Each of the 1-seeds made it to the sweet sixteen for the first time since 2009. When filling-in a bracket you almost always have the 1-seeds advancing to the second weekend. Huge upsets wrecked brackets the past two years. If everyone chose the favorites so far this year, you should still be alive in your office pool. The top four seeded teams had injury or eligibility concerns before the NCAA tourney began with the exception of Kentucky. Fab Melo of Syracuse was ruled ineligible. Branden Dawson of Michigan State sustained a season-ending injury to his left knee during the last regular season game versus Ohio State and North Carolina’s John Henson injured his wrist during the ACC tourney. All four are still standing and the person who has each of the 1-seeds winning their respective region may have the winning bracket.
West region boasts coaches with the most winning handshakes during the tournament. Combined, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan along with Buzz Williams have won 109 NCAA tournament games, more than any other combination in other regions. Izzo, Pitino and Donovan have also won at least one championship each. The Midwest bracket is the only other region with multiple championship winning coaches with Roy Williams and Bill Self still game-planning.
The scaphoid bone is connected to North Carolina’s title hopes. Tar Heel fans must cringe when they see the replay of Kendall Marshall’s awkward landing. The broken bone may handcuff UNC’s chances of making a trip to Bourbon Street. Marshall, and at least his father, believes he can play because it’s his non-shooting hand. If Marshall can play an effective enough game against Ohio to help his team win, we will possibly see a rematch of the 2008 national semifinal between North Carolina and Kansas.
Kentucky and their fans want revenge. It was bad enough the Turner Networks promoted this year’s tournament as the 20th anniversary of Christian Laettner’s shot. Then UPS jumped in with advertising mentioning the logistics of the play. Their fans have had to also relive replay after replay of the game-winning shot Indiana made back in December when the two teams met in Bloomington. The harassing came to a quick halt when the Wildcats went on an 18-2 second half run against Iowa State. Iowa State looked like they had about 25 high-competitive minutes in their bodies to keep-up with John Calipari’s bunch, but the talent of the tournaments overall top seed prevailed. First on the revenge docket is a rematch with Indiana. If they can beat the Hoosiers and advance past the winner of Baylor-Xavier game they will set their sights on the host city responsible for their only other loss this season, New Orleans.
Ohio Bobcats may fit the glass slipper. Ohio University is the lowest remaining seed in the tournament and with another win they could conjure-up memories of VCU and Butler tournament runs from the past couple of years. Both Xavier and NC State are also double-digit seeds but they hail from bigger basketball conferences and have been to the ball before.
Who needs charity? Half the teams still alive in the NCAA tournament shot less than .700% at the free-throw line before the tournament began. Some of those teams are still shooting poorly but are advancing because they are making more freebies than their opponent take, or they’re facing teams who also cannot hit from the foul line. Kansas in-particular is shooting 63% but both Purdue and Detroit aided to the Jayhawks winning cause by heaving just as many bricks. Why is this important you might ask? Of the last ten tournament champions, only one team shot below 69% from the line going into the tournament. Take all the free ones you can get.
Still feeling blue? I had mentioned in a previous post that each of the last eight NCAA tournament champions wore blue in their uniform. There are six remaining teams sporting blue (Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Marquette, Florida, Xavier) who can keep the streak going. The next dominant color is red who also has six each (Ohio State, Indiana, Louisville, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, NC State) followed by green (Michigan State, Baylor, Ohio) and Syracuse donning their familiar orange. Baylor’s uniform colors are up for debate as to whether they should have their own “bright” category.
At least two conference commissioners will arrive in New Orleans. The Big East and Big Ten each have four teams left in the field. Neither of their conferences though can collectively claim each region for a lone conference Final Four. The Big East at best can have two teams play for the national championship. The Big Ten can occupy three of the final four spots.
Jim Nantz is trying to channel Gus Johnson. The overall consensus for March Madness fans is that we all miss Gus and his erupting scoregasms. Jim Nantz is doing his best to get his celebratory scoring cheers out even when it’s a four possession game with less than 15 seconds to go in the game. Although he might be getting all of this excitement out of his system so he’s able to transform into calm Masters Voice Jim Nantz in a couple of weeks.
At least we do not see Coach K during every commercial break. Its possible advertisers knew Duke wouldn’t make it far this year because Coach Kryzyzewski’s face hasn’t been popping-up every minute during breaks in the action. The commercials for this year’s tournament may not garner any views on YouTube in the near future because we already have them memorized. They have been aired more than the old Pizza Hut March Madness promotional basketball still stuck in the back corner of the garage. What we have learned though is Tears For Fears will now reach a new generation. Charlie Sheen enjoys driving cars the size of go-karts in his house and the guy who worked as a fast-food cashier in Super Troopers has a new gig promoting a milkshake at McDonalds.
*Article originally published 3/20/12 at ultimatesportstalk.com