The Elite Eight is over. The road to Atlanta is entering its final stretch. In one week, college basketball will have a new champion. And yet something seems to be missing from this year’s Final Four. Sure there have been some great stories and some unforgettable moments from this year’s tournament, but overall the postseason has lacked the dramatic plot twists and memorable heroes that we typically equate with March Madness. In an effort to make this year’s semi-finalists more relatable, it’s time to recast the Final Four teams as the original heroes-in-a-half-shell: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS- MICHELANGELO
When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was at its heyday, Michelangelo was clearly the fan-favorite and ultimate underdog. School children everywhere loved him for his ability to kick shell while simultaneously cranking out one-liners. He may not have been the most tactically skilled or dangerous member of the crew, but his party-loving attitude and his trademark catchphrases made him an integral part of early-90s pop culture. Yet in spite of his fun-loving nature- indeed perhaps because of it- it was always difficult to take Michelangelo too seriously.
As their nickname clearly indicates, Wichita State is the biggest shock of the tournament. Now that Dunk City has returned to the sandy beaches, scantily-clad women, and less than competitive academic standards of FGCU, the Shockers have adopted the role of underdog and fan favorite. As the final mid-major remaining, they may be tough to take seriously (Especially with that mascot. Seriously, the thing looks like something from Baxter Stockman’s lab gone terribly awry). Despite the fact that they’re only two games away from a National Championship, it’s still hard to imagine Wichita State winning it all. Just like Michaelangelo’s nunchucks, nobody expects Wichita State to do much damage in Atlanta, but the nation’s rooting for these guys could crash the party for a little bit longer.
SYRACUSE ORANGE- DONATELLO
Growing up, nobody wanted to be Donatello. Maybe it was because he was the smart-guy (translated as “nerd” in the machismo world of playground make-believe). Perhaps it was because he wore purple, which of all the colors on the ROYGBIV spectrum carried the most feminizing connotations. Probably it was because the guy’s weapon was just a giant stick. The other turtles get weapons with cool ninja names like katanas and sais and nunchucks, and Donatello gets nothing but a pared-down tree limb with which to defend himself. Not fair.
Going into the tournament, nobody wanted anything to do with Syracuse. Despite their pedigree, people tended to overlook the Orange, dismissing them easier than a bipedal mutant green turtle wearing a fedora and a trenchcoat. Very few people considered them a legitimate contender for the National Championship. Then, the Orange dispatched Indiana and Marquette like they were Bebop and Rocksteady, using the 2-3 zone just as effectively as the jump-and-kick combo in TMNT: The Arcade. Now, the Orange look like one of the most dangerous teams remaining. And just like Donatello, if a team underestimates Boeheim’s crew, the Orange will have absolutely no problem sticking it to them.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES- RAPHAEL
Raphael epitomized the antihero you loved to hate. The resident trash-talker, he constantly employed smart-aleck quips and a cocky swagger in his attempts to unseat Leonardo as the leader of the Turtles. His mutinies weren’t always successful, but the angrier you made Raphael, the more dangerous he became. His devil-may-care attitude resonated with young boys everywhere who wanted nothing more than to challenge authority and upset the status quo. As if he wasn’t enough of a badass, his sais were the flashiest and most memorable weapons of any of the crime-fighting mutant heroes.
Michigan basketball will forever bring forth images of the Fab Five from the early-90s; for the first time in two decades, this Wolverine team plays with an attitude worthy of Webber & Co. If Raphael’s bravado mated with Casey Jones’ fearlessness, the result still wouldn’t quite equal the swagger this Michigan team carries. The Wolverines spent the regular season challenging some of the best teams in the country. Although they didn’t always win, Wolverines showed they could come back with a vengeance (see the Sweet 16 game against Kansas for proof). And to top it off, those blinding uniforms replete with the highlighter-yellow shoes just might be flashier than Raphael’s sais. After spending the regular season playing second-fiddle to the nation’s best programs, Michigan is now ready to complete their mutiny and emerge from Atlanta as the top-dogs, er turtles.
LOUISVILLE CARDINALS- LEONARDO
Despite Raphael’s best attempts at staging a revolution, Leonardo always remained the original Gang Green’s clearly-defined leader, as well as the consensus number-one pick among arcade players. Possessing the most strategically-sophisticated mind, Leonardo could always be counted on to come up with the best plan to infiltrate the Technodrome and defeat Shredder. Despite having the most dangerous weapon of any of his mutant brethren, Leonardo never used his katanas to stab his enemies in the original animated series, serving as a role model to a legion of youthful followers and quelling any parents’ fears about the series being too violent. As Splinter’s protégée, Leonardo was all-business, well-respected, and rightfully-feared.
As the lone one-seed remaining, Louisville heads to Atlanta as the overwhelming favorite. The Cardinals have dispatched opponents with a tactician’s ease, winning their tournament games by an average of 21.75 points. Perhaps most disheartening to their opponents, Louisville’s postseason run has been so effortless that they haven’t even had to brandish their most dangerous weapons. If the Cardinals represent Leonardo, then Rick Pitino serves as the turtles’ wizened sensei, Splinter. Pitino provides the tutelage and coaching that could prove the difference in the Cardinals’ quest for the title.
As the basketball world turns its attention to Atlanta, it’s time to settle into your underground lair, down a few twenty pizzas, and enjoy watching this year’s Final Four squads compete for the ultimate prize: winning April (O’Neill).
What do you think? Which Ninja Turtle do you think represents each Final Four team?
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