It was only 14 days ago, remember?
I told you right here that the No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago men's basketball team is known as the Ramblers. I made the wild prediction that a Loyola program that won it all back in 1963 would make the Final Four once again.
OK, I only pointed out their mascot and mentioned that they were in the tournament. Well, they are still in the middle of March Madness and are set to play Michigan in a Final Four showdown in San Antonio. Michigan is a program Loyola played, and lost to as defending national champions in a second-round game in 1964. So there is a bit of history between the two programs.
Speaking of history, most everyone's bracket choices have been history since the first round. Sure, some saw No. 1 seeds Villanova and Kansas making it to the Final Four. And a few saw Michigan sliding in safely as a No. 3 seed. But, let's be honest, even Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt — a 98-year-old nun who has been the Loyola Ramblers' team chaplain since 1994 — admitted that she didn't have her own team making the Final Four.
Villanova won the title two years ago. In 2008, Kansas won it all. Since then, they were a No. 1 seed five times, but failed to make the Final Four each of those times before now. And then there is Michigan, which has won one national championship and has been to eight Final Fours.
So, to recap, it's down to the "Cinderella" (Loyola Chicago) taking on Michigan to decide which makes the title game to play the winner between two of the perennial favorites in college basketball (Kansas and Villanova).
Now, as we look at how our participating T&D Region coaches did on their brackets — and we sadly consider how my bracket panned out — it's with the understanding that no online bracket anywhere made it safely through the first weekend of games without major missed selections. If you had UMBC winning early and Florida State playing lights-out ball for three rounds, great for you!
In Sweet 16 play through the Elite 8, three of the four of us selected 5 winners out of 12 games. Of course, we didn't redraw our brackets once teams made it to the Sweet 16 (as some websites allowed people to do). So, with the upsets so early and frequently this tournament, 5 is a good number.
Breaking down the brackets:
Coach Michael Nelson rode with the Wildcats, as Villanova was his lone winner in both the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8. He has Nova cutting down the nets, so he could still be right if Jay Wright's squad gets it done for the second time in three years.
I didn't have either of my championship game contenders left for days now. But, somehow, I selected Michigan and Nova to correctly make the Final Four. With the parity in this year's Big Dance, I feel pretty good about that. As much as I believed in Kansas and Bill Self's coaching, this is one of the only brackets where I had them losing in the Sweet 16. I was wrong.
Coach Willie Thomas didn't have Nova getting by West Virginia, but he was right about Florida State, Texas Tech, Kansas and Duke all picking up Sweet 16 wins. He had Kansas getting by Duke and he still has the Jayhawks winning it all.
Coach Herman Johnson had Nova getting here, and he had Kansas getting by Duke. So, despite losing his entire South and West portions of the bracket early, he is the only one of us who correctly predicted Kansas and Nova would meet this weekend.
If you're eagerly scoring at home, and we aren't giving ascending points for correct selections later in the tournament, Coach Nelson could score 30 total wins if Nova wins it all, I have finished my run with 32 wins, Coach Johnson has 34 wins and the possibility to have 36 wins if Kansas gets it done, and Coach Thomas has 36 wins and the possibility to tally 38 wins if Kansas wins it all. On an ascending points scale (as scored many bracket challenges), of course, all three coaches would be in position to win our pool, while my bracket would be left somewhere just out of the water.
Sure, it would be great if we all had a selection still alive to win it all. But the games are still fun to watch, regardless. I could look back at those three online brackets where I had Kansas winning it all. But, instead of viewing all the upset carnage along the way, I'll probably just enjoy watching what happens in the final three games.