The ultimate survivors advance


We are Chicken Little and the puny piece of poultry is us.

The sky is always falling; the end is always near. We overreact so quickly, we don't even have time for the muscle twitch to hit our knee in order to make the jerk.

If Albert Einstein were alive, we'd have written him off as a loser long ago. After all, it took him seven attempts to get E=mc² right.

Which leads us to the last leg of the journey that will take college basketball to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Florida Gators, Wisconsin Badgers, Connecticut Huskies and Kentucky Wildcats -- or, as we could call them, Left For Dead, Roadkill, Has-Beens and Underachievers, because that is exactly what we did call them at one time or another this season -- will play for the national championship.

Anyone who says they believed in these four teams all along is a liar, or at least a master of revisionist history.

No one outside of the four locker rooms thought this would happen, and, odds are, there were probably a few doubters, or at least a few doubting moments, within the locker room walls, too.

This is the hard-knock-life quartet, four teams that survived as much as they advanced.

"It's a process," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "You can't skip steps. Part of that process is failing fast, sometimes, failing often.''

Start with Florida.

The Gators opened the season ranked 10th in the AP poll, then promptly lost a game to No. 2 to Wisconsin. Down they went to No. 16.

Three weeks later, Connecticut topped the Gators, who fell even further, to No. 19. The team was a hot mess, riddled with suspensions to Scottie Wilbekin, Dorian Finney-Smith and Chris Walker and injuries to Kasey Hill and Casey Prather.

Then there's Wisconsin. We loved the Badgers early. We loved, loved a Bo Ryan team that defied Bo Ryan logic and scored points in abundance. Wisconsin won its first 16, catapulted to No. 3 in the rankings ... then promptly lost five of the next six. The bloom was off the rose.

How about Connecticut? The Huskies' Hall of Fame coach gone, storied conference affiliation over, players lost to the NBA draft, as well as transfers, and they lost the regular-season finale to  Louisville. By 33. So long, Huskies halcyon days. Here we come, untamed obscurity.

Finally, there is Kentucky. The Cats had to add a revolving door to their bandwagon to help manage the mass egress. Start the season with the best recruiting class in the nation and a No. 1 ranking -- everyone all aboard. Back-to-back losses to  Arkansas and South Carolina, a fall all the way out of the Top 25, and it's women and children first, every man for himself, but somehow, God help you, abandon ship.

So what to make of all this, of this seemingly Fortuitous Four?

Well, for starters, there is nothing fortuitous about any of them. If you have watched the past two weekends, you know that all four teams have earned their way to Jerry World.

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