Shockers’ schedule. Remember, this is the same team that gave eventual national champion Louisville fits before falling in the Final Four last year. The Shockers are strong, experienced, and have the potential to win it all.

They also potentially have three big games in the second, third, and fourth rounds that will test their mettle. Likely, they’ll meet Kentucky in the second round and if they get past the Wildcats, they’ll probably face Louisville. Louisville is seeded No. 4, but most experts think that they have the potential to repeat. Even if the Shockers knock off Kentucky and Louisville, they may have to face Duke for the regional championship. Hard is the road to the Final Four and Wichita State had better bring its “A” game and keep it.

Florida

The Gators are the overall No. 1, thus they’re the favorite to win this year’s national championship. But, Florida’s path to the championship is not a clear one with many strong obstacles along the way. Some analysts are predicting an early exit especially if they draw Pitt in the second round. The Panthers, of course, would have to play as well as they did against North Carolina in the ACC tournament to get a win. If they don’t, the Gators should handle them with conviction.

Getting to the Sweet Sixteen, the Gators would likely face UCLA before contending with either Kansas or Syracuse. All three teams have multiple national championships under their belts and the ability to go all the way. Florida is the overall No. 1 seed, but its road to the Final Four may be the toughest one of all four regional top seeds.

See AlsoMarch Madness 2014: Catch the Fever

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Categories: NCAA Basketball