Kansas, Villanova, Loyola Chicago and Michigan are headed to San Antonio. Here are some things to ponder about this year's Final Four:
Conference tournaments matter: All four teams won their conference tournaments. Momentum does make a difference.
Long layoffs are overblown: Michigan and Loyola Chicago won their respective conference tournaments on the Sunday before Selection Sunday. Both are in the Final Four.
2008 revisited: Kansas last won the national title in 2008, 10 years ago, in the same city and building as this year's Final Four: San Antonio’s Alamodome.
Loyola Chicago is the perfect Cinderella: The Ramblers have history, winning the national title in 1963 in a game that helped integrate the game. The Ramblers will deliver the Chicago media market. Sister Jean has made this a national/mainstream story. No offense to any other Valley school from a smaller community, but it wouldn’t have the same buzz as Loyola.
Loyola's run is huge for the Missouri Valley Conference: Creighton and Wichita State weren’t going to be easy to replace. The idea of taking Loyola was a stretch at the time. Now the Valley is back in the Final Four. There is no way they believed this could happen this fast, but they might as well milk this for everything they can over the next week and beyond.
The ACC got shut out: The league had a stellar season and the No. 1 overall seed in Virginia. Duke’s epic overtime loss to Kansas meant the ACC wouldn’t have a representative in the Final Four. No ACC presence resonates more than any other conference's absence since it has such a rich tradition in the sport.
The Big Ten is searching for its first title since 2000: Michigan State wasn’t beating North Carolina in 2009. Michigan had a chance in 2013. Wisconsin was on the cusp of beating Duke, but lost in 2015. Michigan has as much of a chance for a title as those previous three teams.
Villanova could win the title and have the Player of the Year: This doesn’t happen too often, but the Wildcats could capture both this weekend with a national title and Jalen Brunson collecting the Player of the Year awards.
Loyola reminds me of George Mason: The Ramblers likely don’t have a pro on the team. Neither did the Patriots. They both took out elite teams to get to the Final Four. And their runs were celebrated for being exactly what the sport needed at the time.
Names to remember: Omari Spellman has been special for Villanova; Duncan Robinson could pull off the implausible by going from Williams to a national title at Michigan; Ben Richardson is now making splash brothers-like 3s for Loyola; Malik Newman has delivered like the all-American he was billed to be when he came out of high school and ended up at Mississippi State before transferring to Kansas.
Villanova is a blue blood: The Wildcats are one of college basketball elites. If you didn’t think so before this Final Four trip, then you best get used to it now.
Rick Majerus will be fondly remembered: Majerus took Utah to the final game in 1998 when he coached Utah against Kentucky — in San Antonio. Now, his former assistant, Porter Moser, is carrying his teachings with him. The late, great Majerus would be incredibly proud of the way in which Moser has coached and prepared his Ramblers.
I had a Villanova-Michigan final with Villanova winning: But I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the four won the title. Yes, even Loyola. The Ramblers have oodles of confidence and run such efficient offense. Nothing is impossible or improbable.