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Final Four 2011: The Five Biggest Winners and Losers of the Tournament

Sam BlumCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2011

Final Four 2011: The Five Biggest Winners and Losers of the Tournament

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    There is no doubt that this tournament has been one of the best in the history of college basketball. So many close games; so many moments of jubilation, along with the saddening moments of defeat. With every game, the season is on the line, everything a team has worked for coming down to those 40 minutes. 

    Throughout the tournament, many story lines are written. Some good, some bad, some overused and some just plain stupid.

    So here is a list of the biggest winners and losers of this years tournament. This doesn't just mean teams and players, this incorporates everything that has occurred in the tournament so far. 

Biggest Loser No. 5—ESPN Analysts

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    On Selection Sunday, both VCU and UAB were announced to have made the field of 68, thus leaving out teams such as Virginia Tech, Colorado, Alabama and Boston College. At the time, this seemed like a bit of an injustice because it did appear that those teams did have the best resumés. After the show, ESPN analysts such as Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and Digger Phelps seemed to take personal offense to these selections.

    "These were bad decisions," stated Jay Bilas. "And you know, we talk about the eye test. This one fails the laugh test." 

    Oh, and where is VCU? Ummm, they just beat No. 1 seeded Kansas to advance to their first Final Four in school history. 

Biggest Winner No. 5—Ivy League Basketball

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    The Ivy League representative in the tournament, Princeton, may have had a heartbreaking 69-67, last second defeat at the hands of Kentucky; however, this game and season was a sign of the direction that Ivy League basketball is going. For the first time in league history, the Ivy League had a bubble team that had the potential to make it in on Selection Sunday, Harvard, that lost at the buzzer of the league tiebreaker at Yale.

    Last year, Cornell took the Ivy League to the Sweet 16 before losing to, you guessed it, Kentucky. The Tigers put up a great fight against the Wildcats this season, but eventually lost to the team that would end up going to the Final Four.

    Harvard's team from this year had no seniors so coach Tommy Amaker and the Crimson should be back in full force next season.

Biggest Loser No. 4—Mountain West Conference

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Sure, the MWC did get three teams into the Big Dance, but look a little closer and you see that things aren't going so well for the MWC. For one, BYU is moving conferences to the WCC. They also lose TCU, as they and their football squad will head out the Big East. As far as this tournament is concerned, UNLV lost as the favorite to Illinois in the first round, and BYU (who lost their inside presence Brandon Davies for breaking the school honor code) and SDSU, both at one time among the top teams in the country, lost in the Sweet 16.

    Is the MWC losing its status among the best mid-major conferences in America? 

Biggest Winner No. 4—Richmond, VA

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    Out of the 346 Division I teams in college basketball, two come from Richmond, Virginia. As those 346 squads were narrowed down to just 16, both of the Richmond schools were still standing. The Virginia Commonwealth Rams and the Richmond Spiders had both won two games (VCU actually won three) in the opening rounds to make shocking appearances in the Sweet 16.

    They were both in the same region, and each school was a win away from setting up a matchup between the two programs. However, the Spiders lost to Kansas 77-57. VCU did beat Florida State and then beat Kansas in the next round to advance to the Final Four.

    So the city is still being represented.

Biggest Loser No. 3—Tennessee Volunteers Men's Basketball

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Just days before the men's basketball team was set to take on No. 8 seeded Michigan in their opening round game, the University of Tennessee director of athletics, Mike Hamilton stated that he was unsure if he would need to fire head coach Bruce Pearl amid a recruiting violations scandal. His team didn't respond well to the news, getting killed by the Wolverines 75-45.

    Just a short time after, Bruce Pearl, who compiled a 145-61 record at UT was fired. The university imposed sanctions on its mens basketball program and could still face more punishment from the NCAA as a result.

    The school did announce however that they replaced Pearl with former Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin. 

Biggest Winner No. 3—Young Coaches

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The shocking teams in the Final Four, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth, both have very young coaches. Brad Stevens of Butler is just 34, while Shaka Smart of VCU is only 33 years of age. Both coaches have led their teams on improbable runs.

    Each of the two leaders have made inspiring runs in their own lives to even get these jobs, working their way up and getting through adversity. Their players want to work hard for these tremendous coaches, who have found ways to push their team through this tournament. 

Biggest Loser No. 2—Big East Conference

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Last year, the Big East sent eight teams to the tournament, seven of them lost in the first two rounds. This year, the selection committee did not learn their lesson and sent an astonishing 11 teams to the NCAA tournament. Of those 11, nine went home in the first two rounds. 

    Teams like Louisville, Notre Dame, St. John's, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Syracuse, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Villanova all went home early. 

    Is the Big East really as good as we say it is; is it really that deep; or is the fact that it seems so deep means that all the teams are just decent? 

    These are the types of questions that are impossible to answer. What we do know, however, is that almost every Big East team has folded come March. 

Biggest Winner No. 2—JSPEARLMAN 1 (Joe Pearlman)

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    Joe Pearlman of East Brunswick, New Jersey was one of two people to correctly pick all the teams in the Final Four. 

    He is currently in first place out of the 5.9 people that submitted brackets to the ESPN.com Tournament Challenge.

    Despite not having any allegiance to any of the schools, he went with these schools noting the leadership in head coaching. 

    The night before the tournament started his son was filling out a bracket for a league that he and his friends were doing and Joe asked if he could join. His son almost didn't agree to it. However, the boy caved and now Joe is on the verge of making 10,000 dollars which he states that he will use to help send his son to college, maybe even VCU, he said. 

    Pearlman has VCU and Kentucky in the finals. 

    The other person to correctly pick all of the final four is in almost 7,000th place in the Tournament Challenge. Despite getting the final four correct, he got very few others correct, and in Butler's regional, he got every single game wrong except for the four games that Butler won. 

Biggest Loser No. 1—Your Bracket

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    It doesn't matter if you are winning your office pool, you probably still have a ton of red on the bracket that you filled out before the tournament. Don't feel ashamed, almost everyone besides jspearlman 1 is probably surprised at how this tournament has progressed. 

    There is no way that you could have possibly seen a Florida State vs. VCU Sweet 16, let alone a Butler vs. VCU semifinal. Only 192 brackets on ESPN have three of the final four teams correct. 

    This has been a crazy year for the NCAA tournament. Even if you just have one team left in the Final Four, you probably will take home the dough. 

    But don't hang your head, March will come around again next year. 

Biggest Winner No. 1—Underdogs and Cinderella's

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    It all started with Demonte Harper's three-pointer in the final seconds that lifted Morehead State to a 62-61 victory over No. 4 seed Louisville. 

    Since then, Morehead St. has been long forgotten. Here we are in the Final Four and not a single No. 1 or 2 seed remains. 

    The average seed of the final four teams is 6.5. 

    VCU has upset five teams including USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas to get to the Final Four. 

    Butler had to upset Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Florida. 

    And along the way, there were many more upsets.

    In the final, there will be at least one Cinderella. Whether it is Butler or VCU is still to be determined. Both teams seem as if they cannot lose, but one will have to.

    Gotta love March Madness. 

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