As a college basketball fan, the Elite Eight is perhaps the most difficult round. Of the six (and in some cases now seven) rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the worst to lose in is the Elite Eight round. Why is that? It is because there is so much emphasis on getting to the Final Four in college basketball, (which is unique to this sport) that falling one game short is painful.
After winning in the Elite Eight, the teams cut down the nets and get a confetti shower with championship hats and shirts, just like when winning their conference tournaments and if they are so lucky, when they win the national championship. So if your favorite team loses in the national title game, at least they got to cut nets down at the Elite Eight game. It makes losing the championship game a bit easier to take when you got to watch your boys cut down the nets a week prior.
Losing in the Elite Eight means no net cutting, no championships caps and shirts, no confetti, no celebration. You fell one game short. For me, as a fan of the Florida Gators, I have experienced this pain two years in a row. Both times my beloved Gators led by double digits at about the three-quarter mark of the game only to watch the celebration slip away. Those were the first two Elite Eight losses in school history. They were 4-0 in the Elite Eight prior to the loss two years ago to the Butler Bulldogs. That overtime loss meant that my team had now lost in every round of the tournament. I can assure you now, that losing in the Elite Eight is the most excruciating of them all. To do it two years in a row was extremely difficult to take, especially when the two games were so similar.
So the Gators are now going into this round for the third year in a row. They will face a very good Michigan Wolverines squad who pulled off a miraculous comeback to advance to this round. They trailed the #1 seed Kansas Jayhawks by 10 points with 2:22 to go. So they will likely feel they are playing with house money the rest of the way. All the pressure tomorrow will be on Florida. They do not want to go out in this round, one game short of cutting nets down, for the third straight year.
Florida is 0-4 in net cutting games since winning the second of back-to-back championships in 2007. They have lost two SEC Tournament championship games and two Elite Eight games since then. So they are due. But the one troubling stat for Gator fans (if 0-4 isn’t troubling enough) is that the Gators are 0-6 in games decided by nine points or under. This Michigan team does not figure to get blown out.So when Michigan makes their run, will they be able to keep their cool? Or will they watch a third straight trip to the Final Four slip through their fingers?
Hopefully, for their fans, they can cash in on this chance. A third straight year of gut-wrenching disappointment would be too much for their fans to take.