Call this the Far-Fetched Four.
If you had Marquette, Kansas, Syracuse and Texas in your office bracket, you don’t even have to watch the Final Four semifinals Saturday night. You won already.
For the rest of us, here’s a quartet hardly anyone saw coming. And they are coming hard, having knocked off three No.1 seeds and won their regional finals this weekend by an average of 10.5 points.
All four No.1 seeds entered the weekend still eligible for New Orleans. But only Texas gets to sample Bourbon Street.
Supposed juggernauts Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma got upset during the weekend, leaving this Final Four as wide open as an interstate highway at 3 a.m.
It’s also a weird Final Four for folks with an ACC connection. For the past six years and 14 of the past 15 – until this season – the ACC has placed a team in the Final Four.
This year the league couldn’t even place a team into the Elite Eight. The conference had boasted at least one Elite Eight team every year since 1980.
So is this a Forgettable Four as well?
It is if you just care about the ACC. After the national championships won by Duke in 2001 and Maryland in 2002, the trophy will leave the league in 2003.
Duke and Maryland were beaten in the Sweet 16, Wake Forest flamed out in the second round and N.C. State was one and done.
If you’re a fan of college basketball, however, there’s great potential here.
These four teams are hardly unknowns this season; Texas was ranked No. 5 in the final pre-tournament Associated Press poll, followed by No. 6 Kansas, No. 11 Marquette and No. 12 Syracuse.
They all boast at least one dazzling player. Marquette’s Dwyane Wade produced a spectacular triple-double against Kentucky that led to an 83-69 win.
Kansas, a No.2 seed, has a pair of senior stars in center Nick Collison and guard Kirk Hinrich. Both played one wonderful game and one dud in Anaheim, Calif., and luckily timed their bad games so they didn’t occur at the same time.
Hinrich hit for 28 points in the only regional final that was close, Kansas’ 78-75 win over Arizona.
Syracuse (like Marquette, a No.3 seed) boasts freshman Carmelo Anthony, who scored 20 points as the Orangemen roughed up Oklahoma 63-47 in the early game Sunday.
And Texas has point guard T.J. Ford, who keyed the Longhorns’ 85-76 win over Michigan State Sunday by using a final gear faster than high-speed Internet access.
Will Williams win his first national championship at Kansas and then leave the state in his rear-view mirror on his way to either Chapel Hill or Los Angeles to take another job?
Will Barnes win a national championship at Texas before Mack Brown does?
Can Syracuse’s masterful 2-3 zone defense stop Ford?
Marquette hasn’t made the Final Four since 1977, when the late Al McGuire got it there. Marquette beat Charlotte and then North Carolina in that one. McGuire cried, retired and later became a beloved broadcaster whose catchphrases included the one now adopted by this Marquette team:
For this Final Four, that sums it up as well as anything.