NCAA Tournament- Final Four Conference Breakdown
The tickets to Atlanta have been punched, and this time, only two major conferences remain. What’s left is a who’s who of the future of the ACC, an upstart underdog and a Michigan team that looks a lot like the Fab Five. Let’s see how they got there.
Tournament Teams (4)- Duke, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State
Remaining Tournament Teams (0)-
Verdict- No one was going to beat Louisville after what happened to Kevin Ware. No one. Not Duke, not the Miami Heat. No one. The raw emotion that Ware’s gruesome injury caused among his teammates, his coach and the crowd, were just too much to overcome for the Blue Devils. So while they went mostly cold in the second half, they can hang their heads high. After all, the season ended in a much better way than last year’s first-round flameout against Lehigh. An Elite Eight, while the standard for such a high-level program, is still an accomplishment. Coach K loses highly-productive seniors Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry this offseason, but he reloads next year with a class headed by #2 recruit Jabari Parker.
Tournament Teams (8)- Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Villanova, Georgetown, Syracuse, Marquette
Remaining Tournament Teams (2)- Louisville, Syracuse
Verdict- We should really just merge this section with the one for the ACC, but we won’t, because the Big East deserves one last send-off. It really is incredible that a conference that had such a bad first round has been able to rebound with such a great Final Four. It’s things like this that make the Tournament so incredible , and it’s what we’ll miss so much when basketball season ends. Syracuse looked impressive in a 55-39 sleeper against soon-to-be former conference rival Marquette, while Louisville cruised to an emotional win over soon-to-be conference rival Duke in the Elite Eight. Both teams have the potential to go all the way, and they proved this during this past round, but Louisville has the better matchup on paper this weekend. Since both remaining teams will be heading to Greensboro in the next few years, we’re not sure what type of foundation this leaves the “new” Big East…
Tournament Teams (7)- Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois
Remaining Tournament Teams (1)- Michigan
Verdict- And one remains. The story all year has been about how great the Big Ten is, and here we are, with Michigan in the Final Four. Does this silence the critics? It’s hard to tell. The Wolverines have a lot to prove, but they look up to the challenge. Sunday’s game against Florida proved that they ‘re capable of handling elite teams and hanging with high-level programs. That’s a good sign. And it’s not to say that Michigan isn’t a high-level program too, but they haven’t experienced the same kind of success that the Gators have recently. That’s just a fact. Michigan is really quite an interesting team. They’re a talented team, but they’re not a surprise team like Wichita State. They’ve been a good team, but they weren’t expected to be here like Louisville. Can they finally bring a banner back to Ann Arbor? This time they won’t have to take it down…
Tournament Teams (3) – Missouri, Ole Miss, Florida, Kentucky
Remaining Tournament Teams (0)-
Verdict- It’s hard to explain what happened to Florida. They just…couldn’t do it. They’re definitely as talented as Michigan. And Billy Donovan is a great coach. But sometimes it’s just not mean to be. Teams come out cold. They lose focus. They get in a hole early. And that’s what happened to Florida on Sunday. Unfortunately for them, it meant the end of their season. And unfortunately for the SEC, it meant the end of their tournament. While the conference may never be a hoops powerhouse, Kentucky once again becomes a team to watch in 2014. If they’re able to add Canadian phenom Andrew Wiggins, they just might cut down the nets again next year. Not bad for a team that couldn’t even win one game in the NIT.
It all ends in less than a week. It’s been an exciting basketball season, and it really is too bad that it’s almost over. While there haven’t been any truly exceptional teams this year, the parity seen has created one of the most unpredictable tournaments in years. Don’t be surprised if the Shockers win it all on Monday.