The lone No. 1 seed still alive heading into the Elite Eight, Kansas needs only a win against No. 10 Miami (Fla.) to book a spot in the Final Four.
No. 2 Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski can make one last Final Four and chase one final national championship by beating No. 4 Arkansas.
No. 2 Villanova can reach the national semifinals for the third time in six tournaments by winning what should be a defense-dominated brawl against No. 5 Houston.
And after beating No. 4 UCLA in the Sweet 16, No. 8 North Carolina is one win from reaching the Final Four under first-year coach Hubert Davis.
If everything goes according to plan, this year’s Final Four will consist of some of the biggest names in the history of the sport.
But the last week has taught us that this year’s NCAA Tournament will inevitably deviate from the script.
So look for the Jayhawks to be shocked in the Elite Eight, as the Bill Self collection of tournament collapses adds another painful chapter. Based on how things have gone through three rounds, Arkansas is a lock to send Krzyzewski into retirement one game shy of the Final Four. Villanova may be a two-time champion under Jay Wright, but the Wildcats will be smothered by Houston.
And, of course, the Tar Heels will lose to the team that embodies the wackiness and uncertainty of this entire tournament.
Saint Peter’s stands at the precipice of another outlandish achievement: being the first No. 15 seed — the first seed lower than No. 11, in fact — to reach the Final Four.
The Peacocks will be the underdog once again come Sunday, when they’ll match against a deeper and more talented opponent with decades of history to more than overshadow the Peacocks’ three-game run.
But beating another college basketball giant will simply take what we already know the Peacocks can bring to the table: Saint Peter’s reached the Elite Eight with energy, aggressiveness and composure, following the model set by unflappable coach Shaheen Holloway, and that same combination will give the Peacocks a chance at etching themselves into an even more permanent place in NCAA Tournament history.
“We’re happy but don’t mistake, we’re not satisfied, we’re not satisfied at all,” said guard Doug Edert. “The job is not finished. We feel like we belong and the more games we win the more confidence we build.”
That sounds like bad news for the Tar Heels, who might’ve righted the ship after a poor start to ACC play but could be the latest blueblood to the Peacocks’ formula.
At some point, the magic has to run out—for Saint Peter’s, which somehow keeps stacking upsets of higher-ranked opponents, and for the tournament at large, which has been wackier than ever but could suddenly snap back to the status quo.
But this March has not gone according to plan. Several big names lost early. Others failed to get out of the second round. The story of this year’s tournament has been upsets, shockers, letdowns, unpredictable officiating and unpredictability, period — why should the next two days be any different?
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism