Column: Unexpected upsets create a special Final Four

Posted on Apr 3 2019 - 5:50am by Justin Dial

Well, here we are. March has passed with its fair share of madness, excitement and suspense in the 60 games played these past few weeks.

The Final Four is now set: No. 1 seed Virginia, No. 2 seed Michigan State, No. 3 seed Texas Tech and No. 5 seed Auburn. One of these teams will soon earn its place in the history books and be crowned the kings of college basketball for a calendar year.

It seemed from the beginning that No. 1 seed Duke was destined to win the title, with players like Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones leading the way for the Blue Devils. Four NBA Draft prospects, with hall of fame coach Mike Krzyzewski at the helm, appeared unbeatable.

But that’s why the tournament is like nothing else in the sporting world. Two missed tip-ins by UCF and Virginia Tech magically kept the Blue Devils’ dream alive for a little longer. That is, until they ran into Cassius Winston and the Michigan State Spartans.

The game was decided by a single point, but this time, Duke couldn’t escape.

Now that Duke is out, it seems that the prophesied winner hails from the Southeastern Conference. The Auburn Tigers are in their first Final Four in school history and are riding an improbable run to the final weekend.

Though Michigan State downed the vaunted Blue Devils of Duke in the Elite Eight, Auburn may have the most impressive run to the Final Four of all time.

Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky — the top three winningest programs in men’s college basketball history — all lost to Auburn. With former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl running the show, I won’t be surprised to see Auburn beat Virginia and represent the SEC in the championship game.

Virginia is also making history in this year’s tournament. After becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed, the Cavaliers avenged that embarrassing loss by reaching the Final Four for the third time in school history and the first time since 1984.

With Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and Mamadi Diakite on the court, Virginia has the ability to beat anyone left in the tournament. However, I don’t see Auburn losing just yet.

For me, Texas Tech is the biggest wild card remaining. The Red Raiders, like their upcoming opponent Michigan State, have knocked off a No. 1 seed (Gonzaga) on their path to the Final Four. Unlike Michigan State, however, Texas Tech is playing for something more.

Prior to his passing on Sunday afternoon, California-based rapper Nipsey Hussle was seen cheering on Texas Tech against Gonzaga in Anaheim, California, on Saturday night. He was spotted sharing an embrace with Red Raider senior Brandone Francis following the team’s upset win.

If we know anything about sports, it’s that playing on emotion can carry a team to heights never thought possible. Texas Tech will shut down Cassius Winston on Saturday evening and advance to the championship game.

Obviously, anything could happen this weekend when these four teams take the court. There are no teams that are head and heels above others, but with the circumstances presented, I see a championship game featuring Auburn and Texas Tech — two teams that few thought capable of playing at the level of the Final Four.

It’s been a fun journey, and now we have three games left to enjoy until we wait to do it again next March.

Here’s to the final weekend of college basketball.