The hope for an all-mid-major Final Four won’t happen, despite our own site musing the possibility during the Round of 64.
Sadly, Kent State didn’t make a miracle run. Saint Mary’s also faltered to east-coast buzzsaw UConn. But, we have some hope still for a Final Four grouping that just rustles the right jimmies for Mid-Major Sickos out there.
Hear me out: San Diego State-Florida Atlantic and Gonzaga-Houston.
San Diego State, FAU, Houston, Gonzaga Final Four… pic.twitter.com/DwaCv9mSuH— morrisoncrying (@morrisoncrying) March 24, 2023
Stepping away from the mid-major classification, this has been a banner year for non-Power 6 conferences, look at what the Granddaddy of College Basketball Hoops tweeted last week.
SEC has six teams-- Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas-- in round of 32. non-Power 6 has eight-- Furman, Houston, Saint. Mary's Gonzaga, FAU, FDU, Princeton, San Diego State (four double digit seeds).— Dick Weiss (@HoopsWeiss) March 18, 2023
That number now stands at seven for the Power 6 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac 12, SEC) to five from the rest (Mountain West, WCC, AAC, Ivy, Conference USA repped).
The closest Final Four we have EVER seen to an all mid-major grouping is probably 1979 when Michigan State, Indiana State, DePaul and Penn made it. It isn’t even that close to an all-mid-major grouping but, like, it’s all we got.
Back to the dream Final Four
On one side, we get true mid-major stories in No. 5 seed San Diego State and the breaking of the Mountain West Curse and the improbable No. 9 Florida Atlantic getting some, let’s be honest, nice luck with the Fairleigh Dickinson over Purdue upset and Tennessee being down a player or two. Sadly, for this to happen, darling No. 15 Princeton would lose to San Diego State or today. But, I prefer the Aztecs anyways.
On the other, we have mid-major alumni Houston and Gonzaga. They aren’t mid majors anymore, but were once upon a time. While one will stay in their league for the time being, Houston is moving on up next season to take over as the prominent hoops program in the Big 12. We root for our friends here at MMM. Things you love to see. Friends thriving. Things of that nature.
So, how exactly can this happen?
San Diego State: The Aztecs have the toughest path. Easily. No doubt. They play the top overall seed Alabama today (aka the real villains of March) today. If they win that, they will move on to play either Princeton or Creighton (not a mid, despite what a certain poll says). ‘Bama will be a rock fight. But, if they pull it off, the vibes will be right.
Florida Atlantic: The Owls already punched their Elite Eight ticket, and now have to get by short king Markquis Nowell and the best coach right now in the world Jerome Tang. Gulp. The magic has been fun on a bun for FAU, and a game against Kansas State could either go very bad, or the Owls may have enough firepower to go shot for shot against the Wildcats and their football on hardwood play calling. My resident NCAA Tournament Villain must continue their run.
Gonzaga: The Zags also did the first step already, beating UCLA in electric, Zaga-like fashion last night. They avoided Crying Timme and gave us another March Classic. They still need to beat UConn, a team that has in the not-so-distant past killed a wonderful chance at a mid-major national title.
Houston: Remember when I wrote that SDSU has the toughest path? Maybe not when you look closely at Houston’s. The Cougars have to beat Miami, which can actually go guard for guard against Marcus Sasser and Company, then, if they do, still have the possibility of facing Texas or Sean Miller’s Xavier 2.0. Hope for Miller so he can bring his Arizona magic to the Elite Eight.
If Princeton does the thing, we will be equally excited and even more surprised at our nerds. That one just feels less likely, but you really never know in March.