Unthinkable foursome heading to Houston
Monday, March 28, 2011
Even in the unpredictable, anything-goes world of March Madness, this is a Final Four nobody saw coming.
Kentucky, Connecticut, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth — the improbable, the implausible, the unthinkable and the downright unimaginable.
In one game Saturday in Houston, No. 4 seed Kentucky will play No. 3 Connecticut — not a completely absurd thought as a Final Four matchup, though hardly a popular pick given their up-and-down regular seasons.
In the other game, it will be No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth against No. 8 Butler — the team that was almost universally panned when its name was called on Selection Sunday against the defending national runner-up from a 4,500-student campus whose amazing success story had supposedly run its course.
“It never gets old,” Bulldogs senior Matt Howard said.
Nor does the NCAA tournament, the three-week office pool that places the so-called experts on even footing with those who fill out brackets because they like a team’s colors or its mascot.
Anything goes. Anyone can win.
And never has that been more true than this year.
Four teams with a combined 37 losses.
Four teams whose combined seeding equals 26, breaking the record of 22 in 2000.
Not a single No. 1 seed for only the second time since seeding began in 1979 and, according to STATS LLC., the first time no 1 or 2 seed will be there.
ESPN, which sponsors one of the country’s biggest bracket tournaments, said out of 5.9 million entries, only two had this foursome making its way to Houston.
“I think what it does as much as anything, it just puts a spin on the NCAA tournament,” said Kansas coach Bill Self after his top-seeded team lost 71-61 to VCU. “It’s wild. ... Because seeds are so overrated. It’s about matchups. And their players could play for us any day.”
VCU (28-11) got up early on Kansas and never looked back, an upset winner in a tournament that’s all about underdogs.
“Our guys have done a phenomenal job of putting all the doubters aside, putting all the people that didn’t believe in us aside and going out and doing their job,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said.
The Rams are the third No. 11 seed to make the Final Four and the first since George Mason in 2006, also of the Colonial Athletic Conference. But the Rams are the first ever that will need to win seven games — not the usual six — to make it all the way through the NCAA tournament. They were one of the last at-large teams to make the newfangled 68-team field. They played in the new “First Four” — an extra round added as part of the NCAA’s new $10.8 billion TV deal.
Now they’re in the Final Four.