For college basketball fans, the month of March has proved yet again to be full of the mania, mayhem and madness that one can expect this time of year. I think I speak for most that filled out a bracket for a competitive pool when I say: “Here’s to next year.” While the number-one overall seed and the popular pick to win it all, Louisville, advanced to the Final Four, the glass slipper fit for several Cinderella teams yet again in this year’s tourney. With the Final Four set this weekend, let’s take a closer look at four of the biggest regional headlines of the tournament thus far:
1) Fans of the University of Wisconsin experienced yet another frustrating NCAA Tournament loss as the Badgers were bested by the smack-talking long range threat, Marshall Henderson, and his Ole Miss squad in their opening game. Bo Ryan’s bunch was bounced early on once again, only contributing to a popular belief that Bucky’s brand of possession-oriented, grind-it-out basketball won’t cut it if the Badgers hold aspirations of advancing to the Final Four. Patience is wearing thin, but the future may be bright with an influx of athletes in the incoming freshman class. UW fans’ anguish manifested itself all the more as in-state competitor, Marquette, won their first two games by a total of three points before stunning Miami to advance to the Elite Eight.
2) Gonzaga showed the college basketball world why they did not deserve a one-seed. Now I do love Kelly Olynyk’s game, and I may be sipping the “haterade,” but really, Zags? For goodness sakes, Southern, a fearless group of ballers, took you to the brink. That being said, all the credit in the world should go to Gregg Marshall and the Wichita State Shockers for their magical run to the Final Four. The Shockers graduated their top five scorers from last year. Let me repeat that. Their top five scorers from last year. Their Cinderella story continues on Saturday in Atlanta as Shocker nation faces its stiffest test yet in Louisville.
3) What wasn’t there to love about the magical run of 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16? Sherwood Brown, Brett Comer and Chase Fieler played with swag for days. Comer is a great Twitter follow, by the way. “Dunk City,” as the team became affectionately known, captured the hearts of many young fans across the college basketball landscape with their slew of highlight reel slamma-jamma-ding-dongs.
4) Finally, the Big Ten showed that it may not have been the best conference after all this year. Looking at Wisconsin’s early exit, coupled with Indiana and Michigan State’s Sweet 16 defeats, three of the conference’s top dogs underachieved. All hope for a Big Ten team to take home the title lies with Michigan, who has been fueled by some unbelievable clutch play from leader Trey Burke and inspired freshman big man, Mitch McGary.