The NCAA bracket 2011 has surprised virtually everyone. However, it doesn’t have anything that no one hasn’t seen before. By now, seeing Butler in the Final Four has become traditional, no matter how low they are before the tournament. Meanwhile, Connecticut is hardly a stranger to this stage, as it just reached the Final Four two years ago. Even VCU’s place here isn’t unprecedented, and neither is a Kentucky-North Carolina regional final.
Today, the NCAA tournament will welcome two more Final Four teams as Kansas takes on VCU, and Kentucky clashes with North Carolina. VCU is a No. 11 seed from the CAA, taking on an all powerful No. 1 seed that’s breezed through with little challenges, and is the biggest favorite left in the Big Dance.
Five years ago, George Mason was the first CAA No. 11 seed to be in that exact position — and Connecticut remembers how that turned out. Therefore, if VCU was to actually pull the massive upset, it wouldn’t be a new sight. However, the fact that they came from the “First Four” part of the bracket, and that they would face fellow midmajor Butler in the Final Four, is a new wrinkle.
Kansas often has trouble with midmajors in the tournament, as they lost to Northern Iowa last year, got taken to the limit by Davidson in the 2008 Elite Eight and was stunned by Bucknell and Bradley in the 2005 and 2006 first round. But Florida gave them an extra lesson Saturday in what happens when a midmajor just won’t go away in the Elite Eight.
But while the Jayhawks are still the overwhelming favorite there, the Kentucky-North Carolina showdown is more of a toss-up. Two of the game’s greatest powers are squaring off for a Final Four berth, although this isn’t the first time it has happened.
In both cases, the Tar Heels held off the Wildcats to advance in 1995 and 1977. Kentucky is also trying to defy its recent tournament past after losing in the Elite Eight last season to West Virginia. As for North Carolina, it looks to join Connecticut by making the Final Four for the second time in three years — and in the year after they missed the Dance altogether.
Butler and Connecticut also repeated past history, as the Bulldogs got to the Final Four for the second straight year — although this is the first time they beat Florida in March. As for the Huskies, this is their fourth regional title, with all of them coming from the West region.
Although the bracket has defied all expectations, it has not defied NCAA tournament history. The more things change, the more they stay the same — which bodes well for VCU and North Carolina today.
CBS Sports- “Division I Men’s Bracket”
Nevada Appeal- “VCU looks for upset against Kansas”
ESPN- “NCAA Basketball Tournament History: Kansas Jayhawks”
Asheville Citizen Times- “Tar Heels vs Wildcats a royal matchup”