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Lone dog: No. 11 Loyola joins list of regulars at Final Four

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By Associated Press

Three teams that need no introduction. One from out of nowhere.

Though the 2018 NCAA Tournament produced the biggest upset in the history of the event along with a seemingly endless string of wild finishes and unexpected results, the Final Four will look very much like it has over the last handful of seasons.

In one of next Saturday’s semifinals, it’s a barnburner of a matchup between top-seeded programs with rich histories: Villanova vs. Kansas.

In what will quickly become known as the “other” semifinal, it’s an upstart vs. another school that knows this road: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 3 Michigan .

Remarkable as Loyola’s run — and this tournament — have been, this marks the fifth time over the last six seasons that three teams seeded 1 through 4 have been joined by another seeded 7 or higher.

The four previous times, the underdog has bowed out in the semifinal.

“Why not us?” Ramblers coach Porter Moser said, repeating his team’s oft-used mantra this month — one he hopes can lead to yet another history making upset. “You have to have high-character guys that believe to truly do that.”

The teams will have trouble topping the show Kansas and Duke put on Sunday with the last spot in San Antonio up for grabs.

The Jayhawks topped the Blue Devils 85-81 in overtime to send Kansas back to the site of its last national title, in 2008.

The Kansas-Villanova matchup is sure to re-ignite calls for some form of reseeding heading into the Final Four. The winner between the top seeds will almost certainly be favored in the final.

A look at some of the history behind these Final Four teams:

LOYOLA-CHICAGO: It’s not totally accurate to say the Ramblers are from nowhere.
This program won the title in 1963 in one of the most significant championship runs in the sport’s history — including a game known as the “Game of Change.”

The Ramblers, with a mostly black roster, defeated an all-white team from Mississippi State, which served as prelude to the better-known title game in which Texas Western and its all-black starting lineup defeated Kentucky. Loyola went on to beat Cincinnati in overtime for the title.

MICHIGAN: All the freshmen dominating today’s game should pay homage to the Fab Five — the group of five freshmen, including Jalen Rose and Chris Webber, who made baggy shorts the rage and took the Wolverines to the Final Four in 1992.

This year’s Wolverines were a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team in early February, after a loss at Northwestern dropped them to 8-5 in the conference. They haven’t lost since, and their 13-game winning streak is second in the country only to the Ramblers, who have won 14 straight.

VILLANOVA: Juniors Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were there for Villanova’s national title two years ago. They are the team’s leading scorers. The Wildcats haven’t been seriously pushed yet in the tournament, winning every game by double-digits and paying no mind to the upsets that have busted brackets for the past two weeks.

KANSAS: Since winning it all in 2008, the Jayhawks had been seeded No. 1 five times and failed to make the Final Four any of those times. If Grayson Allen’s shot at the buzzer in regulation hadn’t gone in and out — twice — this might have marked No. 6. But Malik Newman scored all 13 of Kansas’ points in overtime to help the Jayhawks top Duke.