Unless you count the NIT, CBI, and CIT, there are only three games left of the college basketball season. This year’s Final Four will hopefully be an exciting climax to a thrilling tournament. The four teams- Kansas, Loyola-Chicago, Michigan and Villanova, have all had great tournament runs that included late-game heroics, big performances by star players, and great coaching.
One common occurrence by each team is that all four won their conference tournaments. This means that a conference tournament champion will win the NCAA Tournament for the first time since [Vacated] won the title in 2013.
Here are four things you need to know about each individual team.
1. Silvio de Sousa was a high schooler in December
If you’ve watched a Kansas basketball game this year, you’ve probably heard this fact many times. The Jayhawks freshman PF, Silvio de Sousa, was originally a commit for the class of 2018, but graduated in December and was deemed eligible for the spring semester of school and basketball.
2. Devonte’ Graham was almost a Mountaineer
While that may sound like the star senior almost went to West Virginia, Devonte’ Graham was originally committed to Appalachian State. Graham was released from his letter of intent by App State coach Jim Fox, a decision I’m sure Fox regrets.
3. They lost a 5-star recruit mid-season
Billy Preston was the #20 player in the 2017 recruiting class according to 247 Sports, and he looked like he could be Kansas’ star freshman. However, after getting into a car accident that sidelined Preston for the start of the season, an investigation was launched into the finances behind how Preston had the car. In January, Preston left the program without ever playing a game.
4. They enjoy playing in San Antonio and Nebraska
The last time the Final Four was in San Antonio, Derrick Rose couldn’t make his free throws, and Mario Chalmers broke Memphis Tigers fans’ hearts. The Jayhawks will be hoping for the same outcome from this Final Four. If that isn’t enough for Kansas fans, in their 1988 run to the title, Kansas played their first two games in Lincoln, Nebraska. In their 2008 tournament title run Kansas played their first two games in Omaha, Nebraska. This year, Kansas played their third and fourth tournament games in Omaha as well. Maybe playing in Nebraska is the Jayhawks secret to winning titles…
1. Sister Jean
Sister Jean has become an internet sensation. When asked how it feels to be a national sensation, she corrected the interviewer, letting them know she is, in fact, an international sensation. Twitter memes have also said that Sister Jean has given up losing for Lent. Get ready to see hundreds of Sister Jean shots from the camera crew.
2. An 11 seed has never made the Championship
Loyola can make history by being the first-ever double-digit seed to make the Championship game. Three other 11 seeds have made the Final Four before the Ramblers- 1986 LSU, 2006 George Mason and 2011 VCU, but none have ever won a Final Four game. The lowest ever seed to appear in the championship game is an eight seed, as in 1985 Villanova won the title as an eight seed, and in 2011 and 2014 Butler and Kentucky lost respectively in the title game.
3. Yes, they’ve actually won the National Championship before
In 1963, the Ramblers were on top of the college basketball world, as they were crowned National Champions. However, not much success came after that. This is only the sixth time that Loyola has been in the tournament and the first time since 1985.
4. They are extremely clutch
In their first three games, Loyola won by a combined four points. They beat Miami on a last-second three, Tennessee on a pull-up jumper with little time remaining, and hit a dagger three late against Nevada. They were finally able to win comfortably in the Elite Eight, beating Kansas State by 16.
- They didn’t have a player receive a vote for an AP All-American team
Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham is a first-team All-American. Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were first and third team All-Americans, respectively. Loyola star Clayton Custer was an honorable mention All-American. Michigan had nobody. Maybe coach John Beilein will use this as motivation for his team.
2. Jordan Poole is your favorite player’s favorite player
After Jordan Poole hit an insane three to beat Houston, I stumbled across a Twitter thread titled “Jordan Poole appreciation thread.” It is safe to say after looking through the thread, that he is your favorite players favorite player. I 100 percent recommend giving it a read: https://twitter.com/BrandonKoretz/status/973953447769894913
3. They are on a defensive tear
In the Wolverines’ 99-72 Sweet Sixteen victory over Texas A&M, they let up over 70 points in regulation for the first time since their February 11 victory over Wisconsin. It was also only the Wolverines’ seventh time allowing over 70 points in regulation. With their elite defense, Michigan could claim their first title since 1989.
4. Their name game is on point
Due to Tennessee and their forward Admiral Schofield being eliminated from the tournament, the title for best name in the tournament is up for grabs. Michigan’s Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman takes the cake. He’s also become a key piece for Michigan, averaging 12.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Special shoutout to their other well-named players: Brent Hibbitts, Isaiah Livers, Rico Ozuna-Harrison and Moritz Wagner.
1. They haven’t lost back-to-back games since March 2013
On March 14, 2013, Louisville eliminated Villanova from the Big East tournament by a score of 74-55. UNC then beat Villanova 78-71 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Since then, the Wildcats have not lost back-to-back games. This might be one of the most impressive team stats in all of basketball.
2. Their offense is the best in the country
Only twice this year has Villanova been held to under 70 points. They also shoot the ball at 40 percent clip from three-point range. These two stats combined with the best offensive efficiency according to KenPom only makes it clear that the Wildcats hold the best offense in the country.
3. Mikal Bridges is likely the only lottery pick in the Final Four
Bridges has been tearing it up recently and has seen his name fly up into the top ten of most NBA mock drafts. For reference, in Sports Illustrated’s NBA big board, Bridges ranked No. 8, with no other players appearing in the Final Four even cracking the top 30. Since Nova’s February 17 victory at fellow one seed Xavier, Mikal Bridges is averaging 20.8 points per game on 49.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Bridges also possesses top-notch defending ability and could be a star at the next level.
4. Get ready for a lot of Kris Jenkins replays
Two years ago Villanova won an instant classic in the title game against North Carolina. Be prepared to see a lot of replays of the final shot of the game, in which forward Kris Jenkins drains a three at the buzzer to give the Wildcats their first title since 1985. As an avid UNC hater (don’t worry, I hate Duke too), watching this video always makes me smile.