No riffraff allowed: This is a blue-blood Final Four
The four teams involved have a combined 49 Final Four appearances, which sets a record. The schools also have won a combined 13 national titles, with each of the four having won at least one. It’s the third Final Four in six seasons in which each of the participants have won at least one title; it also happened in 2009 (Connecticut, Michigan State, North Carolina and Villanova) and 2007 (Florida, Georgetown, Ohio State and UCLA).
Kentucky is making its 15th Final Four appearance and its second in a row. The 15 appearances are tied for third-most. Kansas will be in its 14th Final Four, which is fifth-most. Ohio State is in its 11th Final Four and Louisville its ninth.
“This is what you come to Kansas for,” Jayhawks guard Tyshawn Taylor told reporters after his team downed North Carolina in the Midwest Regional final. “It’s a great feeling, but it’s just one step.”
But for all the success these schools have had, Kansas is the only one to win a national title in the past decade. The Jayhawks downed Memphis for the 2008 title; that Memphis team was coached by John Calipari, who now is at Kentucky.
Kentucky’s most recent title came in 1998, when Tubby Smith was in his first season as coach. The bulk of that team signed with UK when Rick Pitino was coach; Pitino now is at Louisville.
Louisville’s most recent title came in 1986; Ohio State’s lone title came in 1960.
This Final Four also is a return to normalcy of sorts. Last year, for just the third time since the NCAA began seeding the field in 1979, there were no No. 1 seeds in the Final Four. In addition, the sum of the seeds was 26, which was a record high. This season, the sum of the seeds is nine: Kentucky is a No. 1, Kansas and Ohio State are No. 2s and Louisville is a No. 4.
It’s just the second time since ’79 that there has been this seeding configuration; the other time was in 1995, when UCLA was the lone No. 1 and took the title.
Louisville’s presence means the Big East has had a team in the Final Four in four consecutive seasons; that’s the longest current streak for any conference. The SEC is second with two in a row. Kansas is the Big 12’s first Final Four team since ’08, when the Jayhawks won it all.
Also of note: This is the second season in a row in which no ACC team has advanced to the Final Four. It’s also the second time in a seven-season stretch that has happened (2006 and ’07 was the other). Between 1981 and 2010, the ACC had at least one team in the Final Four 24 times.
The presence of Kentucky and Louisville makes this the first Final Four since 1991 in which two schools from the same state have advanced to the national semifinals (it was Duke and North Carolina in ’91, though they didn’t play). The UK-UL matchup in a national semifinal will be the first time two schools from the same state have met in the Final Four since Cincinnati beat Ohio State for the 1962 national title.
It will be Kentucky’s second trip to New Orleans in the past month; the Wildcats lost in the SEC tournament final to Vanderbilt on March 11. That tourney was at the New Orleans Arena; the Final Four is at the Superdome.
This is the fifth Final Four at the Superdome. Each or the preceding four has been memorable. The first came in 1982, when freshman Michael Jordan hit the game-winning jumper for North Carolina against Georgetown to give Dean Smith his first national title. The second came in 1987, when Keith Smart’s baseline jumper in the final seconds lifted Indiana past Syracuse; that was Hoosiers coach Bob Knight’s last national title. In 1993, Smith won his second and last national title, guiding UNC past Michigan in a game best-remembered for the Wolverines’ Chris Webber calling a timeout he didn’t have in the final seconds. And in 2003, freshman Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse past Kansas for the national championship; that is Jim Boeheim’s only national title.
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