After watching the NCAA Regional Championship games earlier this week and seeing which teams will compete in this year’s Final Four, I came really close to writing this week’s column about The Masters (the best weekend in all of sports) which takes place next weekend. But it’s still the Final Four, so I almost feel obligated to write about it, regardless of which teams are competing.
This year’s NCAA Tournament has gone in a direction that not many people expected. Gonzaga is in the Final Four for the first time in program history, Oregon hasn’t been to the Final Four in 78 years, the last time being when they won the tournament, South Carolina had four total tournament wins coming into this year’s national tournament (they have four wins in this tournament alone); and North Carolina had the highest percentage of ESPN Tournament Challenge brackets filled out to win it all (15.2 percent). Out of nearly 18 million brackets filled out on ESPN, only 2,099 (.01 percent) had Gonzaga, Oregon and South Carolina in their Final Four.
Last year’s championship game between UNC and Villanova was one that will go down as one of the greatest championship games ever played. It kick-started an incredible year in sports championship games. Because that game was so good, it is easy for someone to fear that this year’s championship game will not be nearly as exciting because of the teams that have the potential to play in it. Gonzaga, while still being a No. 1 seed, has been called overrated all season because of their weaker regular-season schedule. Oregon lost one of their best players during their conference tournament, and while they still found a way to knock off a tournament-favorite Kansas team, there is doubt they will be able to do it again against the powerhouse that is North Carolina. And nobody expected South Carolina to make this incredible run. Most Arkansas fans, however, believe they should have been seeded higher than South Carolina since they were able to beat them during the regular season.
Personally speaking, I think the best chance the national championship game has for its TV ratings not to drop this year is for a South Carolina/North Carolina match-up. North Carolina is easily the best team in the Final Four. They have been one of the favorites to win it all since the beginning of the season. And everybody loves a good David and Goliath match-up, and it seems like destiny is on the side of South Carolina in this tournament.
The tournament this year has definitely had its fair share of madness. There have been upsets, overtime games and buzzer beaters. Let’s hope the Final Four and National Championship game can keep the recent craziness of the tournament alive. And to former Bison sports editor David Salley, if you’re reading this, go Gamecocks.