March Madness produces unexpected Final Four in Atlanta

March may be over, but the madness has not stopped. 

The climax of the American college basketball postseason is this Saturday, 6 April, in Atlanta, Georgia. The National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Division One Basketball Tournament sees its Final Four clash at the Georgia Dome. 

At 5.05pm Cayman time, the Louisville Cardinals face the Wichita State Shockers with the Michigan Wolverines battling the Syracuse Orange at 7.49pm. Both matches will be televised on CBS. From there, the national championship game will take place in Atlanta on Monday, 8 April. 

Louisville, behind Peyton Siva, were strong title contenders throughout the year and went into the tournament with a No. 1 seed. The Cardinals would then coast through the Midwest Regional, with their most noteworthy opponents being the Duke Blue Devils.  

Wichita State, a ninth seed, shocked pundits with a deep tournament run. The Shockers, featuring top scorer Cleanthony Early, would defeat the Pittsburgh Panthers, top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the West Regional. 

Michigan and Syracuse, both major colleges who went into the tournament as fourth seeds, also defied the odds. The Wolverines, with player of the year candidate Trey Burke, took out the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks and the Florida Gators in the South Regional. 

The Orange, behind top scorer C.J. Fair, overcame the top-rated Indiana Hoosiers and the Marquette Golden Eagles in the East Regional. 

Picking winners at this stage is futile but hoops fans could be in for some crazy finishes. There is a strong possibility there could be a rematch of the Big East tournament final if Louisville meets Syracuse in the title game.  

On the other hand, Wichita State is two wins away from being arguably the sport’s most unlikely national champion. 

Regardless of this weekend’s results, local fans can take comfort in the performance of the Sunshine State schools. The Gators, Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, a 15th seed, all advanced to the Sweet 16 stage. 

Florida went on to the Elite Eight for the third straight year. For Miami, it was the end of an incredible season that saw the school jump as high as No. 2 in the national rankings. Florida Gulf Coast, based in Fort Myers since 1997, made an exciting run in their first tournament appearance. 

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