We're five days away from the Final Four. There is much to learn, or relearn, in that time. Now that you've finished with Myron's early primer (and if you haven't, what are you waiting for?), let's look at four big themes you should know about the teams involved, the road they took to get here, and the weekend's event itself. We're calling this little mini-series Four for Four, which is not particularly clever but the best we can do on the Monday morning after an insane weekend. Check back throughout the day for each brief installment.
Next: Briefly, on the unlikely nature of two Final Four rematches.
Despite a theme of expected and epic fulfillment, there is an unlikely quality to this Final Four. It's not often that even one national semifinal is a repeat of a high-profile nonconference contest from earlier in the season; it's even less frequent that both games fit that bill. On Dec. 10, Ohio State traveled to Kansas, where the Buckeyes lost 78-67 in part because the team's best player, forward Jared Sullinger, was sidelined with painful back spasms.
On New Year's Eve, Kentucky faced in-state rival (or nonrival, if you ask Kentucky coach John Calipari) Louisville in Rupp Arena as the No. 3- and No. 4-ranked teams in the country, respectively. That game seemed to feel like the start of both teams' trajectories: The Wildcats were an all-powerful, hypertalented group with legitimate national title aspirations, and would soon go on to dominate the SEC with the type of force rarely seen in power-conference play. The Cardinals, meanwhile, were seemingly undeserving of their high ranking, supposedly incapable of surviving an onslaught led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis. Three months later, coach Rick Pitino's Cardinals have made us examine that performance -- in which Louisville stuck with UK for nearly 40 minutes in a rabid road environment before falling 69-62 -- as foreshadowing, a sign of the team's eventual potential.
How much do those original editions have to tell us about the rematches to come? We'll break that down in detail in the coming days. But for those of you joining us late in the season -- for those who care about college hoops for one month only (shame on you, but hey, that's your journey) -- well, be advised. These games have precursors, and they may only heighten Saturday's stakes.