This is a list no team wants to be on.
It’s tough to reach a Final Four, especially when you’re a favorite. You have an incredible regular season and then one bad 40-minute game and your season could be over.
These were the four best teams from the decade who never made it to the Final Four.
4. Kansas - 2016
In 2016, Bill Self had a loaded roster. The Jayhawks had elite guards – Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden, and Devonte Graham - along with experienced big-men, Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas. That year, Kansas had won the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles. Only thing missing was the National Championship.
Kansas was on cruise control after the first three rounds. They took out Austin Peay, defeated UConn and eliminated a very talented Maryland team in the Sweet Sixteen. Next up, in the Elite Eight, was red-hot Villanova.
Villanova was also very impressive in the first three rounds. They scored 86, 87, and 92 points in their first three games winning every game by at least 19 points. A game expected to have a lot of offense turned out to be the exact opposite. A defensive struggle between two very talented teams. Villanova edged out Kansas, 64-59 to deny Kansas a trip to the Final Four and possibly a national title. Villanova ended up going on to win the championship that season.
3. Ohio State - 2011
Thad Matta had an unbelievable team in Columbus in 2011. The Buckeyes were 32-2 heading into the NCAA Tournament rolling through the Big Ten. What made Ohio State so good was how balanced they were. They had two of the best players in the country, Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft. Sullinger was a big-time scorer, while Craft was as good an on-ball defender as there has been this past decade. Combine those two with the lights out shooting of Jon Diebler and the scoring ability of David Lighty and William Buford, Ohio State had it all.
After commanding wins in their first two games, the Buckeyes faced off against the young, but very talented Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky played as good of defense as you could on Ohio State limiting the Buckeyes to just 60 points.
After a Brandon Knight pull-up jumper put the Wildcats up by two with five seconds to go, Ohio State had a chance to tie or take the lead. Craft raced the ball down the court, getting the ball to Buford for a left corner 3-pointer. He missed it, coming up short, and Kentucky stunned Ohio State knocking them out in the Sweet Sixteen.
2. Kentucky - 2010
When you look back on Kentucky’s 2010 team the stars on their team just jump off the page. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson all played together in 2010. Ten years later and all four of those guys are still in the NBA.
That year in the 2010 NBA Draft, Wall was selected 1st overall by the Wizards, Cousins went 5th overall to the Kings, and Bledsoe went 18th to Clippers. Even though they were all freshmen, it was clear Kentucky had the most talent.
It showed in the first three games of the tournament dominating East Tennessee State, Wake Forest, and Cornell. Then they got to the Elite Eight and they had to play West Virginia. A team battle-tested out of the Big East who wouldn’t back down from Kentucky’s talent.
The Wildcats shot 4-32 from the 3-point line, while West Virginia went 10-23. All it takes is one bad shooting game in the tournament and you could be going home. The Mountaineers shocked Kentucky, winning 73-66, preventing the Wildcats from reaching the Final Four.
1. Duke - 2019
The 2019 Duke Blue Devils were appointment television. Zion Williamson became a national phenomenon who captivated the sports world. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, was the most hyped draft prospect since Lebron James. Pair him with R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish who also were top 10 picks and Duke had quite the roster.
The overwhelming favorites heading into the NCAA Tournament, Duke was extremely fortunate just to make it to the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils had no problems in their opening game against North Dakota State, but then came the trouble in the Second Round.
By the skin of their teeth Duke got by UCF and Virginia Tech in games they easily could have lost. Against UCF, the Knights missed a tip-in at the buzzer that rolled around the rim and wouldn’t fall. Then, the Virginia Tech Hokies had a chance to send the game to overtime after a fantastic out-of-bounds play, but they blew the open layup.
Duke’s luck ran out against Michigan State in the Elite Eight, losing by one, 68-67. It just goes to show that even though Duke struggled in those three games how talented they were to almost make the Final Four not playing their best.
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