The Elite 8 ain’t all that great because the underdogs are mostly now gone. Good bye Ohio, Cincinnati and Xavier, the three promising spoilers from the great state of Ohio. The favored Ohio State Buckeyes, whose mascot is a nut, is the only Ohio team and Big Ten representative left standing after Sweet 16 play. Out are the damn spots of Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. The feared honey Badgers fell to a piece of fruit, the Syracuse Orange, creating a dream match up between a nut and a piece of fruit in the East Regional Finals.
Over in the South Region, Baylor advanced to meet the Kentucky Wildcats. About the only interesting twist to this meeting is that in 2011, two debate teams from the schools faced off in the National Debate Tournament (NDT), where Baylor posted a decisive first round victory. Baylor’s top rated team would go on to place 26th in the tournament. Among Elite 8 teams, the highest finish at the 2011 NDT was Kansas, who placed 17th. For whatever it’s worth, Baylor has won 3 National Debate Championships; Kansas 5.
The only mildly interesting fact about the Midwest Regional Final is that Roy Williams used to coach for Kansas. Other than that, who cares, and I’m not sure I even care about that.
The West Regional Finals will be a battle of coaches. It pairs two coaches from New York who have a long history together. Louisville’s Rick Pitino used to coach Florida’s Billy Donavan at Providence. And Donavan was an assistant to Pitino at Kentucky. As a coach, Donavan has never beaten Pitino – losing all 6 previous meetings. The subplot is how two New Yorkers, who have never been able to shake their long, Long Island accents, wound up coaching basketball in the South.
Florida is a real long shot and lowest seeded team to advance to the Elite 8. They have played other Elite 8 teams 5 times and have gone 0-5, losing once to Ohio State and Syracuse and three times to Kentucky. As the lone underdog, I’m rooting for the Gators, the only team in the tournament with a prehistoric reptilian mascot…and one mean bite.