Every March, the NCAA tournament brings forth countless memorable surprises, which are why it is regarded as one of the most highly-anticipated sporting events to date. This year, the intensity level is even greater.
For the first time in NCAA history, four #1 teams will battle it out in the Final Four. North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, and Memphis are set to compete this weekend, and Monday night a champion will be crowned. Though all of these teams experienced their struggles during the regular season, there is no question that they were the top four contenders in the country. The Tar Heels will square off against the Jayhawks, while the Tigers will battle the Bruins. Each of these schools has bred some of the most influential players in basketball history, including Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Wilt Chamberlain, demonstrating just how successful each respective basketball program has been. Come Monday, one of these schools will reach another historic feat.
What intensifies the North Carolina vs. Kansas match up even more is the fact that UNC head coach Roy Williams left the Jayhawks in 2003 to go coach at North Carolina, his alma mater. Many considered him a traitor for doing so, but either way it is clear that he was able to help make an impact with the Tar Heels, as was evident by the National Championship that he brought to North Carolina in 2005.
Many find the NCAA tournament entertaining considering it brings out the best in every competitor. Two years ago, George Mason shocked the basketball world with their trip to the Final Four. This year, Davidson, a school of just 1,700 students, defeated a handful of the country’s top teams before losing a disheartening game against Kansas by a score of 59-57. The stakes in this year’s tournament only mean that certain players, such as North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough, UCLA’s Kevin Love, Kansas’ Brandon Rush, and Memphis’ Derrick Rose, will have to bring their game to another level. As mentioned earlier, each school has generated a handful of athletes that have gone down in sports history as some of the most recognized historical figures. This weekend, the game’s current top superstars will have a similar opportunity.
Who is favored to come out on top? Most experts believe that North Carolina has the edge, especially since the Tar Heels have probably been the most consistent of the four over the past decade. The Memphis Tigers actually have something else to play for, as one more win will secure them the record for most victories by an NCAA Division 1 team in a single season. It is also interesting that these four teams headed into the season ranked as the top four in the country. Despite all of the leaps and bounds experienced in the regular season, we are back to where we started, and this weekend a definite champion will be crowned.