Adam Ziobrowski, Staff Writer
With the madness associated with March starting to wind down, members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Utica College are excited to see how the NCAA Division I tournament finishes out.
While looking ahead to the Final Four and the action it will bring this weekend, members of the Pioneer basketball teams are still reflecting on when and how their brackets were busted.
For sophomore forward Justin Strielkauskas, his bracket was busted within the first two days of the tournament.
“My bracket was destroyed after the first weekend because I had Virginia winning it all, and they got upset the first game they played,” Strielkauskas said.
Freshman guard Jeslyn Files had the same issue with her bracket crashing down to thanks to the loss of overall number one seed, Virginia.
“My bracket started off good but it went downhill quick once Virginia lost because I had them winning the whole thing,” Files said.
However, not all brackets or dreams were busted during the first weekend for members of the Pioneer basketball teams. Sophomore guard/forward Hunter Remley’s bracket was alive and well until this past Sunday.
“My bracket just got busted this past weekend when Duke played Kansas,” Remley said. “I had Duke winning the national championship, so when they lost to Kansas in overtime I was officially done.”
The biggest storyline of this year’s tournament has been Loyola Chicago and their improbable run to the Final Four as an 11 seed — making it just the fourth time ever an 11 seed has appeared in the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
As much as Remley wants to see Loyola advance, he believes their quest for history will be denied on Saturday in San Antonio.
“I hope Loyola Chicago wins the whole thing, but it is unlikely against the firepower of Michigan and either Villanova or Kansas,” Remley said. “I think Loyola Chicago has a lot of momentum coming into this game, however Kansas, Michigan and Villanova have proven to be elite teams not only in this tournament but in past tournaments as well. Their chances aren’t looking great, but they’ve been the underdogs this whole tournament, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they shock the world once again.”
Senior forward Maggie Tabone has also enjoyed Loyola’s run to the Final Four, especially because of the team’s chaplain, Sister Jean.
“Cinderella Loyola is just awesome for the sport and the tournament in general,” Tabone said. “Everyone loves an underdog. If they can go all the way and win the whole thing it would be the coolest thing ever. Oh, and Sister Jean is also the bomb. She’s such a character, the whole world loves her.”
Although she also would like to see the Ramblers of Loyola advance to the national title, Files believes they do not stack up well against the traditional blue bloods of Michigan, Kansas and Villanova.
“I see Villanova and Michigan going to the championship, but I would love to see an upset and have Loyola win,” Files said. “If they (Loyola) keep playing the way they have been, I can see them going to the championship game, but it would be tough to win.”
Strielkauskas also credited Michigan’s experience as the reason why Loyola will not make it to Monday’s championship game.
“I think Loyola had one of the best runs in a while,” Strielkauskas said. “They made it all the way to the Final Four as an 11 seed which is crazy, but I think Michigan is way more experienced and Loyola will fall short of reaching the championship game.”
Although his bracket may have been busted with the loss of his predicted champion, Strielkauskas was still able to pick two of the four teams remaining correctly.
“I have Villanova and Kansas in my Final Four right now, and that’s the only two I have right,” Strielkauskas said. “I picked them because I think they both have one of the best all-around teams in the tournament.”
Strielkauskas has a new champion in mind now that Virginia is out.
“I think Kansas is going to win it all with their size and three-point shooting,” Strielkauskas said.
Tabone, however, has no reason to pick a new team. She initially picked Kansas to win in one of her brackets and plans to stick with the Jayhawks.
“I predict Kansas and Michigan winning the semifinals, and then Kansas beating Michigan in the finals,” Tabone said.
As for Remley, he had to decide on a new champion after Duke’s Elite Eight exit.
“I see Villanova winning the national championship, they just have too many pieces in Brunson, Bridges and DiVincenzo,” said Remley, crediting Villanova’s guards.
Files also sees Villanova as the favorite to take home the hardware, expecting them to defeat Michigan in the big game.
The Final Four will take place on Saturday, March 31, from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. (11) Loyola will take on (3) Michigan at 6:09 p.m. in the first game and will be followed by (1) Villanova facing (1) Kansas in the second game at 8:49 p.m.
The winners will meet to decide the national champion on Monday, April 2, at 9:20 p.m. Both Final Four games and the national championship will be aired on TBS.