(CBS Local)- Thursday would have been the opening day of the NCAA Tournament. With the day having come and gone with no March Madness, fans, journalists and organizations alike are trying to find ways to cope without basketball.
For some, like the NCAA, that means putting together a bracket of the best tournament moments and having fans vote on them while reliving some of the biggest upsets and best shots of Marches past.
For others, like the good folks at Axios, that means taking bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s final projections, slotting them into a bracket and running a simulation of what could have been. That’s exactly what they did and we now have a Final Four. At least, one version of it.
Axios’ bracket played out in similar fashion to the general arc of college basketball this year. With just four teams left, there was only one #1 seed, two #3 seeds and a #4 seed vying to cut down the nets in Atlanta. The teams left standing? Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils, Kevin Willard’s Seton Hall Pirates and Mark Turgeon’s Maryland Terrapins.
How did we get here? Let’s dive in.
As one would expect from this college basketball season, there were quite a few upsets in the early rounds. #13 seed North Texas knocked off #4 seed Wisconsin and #5 seed Auburn, which would have been the Mean Green’s first two tournament wins in history.
On the other side of the top half of the bracket, both #12 seed Yale and #11 seed Indiana scored wins in their opening games though both fell short of making it out of the first weekend.
In the bottom half, it was #12 seed Richmond taking out #5 seed Butler, #11 seed Cincinnati dropping #6 seed Virginia and #13 seed Vermont scoring its first tournament win since a play-in game against Lamar in 2011-12, toppling #4 seed Louisville.
Other surprise Sweet 16 participants? How about #6 Penn State making its first appearance on the second weekend since 2000-01? Or #10 seed Arizona State knocking off #2 seed Kentucky?
The Final Four in itself is an unexpected mix of teams outside of well, Duke. Seton Hall would be partying like its 1989 when P.J. Carlesimo took the Pirates all the way to the title game falling to Michigan. Baylor, always the scoffed at high seed in recent years, shuts up the critics and advances to the Final Four for the first time since 1949-50. And Maryland, the least shocking of these three I’ll grant you, gets back to the promised land for the first time since their national title win in 2001-02.
It’s weird to wade through a world where landmark sports moments that we count on every year aren’t there. So, it’s up to the imagination to fill in the blanks. In this case, the best question to ask yourself is, honestly, would your bracket have been busted?