Final Four Open Thread

The NCAA Mens' Basketball Tournament is down to the Final Four, and today's action in Houston starts off with the Cinderella Bracket, where Butler (27-9), the #8 seed from the Southeast Region faces the challenge of Virginia Commonwealth (28-11), the #11 seed from the Southwest Region, with the tip scheduled for 3:09 PM PDT.

This is the bracket buster of all bracket busters, and it guarantees a Mid-Major will again advance to the National Championship Game. Given that even the second game, pitting Kentucky (29-8), the #4 seed from the East Region against Connecticut (30-9), the #3 seed from the West region, involves teams that were underdogs to get this far, it's not surprising that according to ESPN, only 2 brackets are known to exist (out of nearly 6 million) that originally had all four of these teams as the last four. Not even Connor's bracket saw this coming.

The Bulldogs, Champions of the Horizon League, have won 9 of their last 10 Tournament games, and only lost last year's title game when Gordon Hayward, now in the NBA, had his shot to win the championship from nearly mid court rim off. In what may be a surprise to many, Butler is also the first team from the state of Indiana to ever reach the Final Four in consecutive seasons, something Indiana has never managed to do.

 

The Rams, who finished fourth in the Colonial League, and didn't win the league tournament either, were a controversial selection to even be in the field. Having had to win a play-in game in order to claim that #11 seed in the round of 64, have now won 5 Tournament games, all against favored teams from "BCS/Power Conferences" to reach the Final 4, VCU is the first team to ever win that many tournament games and not get (at least yet) to the finals.

 

The Wildcats, who finished second in the SEC East, but won the SEC Tournament, and an automatic berth in the tourney, are one of the familiar programs that "casual" fans would tend to think of when the subject of the final four comes up, since Kentucky has been to 13 final fours, and won 7 National Championships. But its been 13 years since their last title, on their last trip beyond the regionals. So Kentucky Blue has become a stranger at this level of late.

 

The Huskies, usually thought of as an NCAA Basketball power, are a surprise team in the final four this year, after finishing tied for 9th. thru 11th. in the Big East. But UConn won 5 games in 5 days to claim the Big East Tournament, and the Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Double digit margin wins in the first weekend of the tournament, including one over yet another Big East foe got the Huskies really rolling, but the second weekend was another matter. Connecticut eliminated San Diego St., and then the Pac-10's Arizona Wildcats to claim the West Region, but the 'Cats were a last shot away from taking the berth in Houston, falling 65-63.

 

So no matter what happens, there will be some unlikely faces in the final game, and a surprise National Champion. Whose your choice of the underdogs? And is this the best thing that could happen to college basketball? Jump in with your thoughts on what will go down as one of he most improbable seasons in history.


Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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