NCAA Final Four: Who Are They & How Did They Get Here?

The wild, exciting, downright unpredictable 2018 NCAA tournament has shed dead weight and dwindled down to its Final Four teams. Through all the upsets and pure insanity, this year’s tournament has left us with one team from the Big Ten, one from the Big East, one from the Big 12, and the Cinderella from the Missouri Valley Conference. Let’s break down each team and how they got to San Antonio, Texas for a chance to cut the net and call themselves champions.

South Region Champion 11 seed Loyola-Chicago

The Ramblers from Chicago, Illinois have captivated the hearts of college basketball fans everywhere and carry the torch for the mid-major schools. This school has brought about the rise of Sister Jean and have become this year’s darling of the big dance.

Their Path to the Final Four:

Round of 64: beat 6 seed Miami 64-62
Round of 32: beat 3 seed Tennessee 63-62
Sweet 16: beat 7 seed Nevada 69-68
Elite 8: beat 9 seed Kansas St. 78-62
As you can see from those close scores, this is a mentally tough battle-tested team. Loyola-Chicago is led by quick, crafty guards Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer, both of whom won a high school state championship together at Blue Valley Northwest High School (Overland Park, KS). The Ramblers have not shown many weaknesses throughout the tournament and throughout the entire season for that matter. For fans that pay particularly close attention to college basketball, they should not be shocked by the success of Loyola-Chicago. They beat SEC power Florida early in the year and have only lost twice since the start of the new year.
Up next: 3 seed Michigan Wolverines on Saturday, March 31st, 6:09 pm

West Region Champion 3 seed Michigan

The Wolverines from Michigan have seen and done it all this tournament: took care of business against a mid-major school, sunk a dramatic buzz-beater, shot lights-out against the most athletic team in the tournament, and got scrappy with an overachieving ACC team. Michigan is back in the Final Four just five years after losing to Louisville in the 2013 championship game and this time around are hoping for a winning outcome.

Their path to the Final Four:

Round of 64: beat 14 seed Montana 61-47
Round of 32: beat 6 seed Houston 64-63
Sweet 16: beat 7 seed Texas A&M 99-72
Elite 8: beat 9 seed Florida St. 58-54
John Beilein has been one of the most successful coaches in college basketball over the last ten years, the only thing missing on his resume is a national championship. This year’s Wolverines have turned it on down the stretch and are currently on a 13-game winning streak. They are the best defensive team of the remaining four and have used streaky shooting performances to propel them. If this team gets hot from the field, there is no stopping them.
Up next: 11 seed Loyola-Chicago Saturday, March 31st, 6:09 pm


East Region Champion 1 seed Villanova

The Villanova Wildcats are the most complete and consistent team in the Final Four. Jay Wright has led his team back to the Final Four just two years after claiming his first national championship. This years team has a chance to hang its own championship banner up right next to the 2016 championship banner.

Their path to the Final Four:

Round of 64: beat 16 seed Radford 87-61
Round of 32: beat 9 seed Alabama 81-58
Sweet 16: beat 5 seed West Virginia 90-78
Elite 8: beat 3 seed Texas Tech 71-59
Star players Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges lead the Wildcats, but the talent does not drop off there. This is a deep, smart, well-rounded team who does not beat themselves. Villanova has six players who average double figures and three who are shooting over 40% from behind the three-point line. Also, Villanova is an extremely efficient free throw shooting team with four players shooting over 80% from the charity stripe. If you are a betting man, this team is the safest pick of the Final Four, but as we all know college basketball has a way of not going how it should.
Up next: 1 seed Kansas Saturday, March 31st, 8:49 pm

Midwest Region Champion 1 seed Kansas

Bill Self is on the verge of his second national championship in 15 years at the helm of the Kansas Jayhawks basketball program. Under his tutelage, Kansas basketball has won 14 straight Big 12 regular season championships and have been to three Final Fours. The Jayhawks last won a national championship in 2008.

Their path to the Final Four:

Round of 64: beat 16 seed Penn 76-60
Round of 32: beat 8 seed Seton Hall 83-79
Sweet 16: beat 5 seed Clemson 80-76
Elite 8: beat 2 seed Duke 85-81
The Kansas Jayhawks have had the toughest run to the Final Four, beating two powerhouses from the ACC in Clemson and Duke. They needed overtime to take down the Blue Devils and have been tested in all four games so far. They boast an NBA caliber backcourt in Devonte’ Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, and Malik Newman. The team is then anchored by 7 footer Udoka Azubuike. The Jayhawks will need to avoid foul trouble if they want to claim the championship, Azubuike has fouled out in two of the 4 games in this tournament.
Up next: 1 seed Villanova Saturday, March 31st, 8:59 pm
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