Running down an unexpectedly exciting Final Four

Connecticut was supposed to be too young, Kentucky too immature,

Butler too old news and Virginia Commonwealth too far off the

radar.

This is some kinda Final Four, huh?

After two weeks of games even the most astute prognosticators

couldn’t have predicted, we’re finally at a Final Four unlike any

other.

After all those brackets around the country hit the shredder,

Kentucky and Connecticut will play in the blue blood bracket, while

Butler and VCU face off in the up-and-comers division. Winners get

a chance at the really big stage at really big Reliant Stadium.

Whatever happens, it’s sure to go down as one of the more

memorable NCAA tournaments in history. Heck, it already has

been.

So, to get you geared up, we’ve pulled together a little

something that’s part history lesson, part rundown of this year’s

teams and, hopefully, an entertaining look at this

are-these-really-the-teams foursome.

THE UNDERDOGS

In honor of underdogs Butler and VCU getting to the Final Four,

we’d thought it’d be interesting to look back at some of the

all-time upset teams in NCAA tournament history:

North Carolina State, 1983. Lorenzo Charles dunking, Jim Valvano

running, ‘Pack beats Phi Slama Jama. Doesn’t get much better than

that.

Indiana State, 1979. So what if Magic and Michigan State took

down the Sycamores? What Larry Bird and his batch of underlings did

was incredible stuff.

George Mason, 2006. The trendsetter for the current mid-major

runs. The Patriots took down big boys Michigan State, North

Carolina and No. 1 overall seed UConn to get to the Final Four.

Butler, 2010. The Bulldogs set their own standard just last

year, coming within a nearly-banked-in halfcourt shot by Gordon

Hayward of becoming the ultimate Cinderella against Duke.

Villanova, 1985. First year of the 64-team field and the

Wildcats made it a memorable one, becoming the highest seed to win

a national championship as a No. 8.

Louisiana State, 1986. First No. 11 seed to reach the Final

Four.

NUMBERS

33-5-11 – Age in years, months and days of Butler’s Brad

Stevens, making him the second-youngest coach to reach the Final

Four since 1972 (Bob Knight, 32-4-29).

3 – Number of No. 11 seeds to reach the Final Four: LSU in 1986,

George Mason in 2006, VCU this year.

5 – NCAA tournament games won by VCU, most ever to reach the

Final Four.

14 – Final Four appearances by Kentucky, eight more than the

other three teams combined.

19 – Games decided by three points or fewer in this year’s NCAA

tournament, tied for second behind the 24 in 1990 for most since

the field expanded to 64 teams.

26 – Combined seeds of Connecticut (three), Kentucky (four),

Butler (eight) and VCU (11), highest in Final Four history. The

previous high was 22 in 2000.

40 – Games played by VCU and Connecticut (once they play

Saturday), matching the modern-day (since 1948) record, set seven

previous times.

ONE-MAN SHOWS

UConn’s Kemba Walker has put on a virtuoso performance, not just

in the NCAA tournament, but also in the Big East tournament. He may

be a slender 6 feet 1, but he has carried the Huskies through nine

straight elimination games.

In honor of his play, here are a few other impressive one-man

shows through the years:

Stephen Curry, Davidson, 2008. The king of mid-major mayhem.

Danny Manning, Kansas, 1988. The Jayhawks were known as Danny

and the Miracles, but they might be considered The Untouchables

when it comes to one leading the many in NCAA tournament

history.

Larry Bird, Indiana State, 1979. Larry Legend could have led Moe

and Curly to the title game the way he was playing.

Bill Bradley, Princeton, 1965. Led the unheralded Tigers to the

Final Four, set an NCAA tournament record with 58 points against

Wichita State in the third-place game.

Bill Walton, UCLA, 1973. Big Red had some help but was as

dominating as perhaps anyone in NCAA tournament history, capping it

with 44 points in the title game.

Jerry West, West Virginia, 1959. He set an NCAA tournament

record while averaging 32 points and took the no-name Mountaineers

into the title game against California.

Lew Alcindor, UCLA, 1967. The man who would later become Kareem

helped the Bruins set a tournament record for average margin of

victory on their way to 10 straight Final Four wins.

Bill Russell, San Francisco, 1956. Twenty-six points, 27

rebounds in the title game alone.

Austin Carr, Notre Dame. 1970. Just three games, but went for

61, 52 and 45. Nice.

DID YOU KNOW?

Butler is the first Division I school from Indiana to reach

consecutive Final Fours. Five-time national champion Indiana,

Purdue and Notre Dame had never done it.

Kentucky coach John Calipari joins Rick Pitino as the only

coaches to lead three different schools to the Final Four. Calipari

also took Massachusetts and Memphis, while Pitino did it with

Providence, Kentucky and Louisville.

The Horizon League (Butler 2010-11) joins the Big West (UNLV

1990-91), Missouri Valley (Cincinnati 1961-62) and West Coast (San

Francisco 1955-56) conferences as the only non-BCS conferences to

send a member to consecutive Final Fours.

All four of UConn’s Final Four appearances (1999, 2004, 2009,

2011) have gone through the NCAA tournament’s West regional.

Butler is one of nine teams to reach the Final Four a year after

losing in the national title game, joining Ohio St. (1962), North

Carolina (1969), North Carolina (1982), Houston (1984), Duke

(1991), Michigan (1993), Kentucky (1998) and Michigan State

(2010).

UConn’s men’s and women’s teams have reached the Final Four in

the same season for the third time. Only six other schools have

done it, none more than once.

This year’s tournament marks the first time since 1983 that the

Final Four teams have winning streaks of at least five games. This

year’s schools have streaks of 13 (Butler), nine (Connecticut),

nine (Kentucky) and five (VCU). In 1983, Houston had won 25

straight, Louisville 16, North Carolina State eight and Georgia

seven.