Unexpected weekend makes UK a favorite to make Final Four


Kentucky freshman guard Quade Green celebrates after a basket during the game against Buffalo in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, March 17, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. Kentucky defeated Buffalo 95-75. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

The NCAA Tournament is all about unexpected results happening, and a week after the field was 68 was announced, UK finds itself in an unexpected situation.

After surviving the first weekend to make it to the Sweet 16, the fifth-seeded Cats are now the favorites to win the South Region and make their fifth Final Four in the last seven years. UK has been declared favorites because of their impressive play as of recent, but also because of a string of upsets that all took place in the South Region.

The top four seeds in the South Region will not be in the Sweet 16, as they were all upset in the first or seconds rounds over the past weekend. This marks the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a region will not feature its top four seeds at the Sweet 16.

The upset that shook the bracket the most was 16th-seeded UMBC’s victory over No. 1 overall seed Virginia. The Cavaliers were heavy favorites, but UMBC was able to use a big second half that completed the 20-point upset victory over Virginia. 

That was the first time in 136 games that a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed to get to the second round. That’s where UMBC’s Cinderella story would end, though, as they were defeated by ninth-seeded Kansas State, who is UK’s opponent in the Sweet 16.

Virginia was expected to be a big challenge for the Cats if the two teams met in the Sweet 16, but now with the Cavaliers out of the tournament, UK’s Sweet 16 opponent looks a little less intimidating compared to the supposed top team in the country with a smothering defense.

Before facing Virginia, however, the Cats were supposed to face fourth-seeded Arizona in the second round, but the Wildcats from the desert were also upset in the first round by 13th-seeded Buffalo, losing by 21 points.

The No. 2 and 3 seeds in the South Region, Cincinnati and Tennessee, were also upset in the second round, meaning that seventh-seeded Nevada and 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago will round out the four teams fighting this weekend for one spot to the Final Four in Atlanta. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, UK has the biggest chances out of the remaining 16 teams to make the Final Four in San Antonio. Bovada Las Vegas also gave UK the fourth highest chances of winning the NCAA title, which is the highest out of any of the teams in the South Region.

In order to reach San Antonio, the Cats will need to beat Kansas State, then the winner of Nevada/Loyola-Chicago. Anything can happen in March Madness, as fans saw last weekend, but those opponents are much more favorable than Arizona, Virginia, and possibly Tennessee or Cincinnati.

However, the level of efficiency and aggression UK is playing with right now should be a stronger reason as to why the Cats can make the Final Four. With that, plus an unexpected set of opponents, UK has a good chance of making the Final Four.