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March Madness: So It’s Down to Four

Ladies and gentlemen, Cinderella is dead. To be specific, I’m referring to Florida Gulf Coast University, a.k.a Dunk City”, a.k.a that really fun team to watch whose goofy looking coach is married to a super-model. The Eagles’ glass slipper was smashed to bits by the gator chomp of the University of Florida just before midnight on Friday. Coach Andy Enfield’s squad led by double digits early, but after Florida went on a 16-0 late in the first half, FGCU couldn’t recover and fell behind for good. However, something tells me this won’t be the last time we see Florida Gulf Coast University making waves on the national level.

 

And just when we thought the tournament would boil down to only juggernauts, devoid of scrappy underdogs and teams seeking to wreck accumulators, another Cinderella picked up right where FGCU left off. The No.9 seed Shockers of Wichita State shocked the world (see what I did there?) when they upset the No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night, 70-66. But if you’ve watched the Shockers at all during this tournament, their victory shouldn’t have been that surprising. Despite having a bizarrely threatening mascot, they’ve been nothing short of spectacular in their portion of the West bracket, winning three games against No. 8 seed Pittsburgh, No. 1 seed Gonzaga and No. 13 seed La Salle by an average margin of victory of 12.6 points. It’ll be tough for their domination to continue, however, when they take on the overall No. 1 seed Louisville Cardinals on April 6. I’m not saying they’ll definitely get beat, but…well…yeah I’m pretty sure they’ll get beat.

 

Louisville has looked every bit like the top-seeded team in this tournament. They’ve survived one of the toughest regions, demolishing North Carolina A&T and Colorado State, edging out a tough Oregon squad, and rolling the highly-touted No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils, 85-63 (despite one of their players suffering one of the most horrific injuries you’ve seen in a while). I’m guessing the only way Wichita State upsets the Cardinals is by divine intervention – which is why they have Tim Tebow on their side.

 

The first team to punch its ticket to the Final Four was Syracuse, a No. 4 seed. They absolutely spanked Marquette on Saturday afternoon, winning 55-39 to advance to the school’s fifth Final Four and the first since 2003 – when they eventually won the whole damn tournament. A total of 59 points might not seem impressive, but holding a No. 3 seed to 39 is (especially considering Marquette hadn’t scored fewer than 47 points all season. The Orange (yes, Syracuse’s nickname is a color, one that’s as intimidating as an un-carved pumpkin) play a stingy defensive game that has baffled their opponents thus far. They also held No. 1 seed Indiana to its lowest output of the year in their previous game. The old adage is “defense wins championships” and I couldn’t agree more when it comes to college basketball.

 

But if any team is up to the task at creating the necessary offense to overcome the Orange, it’s Michigan. Although the Wolverines are one of the youngest teams in the tournament (starting three freshman, a sophomore and a junior), they’re also one of the schools most loaded with talented players – players that won’t need a diploma when they’re making millions in the NBA. Michigan is efficient and brings a high-powered offense every time they hit the hardwood. Now that their defense is starting to look just as good, there’s no hotter team left. And if there’s one thing that can beat a great defense, it’s momentum. My prediction: Michigan meets Louisville for the National Championship.

 

And you can hold me to that.

 

Pete Dombrosky

 

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