Dramatic finishes in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds have four regional champions facing off in a historic Final Four the NCAA Tournament has yet to see in years.
Those four teams — Oregon from the Midwest, North Carolina from the South, Gonzaga from the West and South Carolina from the East — will now compete for the chance to play in the NCAA Championship on April 3 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Out of these finalists, North Carolina is the only team to have made it this far in the past 78 years. In fact, the Tar Heels were in the NCAA Championship just last year — though they lost a heartbreaker to Villanova.
Oregon’s last appearance in the Final Four was in 1939, the only year the Ducks went on to win the title. South Carolina and Gonzaga have never made an appearance in this nail-biting round of college basketball in the history of the tournament.
Ivy League universities seem to have it all. They each have a rich academic history, incredibly talented students, respected staff and faculty strong reputations. Their esteemed names are recognized worldwide, and for good reason.
Thankfully, there’s one area in which the Ivy League falls short and we mere mortals can take some solace: March Madness.
Some argue the prestige of the Ivy League comes to a screeching halt when the NCAA tournament comes into play. It’s not just that several of the schools have never won the championship, but they remain winless in the most painful of ways — by not even making the tournament for decades at a time.
Think of the pain of the Chicago Cubs who, until last year, had not won a championship in 108 years. No team in March Madness has a streak quite that painful, since the competition itself is only 78 years old, but the iconic Ivies of Harvard, Dartmouth and Yale rank as the top three tournament droughts with some impressive — or disappointing — numbers.
Everybody loves a Cinderella story.
Seasoned March Madness fans know to have at least a few upsets in their bracket. It’s generally safe to pick them early on — a 10 seed over the 7, the occasional 12 seed over a 5 — but as the tournament goes on, those selections become riskier and riskier.
Sometimes, those risks pay off and get you an extra few points in your bracket. Once in a blue moon (read: once in history) an 8-seed wins the whole darn thing and the gamble really pays off.
Even those who don’t follow college basketball recognize the big names: Kentucky. Duke. North Carolina. Connecticut. They’re the well-known teams that consistently headline March Madness — and they’re generally a safe bet to pick as a champion in your brackets.
Someone has to be the best, though. In both the men’s and women’s tournament, 11 titles are enough to reign supreme as the most successful schools in the sport’s history.
Enter: the UCLA Bruins and the UConn Huskies.