March Madness 2017: Welcome to a wild Final Four

Almost every year, the madness of March takes place in the first few days of the NCAA Tournament. We get to have the excitement of the No. 14 seed knockoff off a No. 3 from a huge conference, while a bunch of kids we’ve never watched from a school we’ve never heard of dance all over the court.

This year, we saw the exact opposite play out. The lowest seed to win in the first round was the 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who were wiped out in the second round. The No. 11 Xavier Musketeers did pull off an upset over the Maryland Terrapins before crushing the third-seeded Florida State Seminoles, but Xavier is from the Big East, so there is some feeling of a Cinderella gone twisted.

Yet, this tournament will always be remembered for the wacky Final Four it produced. It almost seems like it came straight out of an EA Sports game, with teams being randomly advanced further than would ever happen in real life. Normally, this is a time where the UCLA Bruins and Duke Blue Devils are taking center stage.

Instead, we have the Oregon Ducks, Gonzaga Bulldogs, North Carolina Tar Heels and South Carolina Gamecocks. While it is normal to see the Tar Heels at this stage, the other three are completely out of the blue. Whle Gonzaga has been in the tournament on an annual basis for almost two decades – and finished with just one loss as a No. 1 seed this year – few expected this. The Bulldogs always flame out in March, never having reached the Final Four.

Meanwhile, Oregon went 78 years without getting to the Final Four after winning the inaugural NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament back in 1939. The Ducks lost Chris Boucher at the end of the season with a torn ACL, making most believe they would be picked off early. Instead, Oregon has authored an inspiring run behind Tyler Dorsey and others, knocking off the likes of the heavily-favored Kansas Jayhawks in the Midwest Regional Final.

Then there are the Gamecocks, a forgotten team coming out of the most disrespected power-5 basketball conference in the land. South Carolina was able to take care of business in the first two rounds in its home state at Greenville, squashing the Marquette Golden Eagles and then, in a large upset, the Duke Blue Devils. After that, it was another pair of upsets over the Baylor Bears and Florida Gators at Madison Square Garden. All told, South Carolina has reached the Final Four after going without a tournament win for over 40 years.

Nobody can say this tournament wasn’t without its madness … once again.

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