The Final Four: End of the madness



Photo of Sister Jean courtesy of David Goldman/Associated Press.

Colin Kirkwood, Staff Writer

The final four of march madness is only a few days away. Now that the dust has settled, we finally know who remains in the pursuit for the title of national champion. First let’s take a look at who continues to dance on.

South Region: Loyola Chicago Ramblers

The clock has yet to strike twelve on this year’s Cinderella story.

The Ramblers continue to capture the hearts of the nation with their team first basketball and nobody could forget Sister Jean. Entering the big dance as an eleventh seed, this was a team that was viewed as a trendy upset pick in the round of 64. They pulled of the win on a last second shot to sink the Hurricanes of Miami (Florida) by a score of 64-62.

Next, they took on a heavily favored Tennessee team where once again the magic wand was waived, which lead to a last second winning shot. The final score was 63-62. In the regional semi-finals they defeated the Wolfpack of Nevada 69-68 by a last second shot. One would think that this would be the way victory would come in the regional final right?

This inspiring group of kids proved the country wrong once again by blowing the doors off of Kansas State by 16, running up a total of 78 points in their region clinching win. With it, the Ramblers now own the best winning percentage in tournament history at .765 (13-4) overtaking the Blue Devils of Duke .755 (111-36). They now face the Big Ten tournament champs in the national semi-final.

West Region: Michigan Wolverines

After capturing the conference tournament title, the Wolverines have not looked back. Defeating Montana in their first-round matchup by a score of 61-47, a big test loomed with a date against the Cougars of Houston.

That game had the feel of a March classic when Jordan Poole hit the buzzer beating shot for a 64-63 victory. In the regional final, the Seminoles of Florida State. Michigan played a stellar game against a team who was playing above their ceiling after taking down a one seed as well as a favored eight seed along the way.

Ultimately, Michigan clinched the region by a score of 58-54. Purely based on schedule and conference caliber, one would think Michigan has had an “easy” trip to the national title game, but in march, games should never be taken lightly. Michigan is making their first trip to the final four since the 2013 tournament.

East Region: Villanova Wildcats

In the East, things went according to schedule.

Villanova did not have many hiccups on the road to the final four. In their one versus sixteen matchup, the Wildcats easily handled Radford 87-61. The Cats would then clip Collin Sexton and his Alabama Crimson Tide 81-58. One of their biggest tests to date was against a defensive minded West Virginia team in the sweet sixteen. Villanova was able to overcome the scrappy Big Twelve squad and down them 90-78. Finally, to capture the region, the Cats defeated Texas Tech 71-59.

Now they sit just two victories shy of winning two titles in three years. This team has shown they can overcome cold shooting performances, which is one of the reasons that makes them so dangerous. But can they go three for three against the Big Twelve with fellow giant Kansas waiting in the wing?

Midwest Region: Kansas Jayhawks

Here we have another region that went according to schedule. In a one versus sixteen matchup, Kansas captured the victory 76-60 over the University of Pennsylvania.

After that victory, things got bumpy for the Jayhawks. Seton Hall had all the looks of a bracket buster heading into their matchup, but couldn’t finish the job, as Kansas would go on to win 83-79. In the Sweet Sixteen, the Jayhawks had another tightly contested matchup versus the Clemson Tigers. Finally, in the regional final, the Jayhawks battled Duke in one of the best games of the tournament. A Grayson Allen jumper at the buzzer almost sent Kansas home, but in overtime, the Jayhawks took control of the game and sealed it with a score of 85-81.

Now I’ll be making my projections on these two games. I believe the fairytale will continue for the Ramblers and they will defeat Michigan 74-72.

This Loyola team is on a roll and with the national spotlight continuing to focus in on them, and they will live up to the hype once again. On the other side of the bracket, I think Kansas will be reaching the title game. If they Jayhawks can take the three-point shot away from Villanova, a big weapon is blocked from their game plan.

If Kansas is successful and the Wildcats cannot shoot well on the floor, Kansas wins 85-75. In the final, the clock will strike midnight on Sister Jean and the pure dominance of a college basketball powerhouse will be on full display. Kansas will take home the title, 88-70.