And then there were four...
The 2019 Final Four is set and Michigan State, Texas Tech, Auburn and Virginia are traveling to Minneapolis, Minnesota to battle for a chance to be crowned national champions.
It is incredible to think that not even three weeks ago, there were 68 teams and now we are down to four.
In a tournament that certainly lived up to the madness of March, one of the most shocking moments was that Duke failed to reach the Final Four. Out of the over 15 million brackets created in ESPN’s Bracket Challenge, over 36% of users picked Duke to win the national championship.
The combined percentage of brackets that people picked one of the four teams actually in the Final Four – 15.2 percent.
There have been many people across social media and in conversation saying that they will not watch the Final Four because Zion Williamson (and Duke) are not in it. There is also this nonsense being floated around that because the Blue Devils are not in the Final Four, no one will be watching.
Really, no one?
I can think of a few people that will be watching this year’s Final Four. Those people are real college basketball fans. As a Coastal Carolina student and athletic supporter, the Chanticleers did not manage to make it to the Big Dance but they did put up a stellar fight in the CBI. As a Kentucky fan, I saw my hometown team’s dream of a championship fall to an Auburn team that will be playing in their first-ever Final Four.
And Auburn will be playing without their star player, Chuma Okeke, who suffered a torn ACL in their win over North Carolina in the Sweet 16. This Auburn team is showing signs of a Louisville team in 2013 that rallied behind one of their players that suffered a gruesome injury. That Louisville team went on to win the national title (even though it would be later vacated by the NCAA but that’s another story).
On the other side of the bracket, there is Texas Tech. Two years ago, Texas Tech lost five of their last six games, including an early exit in the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament.
Now, they are in the Final Four for the first time in program history. After making back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances for the first time since 1961 and 1962, the Red Raiders made it back to the Elite 8 for only the second time in team history (2018 was the first time) and they advanced to the Final Four by beating one of the most well-rounded teams in college basketball, Gonzaga.
There are many inspiring storylines that are happening this weekend in Minneapolis and if people don’t want to watch because their team isn’t in the Final Four, that’s okay. Real college basketball fans like myself will gladly sit down in front of the TV and watch history be made.