Well, we may not have gotten what we wanted but we got what we’re getting. I don’t know about you, but I always root for the underdogs in March Madness. So seeing Saint Peter’s and Miami fall just short of the Final Four was a little saddening. But that is the nature of college basketball, in the end, you are left with teams like Duke, Villanova, Kansas, and North Carolina. Even though the Tar Heels are technically an underdog as an eight seed, they are still one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport so it’s not the same.
The worst part of how we got to those four teams is that it didn’t even happen in an entertaining fashion. Saint Peter’s and Miami got blown out. Villanova beat Houston comfortably. And Duke didn’t struggle at all in dispatching Arkansas. For a tournament that had so far been defined by crazy games and wild finishes, the Elite Eight was a bit of a letdown. Especially after a Sweet 16 that had a handful of very close and exhilarating games, it is hard to not feel a little unfulfilled as we head into a five-day break from March Madness (there is still NIT basketball to watch this week though if you are missing some hoops. Go Cougs).
On the bright side, the basketball we get after that break should be pretty damn good. Anytime you get the supposed four best basketball teams in the country together for a weekend it should lead to some good on-the-court product. And the storylines leading up to the actual games might be even better.
Obviously, the headlines will be dominated by Duke versus North Carolina for the first time ever in the NCAA Tournament. That it is coming in Coach K’s last season makes it even sweeter. And that North Carolina already played spoiler to Duke when they won in Coach K’s last home game makes it even better. The best rivalry in college basketball (and sports in general) playing out on the biggest stage in college basketball (and sports in general) is something that we must not take for granted. And let’s not forgot that the basketball might be pretty good too. Two teams with electrifying offenses should combine for a very high-scoring game that will keep you entertained for all 40 minutes. Hopefully, it comes down to the wire and we get an iconic finish to possibly the most iconic game in the most iconic rivalry.
And let us not forget about the other game. Kansas against Villanova will pit two teams that have gotten this far without the fanfare of the other two Final Four participants. Villanova has been exceptionally quiet, handling each game with ease on its way to yet another Final Four appearance. Kansas is the only one seed left in the tournament and has been able to stave off upset efforts on its way to the semifinals. These are two teams that play really good basketball, which is why they got as far as they have. Villanova isn’t particularly flashy, but they do all the fundamentals right. Kansas has the types of players to get the ball in the hoop in any way possible and can match up well with every team in the country. If Duke versus North Carolina is a heavyweight prizefight, Kansas versus Villanova is a world championship chess match.
We may not have any Cinderellas, Peacocks, or hundred-year-old nuns in the Final Four but what we do have is the best basketball teams that college basketball has to offer. It is time to settle the score on the court and let the best team emerge. All four of the teams left standing have earned it and are certainly worthy of cutting down the nets when it is all said and done. And watching these four juggernauts slug it out in New Orleans will surely be a welcome sight for basketball fans everywhere.