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By Andrew Kahn
Even with limited drama—none of the regional finals were particularly thrilling—the NCAA Tournament is a wonderful thing, the perfect blend of fairness and unpredictability. The No. 1 overall seed will head to Atlanta where they’ll face a 9 seed that came in second in the Missouri Valley. They’ll be joined by two talented 4 seeds that are peaking at the right time.
1. Final Four is in the Cards
Rick Pitino’s squad returns to the Final Four for the second straight year. Like the other Kentucky basketball powerhouse last season, Louisville is the big favorite to win it all. The Cardinals regrouped after a gruesome injury to a teammate and put together a monster second half against Duke on Sunday. Russ Smith finished with 23 points. It was a great day for Louisville basketball, as the women’s team shocked No. 1 seed Baylor on Sunday night to advance to the regional final.
2. Not that Kansas school
Cue the Shocker puns. Wichita is only the second 9 seed to reach the Final Four, joining the 1979 Penn team. To become the first to reach the finals, they’ll have to get by Louisville. That shouldn’t seem too difficult considering Wichita State has already taken down a 1 seed (Gonzaga) and a 2 seed (Ohio State), dominating their four NCAA Tournament opponents. The Shockers have caught fire at the right time. They hit 34 percent of their threes during the season, but have hit 27 of 60 (45 percent) over the last three games.
3. The New Fab Five
John Beilein has had great success in the NCAA Tournament. Coaching his most talented team of his career, John Beilein has reached his first Final Four. He will face a familiar foe in Atlanta: Jim Boeheim, against whom he is 0-7, most of those losses during Beilein’s West Virginia days. The Wolverines’ epic comeback against Kansas on Friday night—they were down 14 with less than 7 minutes left and five with 21 seconds left—is the Tournament’s best moment so far. Michigan carried that momentum to Sunday, blitzing Florida 13-0 and winning by 20.
4. Orange emerges from East
Syracuse showed signs they were getting it together when they advanced to the finals of the Big East Tournament. Their 2-3 zone baffled No. 1 seed Indiana on Thursday and they smothered cold-shooting conference foe Marquette on Saturday, winning 55-39 to advance to the Final Four. It is Boeheim’s fourth Final Four and his most recent trip since winning it all in 2003.
5. Kevin Ware
It was supposed to be a homecoming of sorts for Louisville’s Kevin Ware. The reserve guard was born in the Bronx but moved to Atlanta when he was 14. His team has advanced to the Final Four, but Ware suffered a horrific leg injury late in the first half of Sunday’s game against Duke. If you haven’t seen it, be thankful, and don’t seek out any replays. Ware’s broken leg left his teammates emotionally distraught. Chane Behanan wore Ware’s No. 5 jersey in the waning seconds of the victory.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local who has written for ESPN the Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.