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With 16 teams still alive in the NCAA tournament, there are 256 potential Final Four combinations left. Here’s a look at 16 compelling ones, some of which were chosen for basketball reasons and others of which were chosen for reasons scarcely related to basketball at all.
1. All chalk Final Four: Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova, Michigan
This would be a heavyweight Final Four featuring name-brand teams with massive fan bases. Each school owns at least one national title and each has appeared in the championship game in the past six years.
2. No chalk Final Four: Loyola-Chicago, Syracuse, West Virginia, Florida State
How weird would this Final Four be? You’d have a true Cinderella in Loyola-Chicago, two ACC teams that failed to finish above .500 in their league and an underseeded West Virginia team that would likely be favored to win.
3. New blood Final Four: Nevada, Clemson, Texas Tech, Texas A&M
Not only have none of these teams ever reached the Final Four, Clemson is the only one to ever play in an Elite Eight. Billy Williams and Larry Nance led the Tigers to the Elite Eight in 1980, but they fell 85-74 to UCLA.
4. Final Four guaranteed to capture the NBA audience: Kentucky, Duke, Villanova, Texas A&M
There’s at least one potential lottery pick on every roster: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky), Kevin Knox (Kentucky), Marvin Bagley (Duke), Wendell Carter (Duke), Mikal Bridges (Villanova), Robert Williams (Texas A&M)
5. Final Four guaranteed to have NBA fans changing the channel: Loyola-Chicago, Clemson, Texas Tech, Florida State
These are mostly teams winning in spite of a lack of elite talent. Aside from Texas Tech’s promising freshman Zhaire Taylor, there may not be a first- or second-round pick on one of these four rosters.
6. The Brainiac Final Four: Duke, Michigan, Villanova, Loyola (Chicago)
According to U.S. News and World Report, Duke (9), Michigan (28), Villanova (46) and Loyola-Chicago (103) are the highest-rated academic institutions in their regions.
7. The party-school Final Four: West Virginia, Syracuse, Florida State, Kentucky
According to the Princeton Review, West Virginia (2), Syracuse (4) are two of 2018’s top party schools. Florida State has previously ranked highly in the list and there’s no shortage of fun to be had at Kentucky either.
8. Elite point guard Final Four: Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky, Gonzaga
Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Devonte Graham (Kansas) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky) are the obvious choices for this list. The West is devoid of heralded point guards, but Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins gets the nod over Michigan’s Zavier Simpson.
9. Elite big man Final Four: Duke, Kentucky, Texas A&M, West Virginia
This quartet would bring the frontcourt size, strength and skill. Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Kevin Knox, Tyler Davis, Robert Williams and Sagaba Konate each are among the college basketball’s best big men for different reasons this season.
10. No fast breaks Final Four: Loyola-Chicago, Syracuse, Michigan, Texas Tech
Virginia may be home early, but that doesn’t mean the pace of play in the Final Four will be fast. All four of these teams are 250th and below in tempo with Syracuse the slowest at 344th nationally.
11. Kentucky never has to play anybody Final Four: Kentucky, Florida State, Syracuse, West Virginia.
The Wildcats already would make the Final Four without facing an opponent seeded higher than seventh thanks to the carnage in the South Region. This Final Four ensures they could become the first program to win a title without facing a top-four seed.
12. The (almost) all-Big 12 Final Four: Kansas State, Kansas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M
Three Big 12 schools and a former league member highlight this quartet. Naturally, Kansas would be crowned champion and continue its reign over its league rivals.
13. The mascot fight to the death Final Four: Nevada, Clemson, West Virginia, Florida State
West Virginia’s Mountaineer is a favorite in any mascot matchup. It always helps to have a rifle.
14. Winningest coaches Final Four: Kentucky, Duke West Virginia, Michigan
John Calipari (674), Mike Krzyzewski (1,099), Bob Huggins (845) and John Beilein (721) have combined for more than 3,300 career victories.
15. “When’s spring practice?” Final Four: Clemson, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas State
Basketball comes second at these four football-centric schools. Especially Clemson, whose coach Brad Brownell answered as many questions about Dabo Sweeney last week as he did his own team.
16. My Final Four: Kentucky, Duke, Villanova, Gonzaga
Three out of my original Final Four survived the opening weekend chaos. Kentucky is the obvious choice to replace Virginia in a South Region stripped of its top four seeds.
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