Sean Powers ’15
This year’s Final Four is set to tip off on Saturday and the four teams are set and ready to go. The first game features the Number 1 overall seed Florida Gators versus the upset prone 7 seeded Connecticut Huskies. The second match up consists of the number 2 seeded Wisconsin Badgers taking on the freshmen led 8 seeded Kentucky Wildcats. What stands out is the fact that two of the final four teams in the tournament are a 7 seed or higher. Maybe UCONN and Kentucky were just under seeded or maybe the talent level is just increasing all around college basketball. These four teams left are traditionally basketball powerhouses but if you look at the roads each team took to the Final Four then you can see why there are so many more good teams in college basketball then there has been ever.
#1 Florida Gators (36-2) #7 Connecticut (30-8)
vs. #16 Albany 67-55 vs. #10 St. Joseph 89-81 OT
vs. #9 Pittsburgh 61-45 vs. #2 Villanova 77-65
vs. #4 UCLA 79-68 vs. #3 Iowa State 81-76
vs. #11 Dayton 62-52 vs. #4 Michigan State 60-54
#2 Wisconsin (30-7) #8 Kentucky (28-10)
vs. #15 American 75-35 vs. #9 Kansas State 56-49
vs. #7 Oregon 85-77 vs. #1 Wichita State 78-76
vs. #6 Baylor 69-52 vs. #4 Louisville 74-69
vs. #1 Arizona 64-63 OT vs. #2 Michigan 75-72
Florida had the easiest road to the Final Four and yet all of their games were close even if the score does not appear that way. If the 68th overall seed in the tournament can hang around with the top team then that should tell you something about how college basketball is changing. Sure Florida played a bad game but Albany was not a bad team either and they showed the world that they and many more small programs can play with teams like Florida. Another example of small programs playing with the competition then look no farther than Dayton who beat Ohio State, Syracuse, and Stanford consecutively. Smaller schools are getting better and it’s bringing up the completion level around the country. The paths that the other 3 teams took to get to the Final Four were a lot harder. What this tells us is that the competition level has evened out in all of the games and there were many teams that had chances to win and did not. This competition level has made the NCAA tournament a lot more enjoyable if that is even possible and it has busted brackets faster than ever. In the coming years, the competition will only even out more and don’t be surprised to see some small conference teams in the Final Four’s more often.
As for my prediction of this year I see Florida beating UCONN by 5 and Kentucky beating Wisconsin by 2, thus making an all SEC championship with Kentucky pulling off the upset against Florida. Enjoy the games.