Everyone loves March Madness. People all over the country go a full college basketball season without watching a single game, yet still fill out a bracket and cheer harder than anyone for the teams they randomly picked. Unfortunately, these are the same ones that get your $10 buy-in when they somehow win your bracket pool. It’s a universal game that appeals to all. The tournament is the closest-to-perfection example of a postseason in any form of sports. The best teams are upset, Cinderellas are created, and everyone’s eyes are focused on whatever city has been selected to host that year’s Final Four.
We’ve had all of those this year, and besides having Indiana win the tournament (#shameless), the only thing that could make the tournament better is if we saw these matchups.
Let’s start with the ones that WILL happen:
#3 Florida vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast
Nobody has gotten as much publicity this March as America’s new favorite rag-tag group of over-acheivers. The Eagles play like they’re in an intrasquad game they put together after practice. Their fun-loving style has won over the hearts of everyone they play in front of and are just one step behind Rocky in Moscow when it comes to winning an audience.
Gator fans are chomping their teeth to put to rest this upstart new team that nobody’s heard of. And everyone else (including Miami fans who aren’t believing FGCU could beat them in an unlikely Final Four matchup) can’t get enough of the newspaper covers, Dunk City t-shirts, and general buzz.
I can’t see FGCU pulling out the win in this matchup, but then again I didn’t see them beating Georgetown, I didn’t see VCU making the Final Four, and I didn’t see Butler making consecutive National Championship runs so maybe I should just stop trying to foresee winners and just enjoy plays like this.
#2 Duke vs. #3 Michigan State
This one was a little more likely to happen than the last, and I’ve been waiting to watch it since the brackets came out. Duke’s offense when Ryan Kelly is healthy has almost TOO MANY options and Michigan State looked like the best team on the first weekend. Gary Harris is hitting everything, Adrien Payne might break a backboard with how often he’s dunking, and Tom Izzo is
one of the best March coach in the country. I finally settled on Duke as my pick to win, but if I’d been given another day to reassess, my opinion could have swung the other direction.
How about a couple potential matchups that could occur if the basketball Gods looked with favor upon our sacrifices of Gonzaga and Georgetown.
#1 Indiana vs. #4 Michigan
I know this is risky to look multiple games ahead, and I’m by no means saying this WILL happen, but I would LOVE to see a round three clash of these Big Ten teams. Indiana has won two close regular season matchups against the Wolverines, the first in Bloomington where the Hoosiers knocked off #1 Michigan to reclaim the top spot of their own. The second game I’m sure gave Michigan fans fits to no end as it was a game that any team in their position with 1 minute left would have won 95 out of 100 times. I don’t think anyone wants to beat the Hoosiers more than Michigan and I don’t think anybody knows how to beat the Wolverines better than Indiana. As an IU fan (#shameless), I’m legitimately scared of this potential game. As a college basketball fan, I can’t wait.
#1 Louisville vs. #2 Ohio State
These are the two best teams on the left side of the bracket – they’re both strong defensive teams, and they match up really well against each other. OSU could use Craft, one of the nation’s best defensive guards, to slow down Louisville’s leading scorer Russ Smith. Meanwhile, Louisville gets a defensive edge with Gorgui Deng, a guy who can shut down the Buckeye’s inside game. I honestly could see the final scores of this game being as low as mid-40s or as high as mid-70s. Craft is the X factor, as he always is. His defensive game is consistently dominant, but if he’s clicking on offense too, we’ll see the Buckeyes in the championship. If he’s not, Pitino gets a shot at his second national title.
HONORABLE MENTION: Could we see an All-Big Ten Final Four? Eamonn Brennan explains why it’s not at impossible as you think. As a fan of the conference, I’d think this was really cool and great for publicity. But, I’ve seen enough real life to know this only happens in movies.
These were the matchups I wanted to see so badly, yet won’t get the privilege.
#4 St. Louis vs. #1 Louisville
I’m a sucker for a team playing for a greater cause. St. Louis was a team that a lot of people were high on when the brackets were released, but their exit to Oregon in the Round of 32 meant no more Billikens for us. I’m a big believer in the human spirit and if anyone could have beaten the overall #1 seed before the Final Four, it was SLU.
#2 Georgetown vs. #4 Syracuse
As much as I loved watching Florida Gulf Coast’s win over the Hoyas, I wanted to see this rivalry one last time before they head to different conferences. One of the great rivalries in college basketball, the Gtown and ‘Cuse would love one more go at it as Big East foes. I truly hope the two schools start an annual non-conference showdown so that this tradition doesn’t die.
#1 Indiana vs. #6 Butler
Maybe the B-town bias is coming through again (#shameincreasingslowly), but this series could develop into one of the next great college basketball rivalries. Butler emerged as a strong program at the exact right time (when IU was on its knees) to take bragging rights for the state. Suddenly, big brother came home from college and little brother had been working out enough to kick his ass. The Bulldogs pulled out a thriller in Indianapolis when these two met in the regular season and you can tell that neither team will back down for supremacy in the basketball-driven state of Indiana.
#5 VCU vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast
This year’s VCU against the actual VCU? Yes, please. No doubt in my mind that the Rams would win, but that’s what we all said about Georgetown too.
#5 Wisconsin vs. #3 Marquette
An unlikely matchup that would have to occur in the championship game, but if the bracket were arranged just a little different, these two teams could potentially have met in the round of 32. This is a downplayed and very unique rivalry that doesn’t get enough attention. One team relies on athleticism to win, the other on a slow, deliberate system. The uniqueness comes from that fact that a lot of Marquette students are Wisconsin football fans, seeing as they don’t have a team of their own. But when they meet on the basketball court, lines are drawn and all bets are off. This would’ve been a fun one to watch.
Overall, I have absolutely ZERO complaints about this tournament. While that opinion might change as soon as Indiana loses, regardless, there’s been enough excitement and drama to satisfy me. I read somewhere that this is the fifth-least “chalkiest” Sweet Sixteen in history based on seeding which is pretty cool. Anyways, bad luck to your brackets and appreciate this near-perfect example of a tournament championship.