By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - How much did a topsy-turvy college basketball season need a topsy-turvy team to make it to the Final Four?

All we heard during another interminable regular season was how wide open things were and how crazy March Madness was going to be.

That line of thinking made a little bit of sense because nobody seemed to hold the No. 1 ranking in the weekly poll for more than a few minutes.

And when the tournament started, and teams like Florida Gulf Coast and La Salle started making a lot of noise, we basketball non-purists started to get excited.

Could we really have a team - FGCU - that had only been playing big-time college basketball since the Obama administration - make it to the final weekend? And, heaven forbid, maybe even play on the final Monday night of the season?

How cool would that have been? If that had happened, we'd be talking about this Madness for decades.

Alas, the big boys won out and Florida Gulf Coast and La Salle went home.

We're left with stalwarts Louisville, Syracuse and Michigan.

Now, Wolverines fans will say it's been 20 years since their squad made it this far. But Michigan was ranked No. 1 during the season (along with just about everybody else) and has a really good tradition.

And, yes, it's a mild surprise Syracuse is going to Atlanta, but the Orange, like Louisville, have the national title pedigree. Both those teams expect to be where they are when the calendar gets this late and so do their fans.

But we do have Wichita State and that's a great thing. Having the Shockers even among the last four standing is a victory for the little guy.

Granted, the Shockers aren't a 13th or 15th seed, like La Salle and Florida Gulf Coast were, respectively, but they're a No. 9 seed and that means one thing: They weren't supposed to still be playing in April, and they are.

For a team that didn't even win its conference (Missouri Valley Conference) and lost in the first round of the tournament in 2012, the Shockers have provided themselves and their fans a run for the ages.

A Wichita State team hasn't gotten to the Final Four since 1965 - when current coach Gregg Marshall was 2 years old - but they've now won 30 games this year (against eight losses) and still have a shot to win it all.

It says here that won't happen, but I've been wrong a lot.

The Shockers sent No. 1 seed Gonzaga (a pre-tournament favorite for many) home and wrecked the brackets of many an expert.

And last weekend it was No. 2 seed Ohio State that was "shocked." Yes, Wichita State had a 20-point lead that the Buckeyes sliced to three late, but the Shockers held on and Ohio State also went home.

Now, for their trouble, the Shockers get to play the tournament's overall No. 1 seed, Louisville, in Saturday's semifinals (Michigan and Syracuse go at it in the other semi).

The Cardinals are coming off an impressive win over Duke this past Sunday and usually spit out No. 9 seeds with regularity.

But maybe this Shockers team - just the fifth team seeded ninth or lower to make it to the Final Four since the NCAA started seeding teams in 1979 - will be different.

They have the advantage of having nothing to lose and having very few expecting them to win. While they're no longer one of those teams that just made a nice tournament run, I have to think the dance for them ends Saturday.

But, still, a heartfelt thank you goes out to the Shockers for making this tournament more than the usual heavyweights still slugging away at the end.

And speaking of the end, this is how things will finish up:

Louisville beats Wichita State on Saturday and Michigan does the same to the 'Cuse.

The title goes to Louisville on Monday night, 79-71.

Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

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