The 16 most interesting potential Final Four combinations

With 16 teams still alive in the men's NCAA tournament, there are 256 potential Final Four combinations left. Here’s a look at 16 compelling ones, some chosen for basketball reasons and others chosen for reasons scarcely related to basketball at all.

1. Chalk Final Four: Gonzaga, Purdue, Arizona, Kansas

While this Final Four features three No. 1 seeds and the East Region’s highest-seeded survivor, only Kansas has won a national title since 1997. Purdue hasn’t been to a Final Four in 42 years. Arizona has lost five Elite Eight games since its last Final Four in 2001. And Gonzaga has made two of the past four national title games but is still seeking its first championship.

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2. Chaos Final Four: Arkansas, Saint Peter’s, Michigan, Iowa State

How weird would this Final Four be? You’d have a true Cinderella in Saint Peter’s, a team that won only two games last season in Iowa State and a team many didn’t think belonged in this year’s field in Michigan. Only Arkansas wouldn’t be a complete stunner.

3. The Brainiac Final Four: Duke, UCLA, Michigan, Miami

According to U.S. News and World Report, Duke (9), UCLA (20), Michigan (23) and Miami (55) are the highest-rated academic institutions in their regions.

4. The Party School Final Four: Texas Tech, UCLA, Michigan, Miami

According to Niche.com, Miami (25) is the NCAA tournament’s top remaining party school. There’s no shortage of fun to be had at Michigan (31), Texas Tech (50) and UCLA (61) either.

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5. All-Catholic Final Four: Gonzaga, Saint Peter’s, Villanova, Providence

Theological explanations will be tempting if this foursome descends on New Orleans. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Gonzaga, Villanova and Providence emerge from their regions, but Saint Peter’s might require some divine intervention.

6. Blue Blood Final Four: Duke, North Carolina, Villanova, Kansas

This powerhouse quartet has combined for seven national championships since 2008, two apiece from Duke, North Carolina and Villanova and one from Kansas.

Kansas coach Bill Self calls a play while conversing with K.J. Adams during a game on Feb. 12. (Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
Kansas coach Bill Self calls a play while conversing with K.J. Adams during a game on Feb. 12. (Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

7. New Blood Final Four: Texas Tech, Purdue, Houston, Providence

None of these teams have ever won the NCAA tournament, though two made recent Final Four appearances. Texas Tech took Virginia to overtime in the 2019 national title game. Houston was throttled by Baylor in last year’s national semifinals.

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8. The mascot fight to the death Final Four: Duke, UCLA, Houston, Miami

I spent far too long assessing how Wolverines would fare in a skirmish against a big cat. Or whether Cyclones or Hurricanes would win a natural disaster battle.

9. Final Four guaranteed to capture the NBA audience: Duke, Purdue, Arizona, Kansas

There’s at least one potential lottery pick on every roster: Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin (Duke), Jaden Ivey (Purdue), Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona), Ochai Agbaji (Kansas).

10. Final Four guaranteed to have NBA fans changing the channel: Texas Tech, St. Peter’s, Houston, Miami

These are teams who have advanced despite a lack of elite talent. Texas Tech guard Terrence Shannon might be the best NBA prospect on any of these four teams, and he’s no lock to be drafted this June.

11. Elite big man Final Four: Gonzaga, North Carolina, Arizona, Kansas

Between North Carolina’s Armando Bacot, Arizona’s Christian Koloko, Kansas’ David McCormack and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme, this Final Four would be loaded with all sorts of front-court talent.

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12. Fastest Final Four: Gonzaga, North Carolina, Arizona, Kansas

Viewers might get whiplash if Gonzaga and Arizona face off in the national title game. These two teams look to run at any opportunity. Gonzaga has the second-shortest average possession length in college basketball this season, per KenPom. Arizona is fourth. Kansas is in the top 50 nationally this season, while North Carolina is in the top 100.

13. Walk it up the court Final Four: Texas Tech, St. Peter’s, Villanova, Providence

The way Villanova plays, a 10-point deficit can feel like 20. The Wildcats have been in college basketball’s bottom 15 all season in average possession length. Providence, St. Peter’s and Texas Tech also like it slow, as do Houston and UCLA.

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14. Coaches who were ballers in their day Final Four: Duke, North Carolina, Michigan, Miami

You probably knew that Juwan Howard is a former NBA All-Star, that Hubert Davis lasted 12 seasons in the NBA and that Mike Krzyzewski played for Bob Knight at Army, but did you know that Jim Larrañaga is a former Providence star? Larrañaga graduated as the school's all-time fifth-leading scorer and was inducted into the Providence Hall of Fame in 1991.

15. 'When’s spring football practice?' Final Four: Arkansas, UCLA, Michigan, Miami

The demise of the SEC in this year's NCAA tournament really hurt this category. In the East region in particular, the choice is between North Carolina, Purdue and UCLA.

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16. My Final Four: Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Kansas

Three of my original Final Four survived the opening week. (Thanks a lot, Kentucky!) The choice between North Carolina, UCLA and Purdue in the East isn't easy, but the Tar Heels are peaking at the right time and looked like a genuine Final Four favorite for 30 minutes against Baylor.

Randomly pick your final four teams in this 3D augmented reality slot machine:

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