With Kentucky and Kansas punching their tickets to round out the Final Four Sunday, those two historic programs along with Louisville and Ohio State, will give basketball’s biggest stage a different feel to it than it has the last two years.
For a recent history refresher, in 2010, little-known Butler shocked the world by winning its region for the first time ever and then nearly shocked tradition-rich Duke in the championship game.
The next season, Butler surprised everyone by advancing back to the Final Four and was joined by even lesser known Virginia Commonwealth, also making its first appearance.
This season there are no Cinderellas remaining. The teams have a combined 49 appearances in the Final Four and 13 national championships.
Even the lowest seeded participant, fourth-seeded Louisville, is coached by one of the game’s most successful coaches Rick Pitino, who has been to college basketball’s most exclusive weekend six times with three different teams.
Louisville itself has a proud history, thanks mostly to Pitino and his predecessor Denny Crum. Crum took the Cardinals to six Final Fours himself, winning the title in 1980 and 1986.
Thad Matta is making his second appearance with Ohio State, having lost to Florida in the 2007 title game with Greg Oden at center.
Though the school is known more for its prowess on the football field, the Buckeyes are one of just six programs that have more than 10 appearances (11) in the Final Four and even cut the nets down in 1960 with Jerry Lucas as tournament MVP.
Kansas’s Bill Self got just his second Elite Eight victory in seven tries Sunday but the Jayhawks have been this far 14 times in their storied history. Their proud history includes 55 regular season conference championships and 2,069 wins all-time, second only to Kentucky’s 2,090.
Kentucky may have a slight edge in greatest college basketball programs though with most wins all-time of anyone, the third most Final Four appearances with 15, and only UCLA’s 11 national championships can top Kentucky’s 7.
The Wildcats have been a consistent winner as well. While 10 the UCLA Bruins’ 11 titles came in one 12-year stretch with arguably the greatest coach ever, John Wooden, Kentucky has had four different coaches win titles in four different decades.