Well, we have finally made it
Back in October 351 Division I Basketball teams started with a dream that dream to be in San Antonio the last weekend of March and the first days of April to play in The Final Four and for one the dream of cutting down the nets Monday night and being crowned the National Champion.
The 2018 NCAA Tournament began with 68 teams and after two weeks of basketball which included its usual amount of upsets from teams like UMBC from the America East and Buffalo from the Mid-American amongst. The four teams that made it to the Alamo City three have been here before and won it all and one, well, truly magical
Here is a look at those four teams
SOUTH REGIONAL CHAMPION: LOYOLA CHICAGO RAMBLERS (32-5)
The past few seasons, sports fans in Chicago have seen their share of champions such as the Cubs in 2016 breaking their 108-year curse of the Billy Goat and the Blackhawks winning three Stanley Cups.
However, the story that the Ramblers have put together this season is truly one to last a lifetime no matter what happens this weekend.
You have to go back to the days of DePaul with Mark Aguirre and head coach Ray Meyer to have team from Chicago make the Final Four that was in 1979 in Salt Lake City losing to Larry Bird and Indiana State in the semi-final but defeated Penn in the third-place game.
The Ramblers were the 11th seed in the South regional. Their trek began in Dallas when they defeated Miami (FLA) and then Tennessee at the buzzer to reach the sweet 16. Then in Atlanta, they defeated another glass slipperite the Wolfpack of Nevada from the Mountain West before punching their Final Four ticket with a convincing win over Kansas State.
Loyola’s first three wins in the tournament came by a total of four points. LUC became the fourth 11th seed to make the Final Four with the last being Virginia Commonwealth in 2011 and the first MVC team since Wichita State in 2013 making basketball’s great weekend.
Loyola’s campus is on the far north side of Chicago off of Sheridan Road. It has its own station on the CTA rapid transit. They also have a smaller campus down in The Loop.
LUC is in its fourth season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. They were a charter member of the Midwestern Collegiate/Horizon League but when Creighton joined the realigned Big East, the Valley asked the Ramblers to join them and they did.
In the 1960’s, Loyola was a basketball power in fact they were better than DePaul, Northwestern, and even Notre Dame in the 1960s they won the 1963 National Championship on a tip-in by Vic Rouse at the buzzer to defeat Cincinnati. That squad was led by Jerry Harkness and Johnny Egan.
The Ramblers, whose nickname goes back to the time when they had football in 1926 when they would travel to their games someone called them they were rambling across the country and the moniker sticked. Last made it to the tournament in 1985 when led by Alfredrick Hughes, LUC made it to the Sweet 16 losing to Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the East Regional semifinal.
Two seasons ago, Loyola won its first title since 1963 capturing the Collegiate Basketball Invitational title defeating Rider, Oral Roberts, Seattle, then Louisiana-Monroe for the title in a two-game series.
This season, LUC was picked third in the Valley behind Northern Iowa and Missouri State.
They started the season with seven straight wins before losing at Boise State on November 30th. After the loss to the Broncos, they won three straight before having their only multi-game losing streak of the season at Milwaukee and then in the Valley opener to the Bears in Springfield.
From that point on, they began to roll and went on a seven-game winning streak before losing to Bradley.
They finished MVC play with a 15-3 record and were one of the best mid-major teams in the country along with Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and New Mexico State
At Arch Madness (the MVC Tournament) in St. Louis they defeated Northern Iowa, avenged their loss to Bradley and defeated Illinois State to make it to the tournament and start their magic run.
Loyola is led by Porter Moser in his seventh season at the school. He was a head coach at Arkansas Little Rock and Illinois State. After he was dismissed by the Redbirds. The Chicagoland native (Naperville) joined Rick Majerus’ staff at Saint Louis and was part of a Billikens team that returned to glory and the NCAA Tournament.
WEST REGIONAL CHAMPION MICHIGAN (32-7)
The Wolverines returned to the Final Four for the first time since 2013 in Atlanta when they defeated Syracuse and then lost to Louisville in the title game. The team was led by Trey Burkle
This is the sixth (or eighth) time the Maize and Blue had made to the Final Four. Winning the title in 1989 under Steve Fisher when they defeated Seton Hall in Seattle led by Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson.
This season the U of M finished third in the regular season Big Ten standings behind Purdue, Michigan State, and Ohio State.
At the B1G Tournament in New York, the Wolverines defeated Nebraska, MSU and then Purdue to win the tournament.
They went to the West Regional as the number three seed. They began the tournament in Wichita with an easy win over Montana from the Big Sky Conference then defeated Houston on a last second game winner from Poole.
At the sweet 16 in Los Angeles, Michigan defeated Texas A&M in a dominating performance 99-72 then defeated surprising Florida State who defeated Gonzaga in their previous game sending them to San Antonio.
Head Coach John Beilein is no stranger to the Tournament, along with the 2013 team. Two years ago, they came out of the First Four before losing to Notre Dame and last season made it to the Sweet 16 before having their season end at the hands at Oregon, When he was at West Virginia, Beilein made two deep runs in the tournament once to the Sweet 16 and once to the Elite Eight.
His teams are lunch pail teams. Gritty teams that just get the job done and this group will face Loyola in the semi-finals.
EAST REGIONAL CHAMPION: VILLANOVA WILDCATS (34-5)
After winning the title over North Carolina two years ago in Houston and ten being upset by Wisconsin last season in the second round, the men from Philadelphia’s Main Line are back in the Final Four.
They began this season with a heavy heart as the most famous coach in VU history, Rollie Massimino the man who led the Wildcats to the 1985 National title defeating mighty Georgetown passed away at the age of 82 in the summer.
In the tournament as the number one seed in the East Regional, the Blue and White steamrolled through their first two games in Pittsburgh defeating Radford from the big South Conference and the First Four then had little trouble in beating Alabama.
At the East Regional in Boston, VU handled a pair of Big 12 Conference opponents first West Virginia in the Sweet 16 and then Texas Tech in the regional final and their ticket to the Final Four.
The Wildcats went 11-0 in none-conference play and never looked back winning the Big East Regular season title with a two-game cushion over Xavier. Their only regular season losses came at home to St. John’s and road setbacks at Creighton and Providence.
In the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden they defeated Marquette, Butler, and avenged their loss to the Friars winning in overtime heading into the tournament.
Head Coach Jay Wright is in his 17th season as head coach. He was an assistant under Massimino both at VU and then at UNLV. He was head coach at Hofstra University on Long Island before heading back to Philadelphia.
In his tenure the Wildcats have won five Big East titles and three tournament crowns and also went to the Final Four in 2009 losing to North Carolina in the semi-finals in Detroit.
Nova will be looking for their second title in the last three years
MIDWEST REGIONAL CHAMPION: KANSAS JAYHAWKS (31-7)
One of the true blue bloods of College Basketball, the Jayhawks are in the Final Four for the 15th time in their history but their first since 2012 in New Orleans when they defeated Ohio State then lost to Kentucky in the championship game.
KU has been one of the top teams all season long beginning the season fourth and third in the national polls. After defeating West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament they were the number one seed in the Midwest. Their third straight number one seed.
In the tournament, KU began close to home in Wichita where they defeated Ivy League Champion Penn and then in the second round had all they could handle from Seton Hall before winning 83-79.
At the Midwest Regional Final in Omaha, the Hawks got by Clemson 80-76 before defeating Duke 85-81 that took overtime in one of the best game of this year’s tournament.
KU began the season strong with seven straight but when they got into conference play, they had their struggles before peaking late in the season to win the regular season crown. The Big 12 senf five teams to the tournament and a quartet made the sweet 16.
At the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, KU defeated arch-rival Kansas State and then West Virginia for their 14th consecutive title (regular season and tournament combined) and were tabbed as the top seed in the Midwest.
Bill Self who began his coaching career at Kansas under Larry Brown in 1986 when the Hawks went to the Final Four in Dallas is in his 15th season in Lawrence this is his third Final Four team as well as the 2012 group, he also took the 2007 team to San Antonio and defeated Memphis in overtime to win their first title since Danny Manning’s 1988 squad.
The chant ROCK CHALK JAY HAWK has been heard many times in the Alamo City and will be heard again Saturday night against Villanova.
THE HOST CITY
For the city of San Antonio, this is the fourth time the Final Four will be played in the Alamodome. The first came in 1998 when Tubby Smith and Kentucky defeated Rik Majerus Utah squad
In 2004, it was Jim Calhoun and Connecticut cutting down the nets when they defeated Georgia Tech in the title game then came the great Kansas win over Memphis. It is the first time the Alamo City has had the tournament since the first and second rounds in 2014 at the AT&T Center the home of the NBA San Antonio Spurs.
The host school are the Roadrunners of Texas-San Antonio out of Conference USA. There you have it! My look at the four teams left to play for a title
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!