Three of the teams are Final Four regulars, programs that expect to be practicing and playing in the first week of April, not attending end-of-season banquets.
Trying to pull a postseason surprise is Villanova, a school that might not have the tradition of North Carolina, Michigan State or Connecticut but does have the biggest shocker in NCAA tournament history on its colorful resume.
Villanova once again will enter the Final Four as an underdog, though hardly the kind it was in 1985, when Rollie Massimino’s team was eighth-seeded and shot 78.6 percent to knock a growing Georgetown dynasty off its pedestal.
This time, the Wildcats (30-7) are third-seeded, coached by Jay Wright (with Massimino almost certainly watching from the stands) and have a semifinal meeting set for Saturday in Detroit against North Carolina.
Win or lose, Villanova already has a moment for the ages from this tournament: Scottie Reynolds’ end-to-end rush for the winning layup against Pitt on Saturday.
"It’s something you think about as a youngster, advancing yourself to the Final Four or winning the championship,” Reynolds said. "And to do it with these guys on my back, and the players that came before us, I think that that contributes to our program.”
Villanova is, no big surprise, the long shot among this group of four, listed at 8-1 at the Las Vegas Hilton race and sports book. Carolina is the 5-6 favorite, while UConn is 5-2 and Michigan State, which is playing 90 miles from home, is 5-1.
But Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Hilton sports book, said Villanova can’t exactly be looked at as the lovable underdog it was back in 1985 — or even the next George Mason, the 2006 long shot. Not possible considering the Wildcats come out of the Big East as a No. 3 seed.
"But we’ll see a buildup this week and the Cinderella could be created because they’ll be facing the tournament favorite,” he said.