The regional championship games are set and we have four excellent pairings on tap. That's because, miraculosly, the 1 and 2 seeds advanced in three of the four regions!! There are no Cinderella stories to be had here now that 14 seed St. Joe's has been bounced.
Midewest region -- Piedmont (32-0) vs. Emory (25-7)
If I was a television executive, I'd be eating this game up for the ratings value. In this corner, the undefeated, undisputed number one team almost wire-to-wire this year in the nation in Piedmont. They've decimated the competition this tournament like Iron Mike laid waste to the heavyweight division in his prime. Piedmont's three national tournament victories have come by an average of -- get this -- almost 37 points PER GAME. You're not supposed to be able to cruise control your way into the Elite Eight. That's just not right. But in the other corner, coming off a successful title defense, we have the two-time national champion in Emory. Is there enough left in the tank to go for a threepeat? Does the train of postseason success end tonight? Can Emory avenge a 17 point loss on the road to Piedmont in the final week of non-conference play? I'm telling you, this is ratings gold! Note to phalla -- remember...with a baseball bat...while he sleeps...
East Region -- Ozarks (27-4) vs. Susquehanna (30-2)
Okay, while it doesn't have the title fight throwdown potential of the Midwest, this is a solid game in its own right. This is, according to rumor, spike's swan song at Ozarks (say it ain't so spike!). Susquehanna is led by one of the, in my opinion at least, best coaches to be found in the Rupp world as zeuspole has his team seemingly in contention. Every. Single. Season. This will probably be more of a blue-collar working man's basketball game with possessions coming at a premium. That doesn't mean I expect them both to take the air out fo the basketball. Just that I don't see either team opening a huge lead on the scoreboard at any point in this contest. One last bit of trivia here in the East Region -- the whole bracket has played out EXACTLY as it was seeded to this point with 1-8 winning opening night, 1-4 making it through night two and now 1-2 still alive and kicking. You just don't see that happen very often and it has to give spike some good karma going for tongiht.
South region -- Johnson & Wales (30-2) vs. Dallas (25-6)
Something has got to give. Dallas, who I clearly did not give enough creidt to, has not allowed a tournament opponent to score in the 60s through the first three rounds. Now, here come those spider monkeys of J-Dub, who haven't been held under 77 points thus far. It's that classic case of defense vs. offense and the clash of styles should make this one a ton of fun. They say defense wins championships, y'know. But then again, according to Mel, the cook on Alice, the best dee-fense is a good oooo-fense. Guess we'll find out who is correct.
West region -- Millsaps (28-4) vs. Penn St. Altoona (28-4)
The second rematch game of the regional finals. Penn St. Altoona captured a one-point victory over Millsaps on night 9 of the non-conference campaign to set the story line for this game tongiht. This is also the only contest that does not feature the 1 and 2 seeds on the bracket playing each other -- Penn St. Altoona was actually a six seed and needed overtime to knock off the 2 seed Greensboro to reach this stage. Obviously, both of these coaches have been here before. We really do have a hall of fame cast of eight still around.
One last plot line of interest tonight. In case folks didn't notice, the University has the potential to close out the Final Four. Is there any doubt the mantle of Rupp's Evil Empire has shifted away from the GNE? It will be interesting to see how many University squads, if any, make it through tonight to arrive on stage at the Final Four.