Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Top Ten: Fun Facts About This Year's Final Four

It was another exciting weekend of college basketball.  The Elite Eight was one of the more competitive ones in recent memory. 
-In the Midwest, 1-seed Kentucky got some late luck to come from behind and beat 3-seed Notre Dame 68-66.  I'm pretty sure Jerian Grant will be replaying that last-second 3-point miss in his head for the rest of his life.
-In the West, in a rematch of last year's Elite Eight, 1-seed Wisconsin held off 2-seed Arizona 85-78 to earn the Badgers their first trip to consecutive Final Fours in school history
-In the East, 7-seed Michigan State beat 4-seed Louisville 76-70 in OT.
-In the South, 1-seed Duke pulled away from 2-seed Gonzaga in the last few minutes to secure a 66-52 win.

It should be a really competitive Final Four, and I honestly think all four teams have a shot.  Also, I should note, fuck Kentucky.  

Here are the Final Four game times this Saturday (Eastern).  Both games are on TBS:
(S1) Duke vs. (E7) Michigan State – 6:09 p.m.
(W1) Wisconsin vs. (MW1) Kentucky – 8:49 p.m.

As I do this time of year, I'm going to drop some Final Four statistical knowledge on you.  Get ready for it.

10 (tie).  By squeaking by Notre Dame, Kentucky is now 38-0, becoming the 13th team in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Final Four without a loss.  Of the previous 12, 7 have won a national title, the last to do so, of course, being the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers (who would manhandle this year's Kentucky team, by the way).  The last team to enter the Final Four undefeated was the 1991 UNLV Runnin' Rebels, who lost in the semifinal game to eventual national champion Duke.  Here is a list of teams that have made it to the Final Four undefeated. 
1956 San Francisco*
1957 North Carolina*
1961 Ohio State**
1964 UCLA*
1967 UCLA*
1968 Houston***
1972 UCLA*
1973 UCLA*
1976 Indiana*
1976 Rutgers***
1979 Indiana State**
1991 UNLV***
* won the national title
** lost in the title game
*** lost in the Final Four

10 (tie).  With Michigan State's win Sunday, Tom Izzo became the sixth coach in NCAA history to take his team to 7 or more Final Fours, and with Duke's win Sunday, Mike Krzyzewski tied John Wooden for the most Final Four coaching appearances.  Here are the coaches who have been to 7 or more Final Fours:
1 (tie).  Mike Krzyzewski - Duke (12)
1 (tie).  John Wooden - UCLA (12)
3.  Dean Smith - North Carolina (11)
4 (tie).  Tom Izzo - Michigan State (7)
4 (tie).  Rick Pitino - Providence, Kentucky, Louisville (7)
4 (tie).  Roy Williams - Kansas, North Carolina (7)

10 (tie).  All four Final Four coaches have coached in at least one Final Four.  This is only the 6th time in NCAA Tournament history that all four coaches have previously coached in a Final Four.  Here's when it's happened:
2015:  John Calipari (Kentucky), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Bo Ryan (Wisconsin)
2012:  John Calipari (Kentucky), Roy Williams (Kansas), Thad Matta (Ohio State), Rick Pitino (Louisville)
1993:  Dean Smith (North Carolina), Steve Fisher (Michigan), Rick Pitino (Kentucky), Roy Williams (Kansas)
1984:  John Thompson (Georgetown), Guy Lewis (Houston), Joe B. Hall (Kentucky), Terry Hollan (Virginia)
1968:  John Wooden (UCLA), Dean Smith (North Carolina), Guy Lewis (Houston), Fred Taylor (Ohio State)
1951:  Adolph Rupp (Kentucky), Jack Gardner (Kansas State), Henry Iba (Oklahoma A&M), Harry Combes (Illinois)

10 (tie).  In addition, three coaches –- John Calipari, Tom Izzo, and Mike Krzyzewski -- have won a national title.  This is only the 4th time in NCAA Tournament history that three or more coaches in a Final Four have previously coached an NCAA championship team.
2015:  John Calipari (Kentucky), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
2009:  Roy Williams (North Carolina), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), and Jim Calhoun (Connecticut)
2001:  Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Lute Olson (Arizona), and Tom Izzo (Michigan State)
1992:  Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Steve Fisher (Michigan), and Bob Knight (Indiana)

10 (tie).  For the second year in a row, each of the Final Four teams has already won an NCAA title.  This is only the ninth time this has happened since the NCAA tournament began in 1939.  The other years in which this occurred were 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2014.

10 (tie).  Based on past performance of national titles per Final Four appearances, here is how the teams stack up, as far as percentage of national titles per Final Fours.  Not that great:
1.  Kentucky:  50% (8/16) (I'm including the 1949 Final Four and national title, even though that should be considered vacated due to a point-shaving scandal, as well as the Final Fours in 2011, 2012, and 2014, and national championship in 2012, even though those will undoubtedly be vacated at some point, since John Calipari is incapable of taking a team to the Final Four without it later being vacated)
2.  Wisconsin:  33% (1/3)
3.  Duke:  27% (4/15)
4.  Michigan State:  25% (2/8)

10 (tie).  There are 9 schools with 8 or more Final Fours:  UCLA (18), North Carolina (18), Kentucky (17), Duke (16), Kansas (14), Ohio State (11), Louisville (10), Michigan State (9), and Indiana (8).  This is the 30th year in a row and the 58th year out of the last 59 that at least one of those 9 teams has been in the Final Four.  In fact, one of those teams has been in all but 8 of 76 Final Fours (1941, 1943, 1947, 1950, 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1985).  This is also the 12th time that a Final Four will feature three of those schools.  Interestingly enough, each of the 12 times it has happened, the combination of teams has never been the same.  Here is when three of the teams have been in the Final Four at the same time:
2015:  Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State
2012:  Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State
2008:  Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA
2005:  Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina
1999:  Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State
1993:  Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina
1991:  Duke, Kansas, North Carolina
1986:  Duke, Kansas, Louisville
1975:  Kentucky, Louisville, UCLA
1972:  Louisville, North Carolina, UCLA
1968:  North Carolina, Ohio State, UCLA
1957:  Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina

10 (tie).  Michigan State is only the third 7-seed to ever advance to the Final Four.  Virginia advanced in 1984 and lost in the semis, and, of course, UConn won it all last year as a 7-seed.

9.  The 15 combined national titles (which will become 16 next Monday) is also relatively high.  If you look at every year since the tournament began and count all of the Final Four schools' national titles (whether it was won that year, prior, subsequent, or later vacated), this will be only the 20th time (out of 76) that the Final Four schools' combined national titles is 14 or greater.  Of course, everything is skewed whenever UCLA is in the Final Four, since they have 11 titles, so below is the list, with the non-UCLA Final Fours in bold.  As you can see, this is only the 6th time the Final Four schools' combined national titles is 14 or greater when UCLA was not in the Final Four.
1.  1975:  23 - UCLA (11), Kentucky (8), Louisville (3), Syracuse (1)
2 (tie).  2008: 19 - Kansas (3), Memphis (0), UCLA (11), North Carolina (5)
2 (tie).  1995:  19 - UCLA (11), Arkansas (1), North Carolina (5), Oklahoma State (2)
2 (tie).  1972:  19 – UCLA (11), Florida State (0), North Carolina (5), Louisville (3)
5 (tie).  1993:  17 - North Carolina (5), Michigan (1), Kentucky (8), Kansas (3)
5 (tie).  1976:  17 – Indiana (5), Michigan (1), UCLA (11), Rutgers (0)
5 (tie).  1974:  17 – NC State (2), Marquette (1), UCLA (11), Kansas (3)
5 (tie).  1968:  17 – UCLA (11), North Carolina (5), Ohio State (1), Houston (0)
9 (tie).  1973:  16 – UCLA (11), Memphis State (0), Indiana (5), Providence (0)
9 (tie).  1969:  16 – UCLA (11), Purdue (0), Drake (0), North Carolina (5)
9 (tie).  1967:  16 – UCLA (11), Dayton (0), Houston (0), North Carolina (5)
9 (tie).  1964:  16 – UCLA (11), Duke (4), Michigan (1), Kansas State (0)
13 (tie).  2014:  15 – Connecticut (4), Kentucky (8), Florida (2), Wisconsin (1)
13 (tie).  2012:  15 – Kentucky (8), Kansas (3), Louisville (3), Ohio State (1)
13 (tie).  2007: 15 - Florida (2), Ohio State (1), UCLA (11), Georgetown (1)
13 (tie).  1998:  15 - Kentucky (8), Utah (1), North Carolina (5), Stanford (1)
13 (tie).  1971:  15 – UCLA (11), Villanova (1), Western Kentucky (0), Kansas (3)
18 (tie).  1962:  14 – Cincinnati (2), Ohio State (1), Wake Forest (0), UCLA (11)
18 (tie).  1997:  14 - Arizona (1), Kentucky (8), Minnesota (0), North Carolina (5)
18 (tie).  1980:  14 – Louisville (3), UCLA (11), Purdue (0), Iowa (0)

8.  Moving on to another worthless statistic, if you just look at how many titles the schools had won up to that point (and not including that year's title), this year is even rarer.  Here are the top ten years for number of prior national titles for the Final Four teams (with the number of titles up to, but not including, that year):
1.  2008: 17 - Kansas (2), Memphis (0), UCLA (11), North Carolina (4)
2.  1995:  16 - UCLA (10), Arkansas (1), North Carolina (3), Oklahoma State (2)
3.  2015:  15 – Kentucky (8), Duke (4), Michigan State (2), Wisconsin (1)
4 (tie).  2014:  14 – Kentucky (8), Connecticut (3), Florida (2), Wisconsin (1)
4 (tie).  2007: 14 - Florida (1), Ohio State (1), UCLA (11), Georgetown (1)
6 (tie).  2012:  13 - Kentucky (7), Kansas (3), Louisville (2), Ohio State (1)
6 (tie).  1975:  13 - UCLA (9), Kentucky (4), Louisville (0), Syracuse (0)
8.  1976:  12 – Indiana (2), Michigan (0), UCLA (10), Rutgers (0)
9 (tie).  2006: 11 - Florida (0), UCLA (11), LSU (0), George Mason (0)
9 (tie).  1998:  11 - Kentucky (6), Utah (1), North Carolina (3), Stanford (1)

7.  The Big Ten has two teams in the Final Four for the 8th time, which is by far the most times one conference has had two teams in the same Final Four (the ACC, Big East, and SEC are tied for second with 4 times).  It is also the third year in a row and 23rd time overall that one conference has had two or more teams in the same Final Four.  Here is when it has happened (note:  the NCAA Tournament began giving out at-large bids in 1975, so that was the first year there could have been more than one team from the same conference in an NCAA Tournament):
2015:  Big Ten - Michigan State, Wisconsin
2014:  SEC – Florida, Kentucky
2013:  Big East – Louisville, Syracuse
2009:  Big East – Connecticut, Villanova
2006:  SEC – Florida, LSU
2005:  Big Ten – Illinois, Michigan State
2003:  Big 12 – Kansas, Texas
2002:  Big 12 – Kansas, Oklahoma
2001:  ACC – Duke, Maryland
2000:  Big Ten – Michigan State, Wisconsin
1999:  Big Ten – Michigan State, Ohio State
1996:  SEC – Kentucky, Mississippi State
1994:  SEC – Arkansas, Florida
1992:  Big Ten – Indiana, Michigan
1991:  ACC – Duke, North Carolina
1990:  ACC – Duke, Georgia Tech
1989:  Big Ten – Illinois, Michigan
1988:  Big 8 – Kansas, Oklahoma
1987:  Big East – Providence, Syracuse
1985:  Big East – Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova
1981:  ACC – North Carolina, Virginia
1980:  Big Ten – Iowa, Purdue
1976:  Big Ten – Indiana, Michigan

If Wisconsin and Michigan State both win their semifinal games, it would be the 4th time two teams from the same conference have met in the championship game.  Thus far it has happened in 1976 (Indiana over Michigan), 1985 (Villanova over Georgetown), and 1988 (Kansas over Oklahoma).

6.  Since 2000, the Big Ten has sent a representative to the Final Four 14 times, the most of any conference in that span.
1.  Big Ten – 14 (Michigan State (6), Wisconsin (3), Ohio State (2), Indiana (1), Illinois (1), Michigan (1))
2.  ACC – 11 (Duke (4), North Carolina (4), Maryland (2), Georgia Tech (1))
3.  Big East – 10 (Connecticut (3), Louisville (2), Syracuse (2), Georgetown (1), Villanova (1), West Virginia (1))
4.  SEC – 9 (Florida (4), Kentucky (4), LSU (1))
5.  Big 12 – 7 (Kansas (4), Oklahoma (1), Oklahoma State (1), Texas (1))
6.  Pac-10/Pac-12 - 4 (UCLA (3), Arizona (1))
7.  Conference USA – 3 (Louisville (1), Marquette (1), Memphis (1)
8 (tie).  Colonial – 2 (George Mason, VCU)
8 (tie).  Horizon – 2 (Butler (2))
10 (tie).  American – 1 (Connecticut)
10 (tie).  Missouri Valley – 1 (Wichita State)

Of course, the Big Ten hasn't won a title since Michigan State did so in 2000, while the American (1), ACC (5), Big East (4), Big 12 (1), and SEC (3) have all won titles since then, so it's all relative.

5.  For only the 14th time in NCAA Tournament history, none of the Final Four teams is located west of the Mississippi River.  Oddly, all of these 14 occurrences have come since 1979.  Here are the years it has happened:  1979, 1981, 1985, 1989, 1992, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2015.

4.  The second semifinal game, between Kentucky and Wisconsin, will be a rematch of last year's semifinal matchup between the two schools, when Kentucky won 74-73 on an Aaron Harrison 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left.  This is only the third time in NCAA Tournament history that two teams will meet each other in the Final Four in consecutive years.  History doesn't bode well for the Badgers.  Both other times there have been semifinal rematches, the same team has won both years:
1960:  Cincinnati vs. California (Cal won both games)
1968:  UCLA vs. Houston (UCLA won both games)

3.  There are three #1 seeds in the Final Four for the first time since 2008 (the only year there have ever been four 1-seeds in the Final Four).  Including this year, since seeding began in 1979, three or more 1-seeds have advanced to the Final Four only five times.  Here is a breakdown of how many #1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four each year since 1979.
2015: 3 (Duke, Kentucky, Wisconsin)
2014: 1 (Florida)
2013: 1 (Louisville*)
2012: 1 (Kentucky*)
2011: 0
2010: 1 (Duke*)
2009: 2 (North Carolina*, Connecticut)
2008: 4 (Kansas*, Memphis**, North Carolina, UCLA)
2007: 2 (Florida*, Ohio State**)
2006: 0
2005: 2 (North Carolina*, Illinois**)
2004: 1 (Duke)
2003: 1 (Texas)
2002: 2 (Maryland*, Kansas)
2001: 2 (Duke*, Michigan State)
2000: 1 (Michigan State*)
1999: 3 (Connecticut*, Duke**, Michigan State)
1998: 1 (North Carolina)
1997: 3 (Kentucky**, North Carolina, Minnesota)
1996: 2 (Kentucky*, Massachusetts)
1995: 1 (UCLA*)
1994: 1 (Arkansas*)
1993: 3 (North Carolina*, Michigan**, Kentucky)
1992: 1 (Duke*)
1991: 2 (UNLV, North Carolina)
1990: 1 (UNLV*)
1989: 1 (Illinois)
1988: 2 (Oklahoma**, Arizona)
1987: 2 (Indiana*, UNLV)
1986: 2 (Duke**, Kansas)
1985: 2 (Georgetown**, St. John's)
1984: 2 (Georgetown*, Kentucky)
1983: 2 (Houston**, Louisville)
1982: 2 (North Carolina*, Georgetown**)
1981: 2 (LSU, Virginia)
1980: 0
1979: 1 (Indiana State**)
**Advanced to championship game

2.  The average seed for this year's Final Four is 2.5, which is the first time since 2012 that the average seed as been that low and the 19th time since seeding began in 1979 that the average seed is 2.5 or lower.  Here are the average seeds for the Final Four since 1979:
2015: 2.5
2014: 4.5
2013: 4.5
2012: 2.25
2011: 6.5
2010: 3.25
2009: 1.75
2008: 1
2007: 1.5
2006: 5
2005: 2.75
2004: 2
2003: 2.25
2002: 2.25
2001: 1.75
2000: 5.5
1999: 1.75
1998: 2.25
1997: 1.75
1996: 2.75
1995: 2.25
1994: 2
1993: 1.25
1992: 3.25
1991: 1.75
1990: 3
1989: 2.25
1988: 2.5
1987: 2.5
1986: 3.75
1985: 3
1984: 2.75
1983: 3
1982: 2.75
1981: 1.75
1980: 5.25
1979: 3.5

1.  Including Michigan State this year, 27 teams seeded 5 or higher have advanced to the Final Four since seeding began in 1979.  Of the prior 26 teams, only 4 have won it all, another 7 have been runners up, and the remaining 15 have lost in the semis.  Here are the years in which there have been any teams seeded 5 or higher in the Final Four since 1979:
2015:  1: 7-seed Michigan State
2014:  2: 7-seed UConn* and 8-seed Kentucky**
2013:  1: 9-seed Wichita State
2011:  2: 8-seed Butler** and 11-seed VCU
2010:  2: 5-seeds Butler** and Michigan State
2006:  1: 11-seed George Mason
2005:  1: 5-seed Michigan State
2002:  1: 5-seed Indiana**
2000:  3: 5-seed Florida**, 8-seeds North Carolina and Wisconsin
1996:  1: 5-seed Mississippi State
1992:  1: 6-seed Michigan**
1988:  1: 6-seed Kansas*
1987:  1: 6-seed Providence
1986:  1: 11-seed LSU
1985:  1: 8-seed Villanova*
1984:  1: 7-seed Virginia
1983:  1: 6-seed NC State*
1982:  1: 6-seed Houston
1980:  3: 5-seed Purdue, 6-seed Iowa, 8-seed UCLA**
1979:  1: 9-seed Penn
**Advanced to championship game

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Retro Videos of the Week: "Only Lonely" by Bon Jovi, "The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground, and "Eazy-er Said Than Dunn" by Eazy-E

As I was perusing the interwebs for info about what happened this week in various milestone years, to help aid me in my choice of a Retro Video of the Week, I came across too many nuggets to narrow this week's post to just one video.  Instead, I'm posting three:  "Only Lonely" by Bon Jovi, "The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground, and "Eazy-er Said Than Dunn" by Eazy-E.  I will address them in chronological order.

"Only Lonely" by Bon Jovi

Friday is the 30th anniversary of the release of Bon Jovi's sophomore album, 7800º Fahrenheit.  I know what you're thinking:  "Damn, GMYH, that's pretty fucking hot, but what's the significance?"  Oh, that's the melting point of rock.  Touché, Bon Jovi.  The band has pretty much shunned this album and rarely plays any tracks off of it.  I went with the song "Only Lonely," which is the first single from the album and got up to #54 on the Billboard Hot 100.  I went with this one over "In and Out of Love" -- arguably a more popular song, since it has been included on their greatest hits album -- because "Only Lonely" has a better video, complete with what appears to be an organized crime syndicate that really doesn't like Bon Jovi.

"The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the release of Digital Underground's debut album, Sex Packets.  According to Wikipedia, Sex Packets "is a concept album about 'G.S.R.A.' (Genetic Suppression Relief Antidotes), a pharmaceutical substance that is produced in the form of a large glowing pill about the size of a quarter, which comes in a condom-sized package and is allegedly developed by the government to provide its intended users such as astronauts with a satisfying sexual experience in situations where the normal attainment of such experiences would be counter-productive to the mission at hand."  I had no idea.  I guess "in a 69, my humpty nose will tickle your rib" didn't adequately tip me off.  Even as a 12-year-old, I assumed "sex packets" just meant condoms, and I thought it was admirable that an artist would advocate safe sex in their album title.

Of course, I am choosing "The Humpty Dance" from Sex Packets.  Sung by Shock G's alter ego, Humpty Hump, and it was the group's biggest hit, landing at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, #7 on the Billboard R&B charts, and #1 on the Billboard Rap charts.  I always found it hilarious that "Burger King" was bleeped out when the song was played on the radio, since the entire song is about sex.  In the video, you can see a young 2Pac in the background.  Of course, Shock G produced and was featured on  2Pac's fantastic "I Get Around" a few years later (among his many other producing credits).

"Eazy-er Said Than Dunn" by Eazy-E

Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the death of gangsta rap pioneer Eric Wright, aka Eazy-E, from complications related to AIDS.  Before he went solo, Eazy-E was, of course, a member of N.W.A., which basically invented the gangsta rap genre.  The entire N.W.A. crew -- obviously, before things became acrimonious between everyone -- appears in Eazy's debut solo video, "Eazy-er Said Than Dunn," a radio-friendly track without any explicit lyrics.  What's the point?!  I wish "Gimme That Nutt" had a video.

Tuesday Top Ten: Fun Facts About This Year's NCAA Tournament

I completely forgot to post this yesterday, so please accept my sincere apologies and stop emailing me on the hour.  Another year, another fantastic first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.  Thursday was insane, with a ton of close games and some pretty big upsets.  Friday was also pretty solid.  Most of my brackets are not totally busted, so that's a plus.

The highlight of the weekend had to belong to Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, who ruptured his Achilles tendon celebrating the Panthers' Sun Belt Tournament championship and had to sit on a rolling chair on the sidelines as a result.  He literally fell out of his chair when his son, RJ (the team's star player), hit a three-pointer to seal a monumental come-from-behind victory over 3-seed Baylor in the Round of 64.

There are no true Cinderellas in this year's Sweet 16, which is always kind of a mixed blessing.  On one hand, there is not a mid-major team to rally behind like a George Mason in 2006, a Davidson in 2008, or a Butler or VCU in 2011, but on the other hand, this is shaping up to be a very competitive Sweet 16 and Elite 8.  Here are some musings to consider as we gear up for Thursday through Sunday:
-Can West Virginia's frenetic defense frustrate Kentucky enough to keep the game competitive?  Or will the Wildcats avenge their 2010 Elite Eight loss to the Mountaineers?
-If Wichita State and Kentucky advance to face each other in the Elite Eight, it will be a rematch of last year's Round of 32 game, in which the 8-seed Wildcats took down the previously undefeated 1-seed Shockers.  Revenge is a dish best served on March 28.
-If both Wisconsin and Arizona advance to face each other in the Elite Eight, it will be a rematch of last year's thrilling Elite Eight matchup, which Wisconsin won 64-63 in overtime.
-If Gonzaga beats UCLA Friday, the Bulldogs will earn their second ever Elite Eight appearance and first since 1999.
-Thursday night's game against Arizona and Xavier will feature Arizona head coach Sean Miller coaching against his former team.
-Friday nights' Gonzaga/UCLA game will be a rematch of the 2006 Sweet 16 matchup, which you may remember as the game in which Gonzaga blew a 17-point lead to lose in the final seconds, causing Gonzaga forward and First Team All-American Adam Morrison (playing in his final college game) to break down in tears on the court.
-Fuck Kentucky.

Here are the Sweet 16 teams, along with the last time they made the Sweet 16 (and their region, seeds, game time, and what station is televising the game):

Midwest Region (Cleveland)
(3) Notre Dame (2003) vs. (7) Wichita State (2013) - Thursday 3/26 7:15 ET CBS
(1) Kentucky (2014) vs. (5) West Virginia (2010) - Thursday 3/26 9:45 ET CBS

West Region (Los Angeles)
(1) Wisconsin (2014) vs. (4) North Carolina (2012) - Thursday 3/26 7:47 ET TBS
(2) Arizona (2014) vs. (6) Xavier (2012) - Thursday 3/26 10:17 ET TBS

South Region (Houston)
(2) Gonzaga (2009) vs. (11) UCLA (2014) - Friday 3/27 7:15 ET CBS
(1) Duke (2013) vs. (5) Utah (2005) - Friday 3/27 9:45 ET CBS

East Region (Syracuse)
(4) Louisville (2014) vs. (8) NC State (2012) - Friday 3/27 7:37 ET CBS
(3) Oklahoma (2009) vs. (7) Michigan State (2014) - Friday 3/27 10:07 ET CBS

If you're like me -- and you better pray to Odin that you're not –- you not only love the NCAA Tournament, but you are fascinated with the history and statistical minutiae associated with the tournament.  Like I've done the last couple years, I'm going to drop knowledge bombs on your mind.  Here are 11 fun facts –- you get an extra one because it wouldn't be fair if I left any of these out -- about this year's NCAA tournament.

11.  On Thursday, five games were decided by one point, which was a single-day record for the NCAA Tournament.  Including one one-point game in the play-in round, I believe this tournament has already tied the record for most one-point games in a single NCAA Tournament.  There have also been three overtime games so far.

10.  There is no region in which all four top 4 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16.  I was assuming that would be unusual, but it is apparently more common than not.  This is the 22nd time since seeding began in 1979 in which no region advanced its top 4 seeds to the Sweet 16.  The other years were 1980-1981, 1984, 1986-1988, 1990, 1993, 1995-1998, 2000, 2002-2003, 2005-2006, 2010-2012, and 2014.

9.  No 12-seed won this year.  This is only the fourth time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that this has happened, and the first time since 2007 (1988 and 2000 are the other two years).  On a related note, this was the first time since 2007 and only the third time since 1985 that all four 4-seeds and all four 5-seeds won their Round of 64 games (2000 was the other year).

8.  When 14-seeds Georgia State and UAB won their Round of 64 games against Baylor and Iowa State, respectively, it was the 19th and 20th time a 14-seed has beaten a 3-seed (and the third year in a row that has happened).  Two 14-seeds won in the same NCAA Tournament since for the first time 1995 and only the 3rd time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 (1986 was the other year).

7.  In the East Region, top seed Villanova and 2-seed Virginia fell in the Round of 32.  This is the 9th time since seeding began in 1979 that the top two teams in the same region failed to advance to the Sweet 16.  Here are the times that has happened (with the year, region, and 1- and 2-seeds, respectively):
2015 (East Region – Villanova, Virginia)
2004 (St. Louis Region – Kentucky, Gonzaga)
2000 (South Region – Stanford, Cincinnati)
2000 (West Region – Arizona, St. John's)
1992 (Midwest Region – Kansas, USC)
1990 (Midwest Region – Oklahoma, Purdue)
1981 (Mideast Region – DePaul, Kentucky)
1980 (West Region – DePaul, Oregon State)
1979 (East Region – North Carolina, Duke)

Notably, only one national champion has come out of those regions (Indiana in 1981). 

6.  Oklahoma's Lon Kruger became the first coach in NCAA history to win an NCAA Tournament game with five different schools and the first to lead four different schools to a Sweet 16.  His other Sweet 16s came with Kansas State (1988), Florida (1994), and UNLV (2007).

5.  Villanova, the top seed in the East Region, fell to 8-seed NC State on Saturday, making it the fifth time in the last six years and 22nd time overall that a 1-seed lost in the Round of 32.  Here are the 1-seeds that have lost in the Round of 32 since the tournament began seeding in 1979:
2015:  Villanova
2014:  Wichita State
2013:  Gonzaga
2011:  Pittsburgh
2010:  Kansas
2004:  Kentucky, Stanford
2002:  Cincinnati
2000:  Arizona, Stanford
1998:  Kansas
1996:  Purdue
1994:  North Carolina
1992:  Kansas
1990:  Oklahoma
1986:  St. John's
1985:  Michigan
1982:  DePaul
1981:  DePaul, Oregon State
1980:  DePaul
1979:  North Carolina

4.  Two 2-seeds –- Kansas in the Midwest Region and Virginia in the East Region -- lost in the Round of 32.  This marks the 32nd time in the 37 years since seeding began in 1979 that all four 2-seeds failed to advance to the Sweet 16, and the 18th year since 1979 that two or more 2-seeds failed to make the Sweet 16 (1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1993, 1997, 1999-2001, 2003-2006, 2008, 2012, 2014).  In three of those years, three 2-seeds failed to make the Sweet 16 (1990, 1999, 2000).  1982, 1989, 1995, 1996, and 2009 are the only years in which all four 2-seeds advanced to the Sweet 16.

3.  The average seed number for Sweet 16 teams this year is 4.375, making this the lowest average seed number in the Sweet 16 since 2009 and only the sixth time in the last 20 years that the average seed number has been that low.  It still seems pretty high if you consider that, if the seeding played out as it should (i.e., all teams seeded 1-4 advancing to the Sweet 16, which has never happened), the average seed number would be 2.5. Here is the average seed of Sweet 16 teams since 1979:
2015: 4.375
2014: 4.9375
2013: 5.0625
2012: 4.5625
2011: 5
2010: 5
2009: 3.0625
2008: 4.375
2007: 3.1875
2006: 4.4375
2005: 4.5
2004: 4.5625
2003: 4.1875
2002: 4.6875
2001: 4.5625
2000: 5.3125
1999: 5.5
1998: 4.75
1997: 4.8125
1996: 3.6875
1995: 3.1875
1994: 4.25
1993: 4.0625
1992: 4.1875
1991: 4
1990: 5.5
1989: 3.125
1988: 4.3125
1987: 4.25
1986: 5.5625
1985: 4.875
1984: 3.8125
1983: 3.5
1982: 3.1875
1981: 4.5625
1980: 4.125
1979: 3.8125

2.  There are 3 mid-majors in the Sweet 16, which is the fourth year in a row there have been 3 or fewer mid-majors in the Sweet 16. (I consider non-Power Five conferences to be mid-majors, even if a school is now in a Power Five conference, so, for instance, Utah was a mid-major before joining the Pac-12 a couple years ago. It's not a perfect science. Deal with it.)  23 mid-majors have advanced to the Final Four since 1979.  Here is a year-by-year breakdown of the number of mid-major teams that made it to the Sweet 16 since 1979:
2015: 3 (Gonzaga, Wichita State, Xavier)
2014: 2 (Dayton, San Diego State)
2013: 3 (Florida Gulf Coast, LaSalle, Wichita State*)
2012: 2 (Ohio, Xavier)
2011: 5 (Butler*, BYU, Richmond, San Diego State, VCU*)
2010: 5 (Butler*, Cornell, Northern Iowa, St. Mary's, Xavier)
2009: 3 (Gonzaga, Memphis, Xavier)
2008: 4 (Davidson, Memphis*, Western Kentucky, Xavier)
2007: 4 (Butler, Memphis, Southern Illinois, UNLV)
2006: 5 (Bradley, George Mason*, Gonzaga, Memphis, Wichita State)
2005: 2 (Utah, UW-Milwaukee)
2004: 4 (Nevada, St. Joseph's, UAB, Xavier)
2003: 2 (Butler, Marquette*)
2002: 2 (Kent State, Southern Illinois)
2001: 2 (Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Temple)
2000: 2 (Gonzaga, Tulsa)
1999: 4 (Gonzaga, Miami (OH), SW Missouri State, Temple)
1998: 3 (Rhode Island, Utah*, Valparaiso)
1997: 3 (St. Joseph's, Utah, UT-Chattanooga)
1996: 3 (Cincinnati, Massachusetts*, Utah)
1995: 3 (Massachusetts, Memphis, Tulsa)
1994: 2 (Marquette, Tulsa)
1993: 4 (Cincinnati, George Washington, Temple, Western Kentucky)
1992: 5 (Cincinnati*, Memphis State, Massachusetts, New Mexico State, UTEP)
1991: 4 (Eastern Michigan, Temple, UNLV*, Utah)
1990: 4 (Ball State, Loyola Marymount, UNLV**, Xavier)
1989: 2 (Louisville, UNLV)
1988: 4 (Louisville, Rhode Island, Richmond, Temple)
1987: 3 (DePaul, UNLV*, Wyoming)
1986: 5 (Cleveland State, DePaul, Louisville**, Navy, UNLV)
1985: 3 (Louisiana Tech, Loyola (IL), Memphis State*)
1984: 6 (Dayton, DePaul, Houston*, Louisville, Memphis State, UNLV)
1983: 4 (Houston*, Louisville, Memphis State, Utah)
1982: 6 (Fresno State, Houston*, Idaho, Louisville*, Memphis State, UAB)
1981: 5 (BYU, St. Joseph's, UAB, Utah, Wichita State)
1980: 2 (Lamar, Louisville**)
1979: 8 (DePaul*, Indiana State*, Louisville, Marquette, Penn*, Rutgers, San Francisco, Toledo)
*Advanced to Final Four
**Won NCAA title

1.  This year, there are only 2 teams seeded 8 or lower that advanced to the Sweet 16, the fewest since 2009.  UCLA is the only double-digit seed in the Sweet 16, which is the first time since 2009 that fewer than two double-digit seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16 and only the 9th time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that multiple double-digit seeds have failed to make it to the second weekend.  Eleven teams seeded 8 or higher have advanced to the Final Four (Villanova in 1985 was the only national champion).  Here is a year-by-year breakdown of the number of teams seeded #8 or lower that made it to the Sweet 16 since 1979:
2015: 2 (#8 NC State, #11 UCLA)
2014: 4 (#8 Kentucky*, #10 Stanford, #11 Dayton, #11 Tennessee)
2013: 4 (#9 Wichita State*, #12 Oregon, #13 LaSalle, and #15 Florida Gulf Coast)
2012: 3 (#10 Xavier, #11 NC State, and #13 Ohio)
2011: 5 (#8 Butler*, #10 Florida State, #11 Marquette, #11 VCU*, and #12 Richmond)
2010: 4 (#9 Northern Iowa, #10 St. Mary's, #11 Washington, #12 Cornell)
2009: 1 (#12 Arizona)
2008: 3 (#10 Davidson, #12 Villanova, #12 Western Kentucky)
2007: 0
2006: 2 (#11 George Mason*, #13 Bradley)
2005: 2 (#10 North Carolina State, #12 UW-Milwaukee)
2004: 3 (#8 Alabama, #9 UAB, #10 Nevada)
2003: 2 (#10 Auburn, #12 Butler)
2002: 4 (#8 UCLA, #10 Kent State, #11 Southern Illinois, #12 Missouri)
2001: 3 (#10 Georgetown, #11 Temple, #12 Gonzaga)
2000: 4 (#8 North Carolina*, #8 Wisconsin*, #10 Seton Hall, #10 Gonzaga)
1999: 5 (#10 Gonzaga, #10 Miami (OH), #10 Purdue, #12 Southwest Missouri State, #13 Oklahoma)
1998: 4 (#8 Rhode Island, #10 West Virginia, #11 Washington, #13 Valparaiso)
1997: 3 (#10 Texas, #10 Providence, #14 UT-Chattanooga)
1996: 2 (#8 Georgia, #12 Arkansas)
1995: 0
1994: 2 (#9 Boston College, #10 Maryland, #12 Tulsa)
1993: 1 (#12 George Washington)
1992: 2 (#9 UTEP, #12 New Mexico State)
1991: 3 (#10 Temple, #11 Connecticut, #12 Eastern Michigan)
1990: 4 (#8 North Carolina, #10 Texas, #11 Loyola Marymount, #12 Ball State)
1989: 1 (#11 Minnesota)
1988: 2 (#11 Rhode Island, #13 Richmond)
1987: 2 (#10 LSU, #12 Wyoming)
1986: 4 (#8 Auburn, #11 LSU*, #12 DePaul, #14 Cleveland State)
1985: 4 (#8 Villanova**, #11 Auburn, #11 Boston College, #12 Kentucky)
1984: 1 (#10 Dayton)
1983: 1 (#10 Utah)
1982: 1 (#8 Boston College)
1981: 2 (#8 Kansas State, #9 St. Joseph's)
1980: 2 (#8 UCLA*, #10 Lamar)
1979: 2 (#9 Penn*, #10 St. John's)
*Advanced to Final Four
**Won NCAA title

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Retro Video of the Week: "Let There Be Rock" by AC/DC

With the NCAA Tournament's Round of 64 starting in less than 16 hours, I wanted to have a Retro Video of the Week that embodies how excited I am.  AC/DC's "Let There Be Rock" seemed appropriate in that respect, even if it was technically made before my normal parameters for Retro Video of the Week (i.e., before MTV).  I couldn't find a version on YouTube of the official video other than the one below, which has Portuguese subtitles, so to all my Brazilian readers, you're welcome.  Also, do not expect to hear from me until next week.  I will be devoting all of my time and energy to college basketball.

Interesting tidbit:  at the 4:19 mark, Bon Scott jumps off the pulpit and breaks his ankle on the landing.  Here's to hoping Kentucky breaks its ankle tomorrow.  To be clear, I'm not telling Kentucky to "break a leg" in the theatrical parlance.  I'm hoping every player on Kentucky breaks his ankle.  That may be the only way Hampton will have a shot at keeping it close tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday Top Ten: NCAA Tournament Edition

The brackets were announced Sunday, and there were a few surprises and many interesting matchups, beginning with tonight's play-in games between 16-seeds Manhattan and Hampton and 11-seeds BYU and Ole Miss.  Last year was the first year since seeding began that there were no 1, 2, or 3 seeds in the national title, as 7-seed UConn beat 8-seed Kentucky for the crown.  I would be highly shocked if something like that happened again, but I have come to learn that March Madness is a cruel mistress who cares not for your feelings or your brackets.

I have already filled out nearly 20 brackets.  Here are a couple initial random thoughts:
-All 12 teams with at least 6 Final Four appearances –- UNC, UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Louisville, Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State, Arkansas, Cincinnati, and Oklahoma State –- are playing in this year's NCAA Tournament.  This is only the fourth time all 12 of these schools have been in the NCAA Tournament at the same time and first time since 2000 (1992 and 1999 are the other two times it happened).
-I think Duke has the easiest path to the Final Four of any 1-seed.
-Dayton got a huge present from the Selection Committee, as the Flyers will be playing in tomorrow night's play-in game against Boise State on their home court.  I have no idea why the Selection Committee would do that, but it happened.
-I don't think there are more than a handful of teams (Wisconsin, Arizona, Duke) that can beat Kentucky, and I think the best bracket pickers will be the ones who can figure out the winners of the 57 games other than those Kentucky is playing in.
-Fuck Kentucky.

Anyway, as I do every year (for the last few anyway), here are a couple lists of five teams each in a few categories that you should consider when filling out your brackets.  Expect there to be some contradictions, since that's the nature of predicting the NCAA Tournament.  Teams are in alphabetical order.  So you don't think I'm entirely full of shit, I'll put in parentheses what I correctly predicted last year.

Teams with the best shot at winning it all (last year, I did not have UConn on this list, as I expect no one would have):
1.  Arizona (2-seed West).  The West Region is relatively weak, in my opinion, and Arizona has a pretty easy path to the Elite Eight.  Also, bear in mind that LA (where the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight will be played) is a hell of a lot closer to Tucson than Madison, which may give the Cats a relative home-court advantage.  Once they are in the Final Four, I think they could give Kentucky a run for its (and Vegas's) money.
2.  Duke (1-seed South).  Duke also has a good chance to beat Kentucky, and probably is the closest to the Wildcats talent-wise.
3.  Gonzaga (2-seed South).  Everyone seems to think this is Gonzaga's best team.  It might be.  I put them here because I don't feel strongly enough about any teams in the East Region.
4.  Kentucky (1-seed Midwest).  The Wildcats -- who are, in fact, paid professionals -- are the first major conference team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since Indiana in 1976 (the last team to finish the season undefeated).  They are essentially at even-money odds to win the title.
5.  Wisconsin (1-seed West).  Of all the teams in the field, I think Wisconsin has the best chance of beating Kentucky.  The Badgers can match UK's bigs, and they play virtually error-free basketball to the point of annoyance.

Final Four sleepers (teams seeded 4 or higher) (last year, I correctly put UConn on this list):
1.  Michigan State (7-seed East).  Last year, the 7-seed from the East was UConn, and we all know how that worked out.  If the Spartans can get past Virginia in the Round of 32, look out.
2.  North Carolina (4-seed West).  Depending on which UNC team shows up, this could be a deep run or a quick exit for the Tar Heels.  They certainly have the talent for the latter and could catch Wisconsin, Arizona, or Baylor on an off night.
3.  Northern Iowa (5-seed East).  Northern Iowa is better than a 5-seed.  Seth Tuttle could be this year's Stephen Curry -- or, more appropriately, Ali Farokhmanesh -- as the Panthers look to replicate (or better) their Sweet 16 run in 2010 as a 9-seed.
4.  Utah (5-seed South).  No one is talking about Utah because they play in the dreaded 5-12 game against proven 12-seed Stephen F. Austin and would have to get through Duke to make it to the Elite Eight.  If they can do that, I think any team on the bottom half of the South bracket is beatable.
5.  VCU (7-seed West).  VCU and its "havoc" defense usually play pretty well this time of year, as evidenced by their Atlantic-10 conference tournament championship run last week.  They tend to play better as the underdog, most memorably in 2011, when they went to the Final Four as an 11-seed.  As a 7-seed, they aren't expected to go very far, but if they can get past Ohio State in the Round of 64 and upset 2-seed Arizona in the Round of 32, watch out.

Teams seeded 4 or lower who may not make it to the second weekend (last year, I correctly put Duke, Syracuse, and Villanova on this list):
1.  Georgetown (4-seed South).  In their last five NCAA Tournaments, the Hoyas haven't reached the Sweet 16, including Round of 32 losses as a 2-seed in 2008, 3-seed in 2012, and Round of 64 losses as a 3-seed in 2010, 6-seed in 2011, and 2-seed in 2013.  Until they prove that they can get over that hump, I can't trust them.  On top of that, they play Eastern Washington in the first round, and the Eagles are a tough 13-seed that can score a lot of points (3rd in the NCAA in points per game and top 10 in 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made), led by a legit baller in Tyler Harvey, who led the NCAA in points per game this season.  Even if the Hoyas get past EWU, they would face either Utah or Stephen F. Austin, both of whom are capable of beating Georgetown.
2.  Gonzaga (2-seed South).  Gonzaga is a 2-seed, and they seem to play better as an underdog.  The Zags haven't made it to the Sweet 16 since 2009, and check out this stat:  when seeded 4 or better (i.e., expected to make it to the Sweet 16 or further), which has happened five times, the Zags are 7-5 and have made it to the second weekend only twice (2006 and 2009).  On the other hand, when seeded 6 or lower (they have never been a 5-seed), Gonzaga's record is 12-12 and they have made it to three Sweet 16s (including one Elite Eight).  Their Round of 64 opponent, North Dakota State, upset Oklahoma last year in a 5-12 game, and if Gonzaga gets past the Bison, they would take on either Iowa or Davidson, both of which are capable of taking down Gonzaga.
3.  Kansas (2-seed Midwest).  Because it's Kansas.  During Bill Self's 12-year tenure as head coach, the Jayhawks have never been seeded worse than a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and yet they have failed to make it to the second weekend four times, including last year, when they lost to 10-seed Stanford in the Round of 32.  Plus, this year, the Cliff-Alexander-less Jayhawks have a relatively tough 2-15 matchup against New Mexico State in the Round of 64, and then, in the Round of 32, they will either face a sharp-shooting Indiana team or a Wichita State team that would like nothing more than to beat its big brother from Lawrence.
4.  North Carolina (4-seed West).  Like I alluded to in the section above, UNC has been inconsistent over the past two months.  Their first-round matchup with Harvard is no wahk in the pahk, and they could potentially face Arkansas and its "40 minutes of hell" defense in the Round of 32.
5.  Notre Dame (3-seed Midwest).  Mike Brey has been the head coach at Notre Dame since 2000.  Since then, in nine NCAA Tournament appearances, the Fighting Irish have made it to the Sweet 16 exactly once (2003) and have lost to higher-seeded teams five times, including their previous four appearances.  They are another one of those teams that I can't trust until they prove me wrong.

Teams seeded 12 or higher with the best chance of pulling an upset in the first round (last year, I correctly put Harvard and Stephen F. Austin, on this list):
1.  Buffalo (12-seed Midwest).  The Bulls are the sexy 5-12 upset pick, playing Huggy Bear's West Virginia Mountaineers on Friday in the Round of 64, and there is a reason for that.  Coached by former Duke standout Bobby Hurley, Buffalo scores and rebounds very well.  The 1-2 punch of Justin Moss and Shannon Evans is a pretty good one, and the Bulls will undoubtedly be hungry in their first ever NCAA Tournament.
2.  Eastern Washington (13-seed South).  They play Georgetown in the Round of 64, and can score a ton of points against the Hoyas' mediocre defense.  If Tyler Harvey gets hot, Georgetown could be in trouble.
3.  Harvard (13-seed West).  In 2012, the Crimson went to their first NCAA Tournament since Harry Truman was President, and they played tough in a 9-point loss to Vanderbilt in a 5-12 matchup.  In 2013, as a 14-seed, they beat 3-seed New Mexico in the Round of 64, and last year, as a 12-seed, they beat 5-seed Cincinnati in the Round of 64.  They play solid defense and a plodding style of offense, and as I mentioned above, North Carolina is up and down over the last month and a half.  If Harvard can control the tempo and if UNC is having an off night, it could be another Round of 64 win for Tommy Amaker.
4.  Stephen F. Austin (12-seed South).  I know I put Utah –- SFA's Round of 64 opponent -- on my list of Final Four sleepers, but the Lumberjacks are more than capable of ruining the Utes' season Thursday night.  Last year, SFA beat VCU as a 12-seed in one of the more memorable tournament games, and they are just as good this year.
5.  UC Irvine (13-seed East).  The Anteaters have a dude (Mamadou Ndiaye) who is 7'6", and Louisville is banged up this year.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mascot Fight Bracket

Selection Sunday -– which should be a national holiday, even though it's on a Sunday and most people have it off anyway –- was yesterday, and the field for this year's NCAA Tournament has been announced.  We all know Kentucky is going to win –- they are paid professionals, after all -– but how your pools shake out will depend on how the rest of your bracket is filled out.  Tomorrow, I will give you my keen insight on the teams to help you win your pool, but today, it's all about the mascots.

As I've done in years past, today I'm going to post the mascot fight bracket.  Inspired by the 6- or 7-year-old son of a former co-worker, who filled out his bracket one year based solely on which mascot would win in a fight and ending up with a dreaded NC State vs. Nevada –- Wolfpack vs. Wolf Pack -– matchup, every year I fill out a bracket (not for money) entitled "Mascot Fight."  Here is what it looks like this year, with explanations of my brilliant and sometimes contradictory reasoning.

Midwest Region
Play-in game:
(16) Hampton Pirates vs. (16) Manhattan Jaspers.  The Jaspers are named after a priest.  While the guy did invent the seventh inning stretch, God and baseball are no match for a sword and syphilis.  Winner:  Hampton

Round of 64:
(1) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (16) Hampton Pirates.  Pirates kill cats.  It's as simple as that.  Winner:  Hampton
(8) Cincinnati Bearcats vs. (9) Purdue Boilermakers.  A boilermaker is a shit-stained factory worker.  A bearcat is an animal with the speed of a cat and the strength and tenacity of a bear.  Winner:  Cincinnati
(5) West Virginia Mountaineers vs. (12) Buffalo Bulls.  Mountaineers have guns.  Guns kill bulls.  Winner:  West Virginia
(4) Maryland Terrapins vs. (13) Valparaiso Crusaders.  Fear the turtle?  I think not.  A crusader merely has to flip the turtle on its back and then game over.  Winner:  Valparaiso
(6) Butler Bulldogs vs. (11) Texas Longhorns.  Bulldogs can be tenacious, and their low center of gravity helps them in fights, but they can also be gored to death pretty easily by an angry steer.  Winner:  Texas
(3) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. (14) Northeastern Huskies.  A drunken bare-knuckle boxer, while stubborn, would not overcome the calculating bite of a husky.  Winner:  Northeastern
(7) Wichita State Shockers vs. (10) Indiana Hoosiers.  While a sexual maneuver is pretty cool, it will not defeat whatever the hell a Hoosier is.  Winner:  Indiana
(2) Kansas Jayhawks vs. (15) New Mexico State Aggies.  Even an Aggie can kill a bird.  Winner:  New Mexico State

Round of 32:
(8) Cincinnati Bearcats vs. (16) Hampton Pirates.  If Cincinnati's mascot was a water creature –- say a manatee or an urchin -- I would likely side with Hampton, but I don't think a pirate would know what to do when approached by a bearcat, except get eaten.  Winner:  Cincinnati
(5) West Virginia Mountaineers vs. (13) Valparaiso Crusaders.  This is a tough one.  On one hand, crusaders were pretty hardcore, but on the other hand, Mountaineers have rifles.  Winner:  West Virginia
(11) Texas Longhorns vs. (14) Northeastern Huskies.  The husky meets the same fate as the bulldog.  Winner:  Texas
(10) Indiana Hoosiers vs. (15) New Mexico State Aggies.  While the aggie is tending to his crops, the Hoosier chucks a basketball really hard at the aggie's temple.  Winner:  Indiana

Sweet 16:
(5) West Virginia Mountaineers vs. (8) Cincinnati Bearcats.  A bearcat, while wily, is no match for the weird dude with a gun who lives in the forest.  Winner:  West Virginia
(10) Indiana Hoosiers vs. (11) Texas Longhorns.  Without an ag school, the Hoosier is helpless to defend itself against the charge of the longhorn.  Winner:  Texas

Elite 8:
(5) West Virginia Mountaineers vs. (11) Texas Longhorns.  Steak dinner.  Winner:  West Virginia

West Region
Play-in game:
(11) BYU Cougars vs. (11) Ole Miss Rebels.  You can't rebel against being mauled by a mountain lion.  Winner:  BYU

Round of 64:
(1) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (16) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.  You know that rooster that likes to sing?  He just got eaten by a badger.  Winner:  Wisconsin
(8) Oregon Ducks vs. (9) Oklahoma State Cowboys.  Cowboys shoot and eat ducks.  Winner:  Oklahoma State
(5) Arkansas Razorbacks vs. (12) Wofford Terriers.  They said that God loves a terrier, but a feral warthog with sharp tusks does not.  Winner:  Arkansas
(4) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (12) Harvard Crimson.  Living creatures, even ones with tar on their heels, always beat colors.  Winner:  Arkansas
(6) Xavier Musketeers vs. (11) BYU Cougars.  They say there's more than one way to skin a cat.  One of those ways is after you kill it with a musket.  Winner:  Xavier
(3) Baylor Bears vs. (14) Georgia State Panthers.  What a great matchup.  This will be a battle to the bloody end, but I give the edge to the bear.  Winner:  Baylor
(7) VCU Rams vs. (10) Ohio State Buckeyes.  A buckeye is a nut, but a poisonous nut at that.  Rams are stupid enough to eat poisonous nuts.  Winner:  Ohio State
(2) Arizona Wildcats vs. (15) Texas Southern Tigers.  In the battle of big cats, the biggest wins.  Winner:  Texas Southern

Round of 32:
(1) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (9) Oklahoma State Cowboys.  You know that cowboy that fell asleep?  He just got eaten by a badger.  Winner:  Wisconsin
(4) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (5) Arkansas Razorbacks.  "Hey, I just stepped in some tar" is the last thing you hear before being knocked out by a charging razorback.  Winner:  Arkansas
(3) Baylor Bears vs. (6) Xavier Musketeers.  There aren't many bears in medieval France.  Sorry D'Artagnan.  Winner:  Baylor
(10) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (15) Texas Southern Tigers.  Tigers, while smarter than rams, aren't familiar enough with the toxicity of Midwestern American nuts to know not to eat them.  Winner:  Ohio State

Sweet 16:
(1) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (5) Arkansas Razorbacks.  What a fight this would be.  In the end, though, I'd have to say the badger would come out on top.  Winner:  Badger
(3) Baylor Bears vs. (10) Ohio State Buckeyes.  Bears don't eat nuts; they step on them.  Winner:  Baylor

Elite 8:
(1) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (3) Baylor Bears.  A badger is no match for a bear.  Winner:  Baylor

East Region
Play-in game:
(11) Boise State Broncos vs. (11) Dayton Flyers.  If anything gets too hairy, a pilot can fly away from a horse and crash into the horse with his or her plane if need be.  Winner:  Dayton

Round of 64:
(1) Villanova Wildcats vs. (16) Lafayette Leopards.  Leopard > Wildcat.  Winner:  Lafayette
(8) NC State Wolfpack vs. (9) LSU Tigers.  Another solid matchup, but the wolf pack gains its power in numbers.  Winner:  NC State
(5) Northern Iowa Panthers vs. (12) Wyoming Cowboys.  Cowboys can dispose of mountain lions, cougars, pumas, and common house cats, but not panthers.  Winner:  Northern Iowa
(4) Louisville Cardinals vs. (13) UC Irvine Anteaters.  This might be the weakest matchup in the field.  The anteater is probably the least intimidating mascot we've discussed so far, and the cardinal has a beak that could maybe peck the anteater's eyes out, I guess.  Winner:  Louisville
(6) Providence Friars vs. (11) Dayton Flyers.  "Say, Brother Edward, what is that giant metal bird in the sky above our monastery?"  "Why, Brother Archibald, I believe it's a sign from . . ."  At that point, the bomb from the airplane blows the monastery to smithereens.  Winner:  Dayton
(3) Oklahoma Sooners vs. (14) Albany Great Danes.  I have to think the people who settle Oklahoma could tame a giant lazy dog.  Winner:  Oklahoma
(7) Michigan State Spartans vs. (10) Georgia Bulldogs.  By the time you've read this sentence, Leonidas has already gutted the dog and fashioned its head into a helmet.  Winner:  Michigan State
(2) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (15) Belmont Bruins.  A foppish guy with a bendy sword and a Rollie Fingers mustache walks into a forest.  He does not return.  Winner:  Belmont

Round of 32:
(8) NC State Wolfpack vs. (16) Lafayette Leopards.  Power in numbers once again wins the day.  Winner:  NC State
(5) Northern Iowa Panthers vs. (4) Louisville Cardinals.  Not even close.  Winner:  Northern Iowa
(3) Oklahoma Sooners vs. (11) Dayton Flyers.  Fighter planes beat stagecoaches.  Winner:  Dayton
(7) Michigan State Spartans vs. (15) Belmont Bruins.  A bear from Tennessee is not going to stop the 300.  Winner:  Michigan State

Sweet 16:
(5) Northern Iowa Panthers vs. (8) NC State Wolfpack.  One time I saw some werewolves fight some werepanthers on True Blood.  It didn't end well for the werepanthers, as I recall.  Winner:  NC State
(7) Michigan State Spartans vs. (11) Dayton Flyers.  Even the biggest badasses ever might not be able to sustain a dive bombing.  Winner:  Dayton

Elite 8:
(8) NC State Wolfpack vs. (11) Dayton Flyers.  I thought long and hard about this one.  On one hand, there are probably a lot of wolves in that wolf pack, so they can avoid getting completely wiped out and then pounce once the pilot lands to refuel.  On the other hand, shooting wolves from a plane is apparently not that hard to do.  Just ask Sarah Palin.  Winner:  Dayton

South Region
Play-in game:
(16) North Florida Ospreys vs. (16) Robert Morris Colonials.  An osprey is kind of like a hawk.  Did you know that hawks die when shot by members of the Continental Army?  Winner:  Robert Morris

Round of 64:
(1) Duke Blue Devils vs. (16) Robert Morris Colonials.  Devils can be tricky.  Winner:  Duke
(8) San Diego State Aztecs vs. (9) St. John's Red Storm.  I think the Aztecs invented red storms.  Winner:  San Diego State
(5) Utah Utes vs. (12) Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.  Guys from Texas with chainsaws vs. skilled horseback warriors with bows and guns.  A classic western matchup.  Winner:  Utah
(4) Georgetown Hoyas vs. (13) Eastern Washington Eagles.  A hoya is a word that means "what."  An eagle is an eagle.  Winner:  Eastern Washington
(6) SMU Mustangs vs. (11) UCLA Bruins.  Beats beat horses.  Winner:  UCLA
(3) Iowa State Cyclones vs. (14) UAB Blazers.  A blazer is a dragon.  Dragons can fly above tornadoes, rendering the tornadoes virtually useless.  Winner:  UAB
(7) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. (10) Davidson Wildcats.  A wildcat will always beat a bird's eye.  Winner:  Davidson
(2) Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. (15) North Dakota State Bison.  So the bison is laughing his ass off while the bulldog is snoring, but the bulldog was just pretending to sleep, and it pops up and gnaws the bison's ankle.  Gotcha, bitch.  Winner:  Gonzaga.

Round of 32:
(1) Duke Blue Devils vs. (8) San Diego State Aztecs.  "You know those virgins you guys are sacrificing to your gods?  Those are actually for me.  Thanks."  Say the devil, followed by a hearty belly laugh.  Winner:  Duke
(5) Utah Utes vs. (13) Eastern Washington Eagles.  I'd take a Native American tribe over an eagle any day of the week.  Except Saturdays.  Winner:  Eastern Washington
(11) UCLA Bruins vs. (14) UAB Blazers.  It's a battle as old as time:  bear vs. dragon.  You don't see any dragons walking around, do you?  Winner:  UCLA
(2) Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. (10) Davidson Wildcats.  The "snore and gnaw" trick that fooled the bison doesn't work on the more street-smart wildcat, who pounces on the bulldog while it's pretending to sleep and sinks its fangs into the bulldog's jugular, causing the bulldog to bleed out.  Winner:  Davidson

Round of 16:
(1) Duke Blue Devils vs. (13) Eastern Washington Eagles.  The devil has a really good arm and surprisingly accurate aim with a pitchfork.  Winner:  Duke
(10) Davidson Wildcats vs. (11) UCLA Bruins.  Bears will always beat wildcats.  Always.  Winner:  UCLA

Elite 8:
(1) Duke Blue Devils vs. (11) UCLA Bruins.  Bears are no match for the devil.  Winner:  Duke

Final Four
(3) Baylor Bears vs. (5) West Virginia Mountaineers.  While bears tend to be pretty good at not dying, mountain men with guns are pretty good at killing bears.  Winner:  West Virginia
(1) Duke Blue Devils vs. (11) Dayton Flyers.  The Duke Blue Devil wears aviator goggles and a scarf because he knows his way around a plane, as does the Flyer, but the devil is the devil.  Winner: Duke

Championship Game

(1) Duke Blue Devils vs. (5) West Virginia Mountaineers.  The mountaineer is wily, resourceful, and handy with a gun, knife, and compound bow.  If this were a fiddling contest and we were in Georgia, the outcome might favor the mountaineer, but this is a mascot fight.  The mountaineer would get some good shots in, but with some timely smoke screens, the devil would eventually disorient the mountaineer, whereupon he would thrust his trident into the mountain man's head –- like straight through the skull –- and cackle diabolically before letting out a sigh as the last drops of life flow out of the mountaineer's body and saying "God damn, this never gets old."  Winner:  Duke