By Colton Molesky
The NCAA Tournament field has been whittled down from 68 to four, with the Kansas Jayhawks, Villanova Wildcats, Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and Michigan Wolverines the final teams left standing.
For those not paying attention, the featured teams are a pair of no.1 seeds, a no.3 seed, and a no.11 seed. Of the surviving, one (Kansas) is considered a blue blood program, giving the final four an aura of mystery.
For those fans drawn into the tournament and not much of the rest of the college basketball season, here is one thing you can enjoy about each remaining team.
Soft. That was the accusation from the head coach of the Jayhawks earlier this season. Coach Self later would need to retract the comment following the gritty 85-81 win over Duke in the Elite Eight. And who better to lead this team than the gritty Devonte’ Graham?
Graham started out as a freshman that played little and was less than impressive in the eyes of his coach. Early on, when Graham’s name came up, it would bring back the image of Self screaming at the kid who just dunked on opponents in a blowout win. Graham was not the centerpiece, nor the coveted prospect that was going to change the program. He was not given anything or handed a spot. Graham worked and pushed to the front of the Kansas roster. In an age of one-and-dones, the senior point guard has muscled his way to the front of the college lens.
These guys are the college version of the Golden State Warriors. They have thrown up 116 3-point attempts in the tournament, knocking down 41 percent of them. Blowing the competition out of the water, both in attempts and made threes (29).
Nova’s roster contains three players averaged 40 percent or better from downtown this season, while three others shot over 35 percent. The Wildcats are built to be flashy from deep.
Sister Jean is to easy an answer (and honestly, if you do not know who that is still then college hoops is too good for you). Instead, consider the following: This motley group of Ramblers has the opportunity to become the first 11 seed ever to win a championship and is the 4th ever to make the Final Four. They have built off their 17-1 finish to the season with a 4 game push through the bracket.
In 1985, Villanova marked the lowest seed to ever make and win a championship. They were slotted 8th. Loyola can shatter that record and become the ultimate Cinderella story to fall in love with.
Earlier this season, the FBI’s case against the Louisville Cardinals led the NCAA to strip the 2013 championship from the Cardinals for violations around how the program recruits. The title that Louisville was forced to vacate was won by beating the Wolverines.
In the ultimate turn of irony, Michigan is set to make a championship run- pouring additional salt in the wounds of a downtrodden Cardinals nation which missed the tournament.
Photo: The “March Madness” logo adorns a ball resting on the court during practice at the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Boston, Thursday, March 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)