For some teams, the Final Four is the ultimate destination. It’s a realistic, if mostly improbable, goal for almost every team in the tournament, especially now that there have been a handful of double-digit seeds to make it that far in the past few years. If you enter as a No. 7 seed, you may harbor title aspirations, of course. But when you stare at the draw, your eyes aren’t going to that final line, but the one at the end of your regional. It’s doable. That’s the goal.
But it’s odd – making the Final Four is only a pure, unsullied achievement if you actually sully things by losing your first game there, as George Mason, Wichita State and VCU did. That loss merely reaffirms the idea that simply getting there was the destination. But if you’re Butler, who twice made Cinderella Final Four runs and won their national semifinals before losing in the final, then the ultimate takeaway isn’t joy but devastation that Gordon Hayward’s shot didn’t fall against Duke and that nobody’s shot fell against UConn.