The Final Four Approaches


Noah Hedges gives the rundown on what has already happened through four rounds of the tournament, and what to be excited for in the final four.

Noah Hedges, Reporter

Welcome back. It’s Noah, also known as THE professional bracketologist. Here’s what we have today.

Every year, there’s millions of brackets created across the three main college basketball supporters, CBS, ESPN and Yahoo Sports. This year, that magic number was 17.2 MILLION. That’s a lot. When prepping to watch the first round of the tournament on March 21, I read an article about the odds of actually picking a perfect bracket.  Some people may think, is it that hard to predict 63 straight games to perfection? CBS analysts and bracketologists came to the conclusion that there are different strategies to picking a bracket, from telling Siri to flip a coin, to actually paying attention for the length of the college basketball season. Though, through flipping a coin, CBS tells us what our odds to be 100 percent accurate actually are:

“A group of researchers at the University of Hawaii estimated that there are 7.5 quintillion grains of sand on Earth,” analyst Daniel Wilco said.  “If we were to pick one of those at random, and then give you one chance to guess which of the 7.5 quintillion grains of sand on the entire planet we had chosen, your odds of getting it correct would be 23 percent better than picking a perfect bracket by coin flip.”

After I read that, I realized that nobody ever is going to get a perfect bracket for the whole entire tournament, although giving it my best shot was all I could do. We are through four rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament. There have been all kinds of upsets and stories that need to be discussed. For example, Duke almost losing to UCF simply because Tacko Fall wasn’t on the court for the last play. There have been unreal upsets and crazy games to watch. To begin, I’m going to reel it back to the round of 64. The round of 64 kicked off on Thursday, March 21, and I watched every single game start to finish. After the first four games, I was perfect. I predicted four teams to win, and those four teams continued to win. The day went on and on, and as games concluded on Thursday night, I went 16/16 on the first day, not missing one game. There were 49 other brackets out of the 17.2 million that did the same. The round of 64 concluded on Friday night, and I was no longer perfect, yet after the round of 64 in its entirety, there were 16 perfect brackets left.

Throughout the second round, these 16 brackets were dropping out, left and right, except for one bracket. That one bracket remained perfect until Purdue upset Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen on March 28. That’s the best any bracket has done since 2017, where the last remaining perfect bracket predicted 39 straight games to perfection. This year, the last remaining perfect bracket smashed that record, missing their first prediction in game number 50. This year isn’t just a year for the avid bracket creators, but also the teams in the tournament.

After the first two rounds, all of the No. 1 seeds were still currently standing, and as Gonzaga and Virginia had both earned their Elite Eight bid, Duke and North Carolina were set to play against Virginia Tech and Auburn, respectively. The biggest fall of the sweet sixteen came last night (March 28) as the No. 2 seed Tennessee Volunteers fell to the No. 3 seed, Purdue Boilermakers. 67.4 percent of all brackets had Tennessee in the final four, according to ESPN, and with them losing, hope for that 67.4 percent of bracket makers fell through the floor.

The loss that broke my streak was No. 13 seed UC Irvine defeating my prediction, No. 4 seed Kansas State. Kansas State seemed to be a very solid team, as they were ranked first in the Big 12 after the regular season, but as soon as UC Irvine got ahead, they wouldn’t let K-State come back to make it a close game.

The biggest game in general so far was Duke against UCF. Duke stars Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett faced off with UCF’s 7’6 270 lb. beast named Tacko Fall. The game was close all along, but the last five minutes of the game were absolutely wild. Most say the only reason Duke won is because Tacko Fall wasn’t on the court for the last seconds. If he was, I believe UCF would’ve beaten Duke 78-77, but since Tacko Fall wasn’t on the court to get a putback dunk, Duke was victorious in a rough game that finished 77-76 in Duke’s favor. As Duke slipped past UCF, they were set to play against Virginia Tech. Another close game arose, but Duke once again came out on top, 75-73. The biggest test of Duke’s whole season was right in front of them: a very strong Michigan State team. This whole tournament has proved that Duke can play well in the hardest situations, but when this game came close, Michigan State forward Kenny Goins hit a three to slam the door on Duke, as Michigan State prevailed 68-67. North of 90 percent of the 17.2 million brackets had picked Duke to win the whole entire tournament, but Michigan State had some other plans.

This year compared to others was not the best year for No. 1 seeded teams. North Carolina, Gonzaga and Duke all dropped out of the tournament. In the Elite Eight, No. 2 seed Michigan State beat Duke 68-67 and No. 3 seed Texas Tech beat Gonzaga 75-69. In the Sweet Sixteen, No. 5 seed Auburn took North Carolina straight back home, as they won 97-80. Auburn then beat No. 2 seed Kentucky to punch their ticket to the Final Four.

The last No.1 seed alive is Virginia. Their Elite Eight matchup was against Purdue. Early on, Purdue took the lead and they ran with it. They were up by a good amount at one point, but Virginia slowly started to chip off at the lead. At the end of regulation, Virginia Forward Mamadi Diakite hit a buzzer-beater floater to send the game into overtime. As soon as Virginia found their groove, they took off and never let Purdue have a chance to win, defeating Purdue in OT.

So, the Final Four is now set. No. 2 seed Michigan State is set to play No. 3 seed Texas Tech, and No. 1 seed Virginia is set to play No. 5 seed Auburn. The rest of this tournament will be very fun to watch, and I can’t wait to be wrong on more of my predictions. Missing games is purely the reality of being a professional bracketologist.