Road to the Final Four
This March has been all the madness sports fans hoped it would be. From upsets to Cinderella teams, college men and women’s basketball has yet to disappoint. All the madness has boiled down to just four teams remaining in both tournaments, and it’s time for a deep dive into how these teams made it to this point.
Ladies first, of course. The Lady Gamecocks of South Carolina are the defending National Champions, and they are currently playing like they want another ring. The team’s best player, Aliyah Boston is a double-double machine. She holds the record for the most double-doubles in South Carolina women’s basketball history. With a commanding win over Maryland in the Elite Eight, the Gamecocks have won 42 consecutive games, and they are not looking to break that streak anytime soon.
South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston
The Gamecocks will face off with Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Final Four. Clark has led Iowa to its first Final Four since 1993 and is a promising star in college hoops. Clark averages 27 points per game and was recently labeled the “most exciting player in March Madness” by ESPN.
The SEC will be well represented in this year’s women’s Final Four (we’ll get to the guys later). On Friday, LSU women’s basketball will compete against Virginia Tech for a chance to go to the title game. While there have been plenty of stories about this year’s LSU team all season, and rightfully so, VA Tech is not to be overlooked. The Hokies have four players averaging double digit points per game, and they have a roster of mostly upperclassmen. They have an elite combination of talent and experience that is not to be taken lightly.
On the other side of this matchup, Angel Reese and Flau’Jae Johnson headline a talent group of LSU players. Reese is one of the best players in the country, averaging 23 points and 15 rebounds per game. Despite having a slew of incoming talent, LSU was counted out early on. Looking back on their season, the Tigers only lost two games: versus South Carolina and Tennessee. The former is worth noting since there is a potential title game matchup there.
LSU’s Angel Reese
While the ladies have two one-seeds heading into the Final Four, the men’s bracket looks a bit crazier. Here’s some unlikely bracket math for you: A four-seed, two five-seeds, and a nine-seed. This is March. On Saturday, (4) UConn will take on (5) Miami and (5) San Diego State will take on (9) Florida Atlantic. I’m sure everyone’s bracket is in the trash by now.
There was a lot of shuffling in the men’s AP top 10 all year long, and for only the ninth and tenth ranked teams (Gonzaga and UConn) to still be standing is wild. Teams like Houston and Alabama hit the exit earlier than anyone thought they would, with both squads losing in the Sweet Sixteen. Most of the “best teams in the country” seemed to play their best basketball during the regular season, not the tournament.
Leaving the chaos of March and our busted brackets behind, early April is shaping up to be a great time for college basketball fans. Even with the lack of 1-3 seeds, the men’s tournament will 100% end on a high note. While most people doubted them, those teams are there because they fought to be there, despite the seeding.
There’s a reason why I never make brackets, but I will say that I would be surprised if the Gamecocks of South Carolina do not repeat as National Champions. I’ll also say that I would not be surprised if Miami, with their whopping 17.4% title odds, wins it all.