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Monday, March 26, 2012
Four for Four: It's going to be epic

By Eamonn Brennan

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 aren'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.

First up: The Final Four as epic spectacle is back.

With all due respect to the gate-crashers of the world, with fond memories for Butler's near miracle in 2010 and its return in 2011, with positive vibes in the direction of the VCU Rams, with respect for the who-knew qualities of a statistically mind-blowing tournament and with a gentle nod of the cap toward the plucky mid-majors of the world:

Sorry, but this is what a Final Four is supposed to feel like.

Four storied programs. Four elite coaches. Four teams rich in future NBA talent. Per ESPN draftnik Chad Ford, five players you'll see this weekend (Kentucky's Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones; Kansas's Thomas Robinson; Ohio State's Jared Sullinger) are likely to be selected in the 2012 NBA draft lottery. And there are plenty more players -- Louisville forwards Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng, Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor and center Jeff Withey, and Ohio State guard William Buford, forward Deshaun Thomas and even point guard Aaron Craft -- who are either (a) among the best players at their position in the sport, (b) deserving of NBA draft consideration in future seasons, or (c) both.

There are no real incursions here. And given the talent and season-long excellence characteristic of teams that fell along the way (see: North Carolina, Michigan State, Syracuse, Missouri, Baylor, and even Duke and Georgetown and Indiana) it's safe to say this season went essentially as expected. And when Louisville -- the Big East tournament champion, a team coached by a future Hall of Famer, seeded as high as 2011's second-highest Final Four seed (back when Kentucky was the plucky No. 4 that took down the favorite Ohio State in the Sweet 16) -- is your Final Four's most surprising inclusion, it's safe to say you've got talent in your sport's marquee event.

Don't get us wrong: We'll always love the tournament darlings of the world. They make the college hoops world fun. They remind us why we love the sport in the first place. But charming as the past two Final Fours were, it's time, as the saying goes, to put aside childish things. After two years of spunky upstarts, we more than were ready for some big-boy basketball. That's exactly what we'll get.