Fun Facts Surrounding the Madness
Totally Random First-Round Facts
30 --The number of states represented in 64-team field. States with multiple schools include Texas (7), Pennsylvania (5), California (4), Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio and Tennessee with three apiece, and Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin two apiece.
Hot Shots -- Only two of the nation's top six scorers are in the tournament. They both can be found in the Midwest Region, as Aubrey Coleman (No. 1 at 25.6 ppg) plays for 13-seed Houston and James Anderson (No.3 at 22.6 ppg) plays for No. 7 seed Oklahoma State. They could possibly meet in the Elite Eight.
Dynasties -- Only four schools have won the NCAA tournament a minimum of five times. Three of those four schools are nowhere to be seen on your bracket: UCLA (11), Indiana (5) and North Carolina (5). The fourth school? Kentucky, which has won seven times.
Seed of Enchantment? -- The highest-seeded mid-major (although, as I've harped on incessantly, the MWC should no longer be considered a mid-major in either revenue sport) is No. 3 New Mexico, which is coached by one of the more legendary former college basketball players ("A Season on the Brink" protagonist Steve Alford) in the sport's history, plays its home games in an arena that hosted the most shocking upset in championship game (The Pit in Albuquerque) and shares a mascot name with one of the most iconic women's players in NCAA history (Lobo, as in Rebecca Lobo, who led U Conn to its first undefeated season and national championship).
Strangely enough, New Mexico faces Washington in the opening round. The Huskies' top player, Isaiah Thomas, is a namesake of another former hoops legend who, like Alford, led Indiana to a national championship in the '80s.
Immaculate Reception Redux -- The 3-14 game in the West region would make a classic NFL playoff game in the mid-1970s. That's right, it's Pittsburgh versus Oakland (that's Oakland, Michigan, by the way).
Is It Okay to Correct a President's Spelling? -- When President Barack Obama initially filled out his bracket in the presence of ESPN's Andy Katz, he misspelled Syracuse as "Sycaruse." Katz gently pointed out the gaffe. Also, did you notice that the president, a lefty, shakes hands right-handed? Wondering whether, when two southpaws greet each other, if they shake left-handed.
Best Player Sitting this Dance Out? -- That would be Marshall's seven-foot freshman Hassan Whiteside, who had already blocked an NCAA-best 174 shots this season before the Thundering Herd opened NIT play. Whiteside, whose dad, Hassan Arbubakrr played two seasons in the NFL as a defensive end, also leads the nation in triple doubles. Expect him to be a top 10 pick in June's NBA Draft if he opts to turn pro.
When You Can Snatch the Pebble From My Hand -- Temple faces Cornell in the East region's 5-12 game on Friday. Big Red coach Steve Donahue was an assistant for Temple coach Fran Dunphy when both were at Penn throughout the 1990s. "If you had said to me what team do you not want to play," Dunphy said earlier this week. "Cornell."
One Last Hoosiers Mention -- Cornell's best player, Ryan Wittman, is the son of Randy Wittman, who started on that 1981 national championship team along with Isiah Thomas. Wittman was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1983.
Five Years From Now, Will it Count? -- In a terrific piece on Salon.com earlier this week, Charles Pierce noted that Kentucky coach John Calipari has previously led both Massachusetts and Memphis to the Final Four, only to have those respective seasons' wins vacated due to NCAA rules violations. So, if the No. 1 seed Wildcats knock out your team, you may ask your tournament commissioner if there is a statute of limitations on this year's results.
Windy City Showdown? -- If the Midwest region final is a 1-2 matchup, it could feature a pair of Chicago-bred players leading their respective schools. Kansas senior point guard Sherron Collins played at Crane Tech Prep in Chicago while Ohio State's Evan "The Villain" Turner played at St. Joseph's, which is also the alma mater -- and I swore I was done with IU trivia -- of Isiah Thomas.
Great Stat -- On a "Science of Bracketology" piece that appeared on ESPN earlier this week, it was pointed out that if you filled out one bracket sheet every second, it would still take you 30 years to fill out every possible scenario in the 65-team field. So don't over-think it.
Most Intriguing 1-16 Game -- It has to be Syracuse-Vermont because of the proximity of both schools to Buffalo, the site of the game. Orange students will have a short 150-mile drive across upstate New York while Catamount students have a 400-mile trek from beautiful Burlington.
The Most Convenient Road Trip for Both Schools in the first round? -- That would be the 2-15 game in the West between Kansas State and North Texas that will be played in Oklahoma City. Wildcat fans have a 290-mile drive while Mean Green followers are a mere 166 miles south of the arena.
'Tis Better to Give -- While only two of the nation's top five scorers are in the tournament, six of the nation's top seven in assists are represented. In order, they are Ronald Moore (Siena), Johnathon Jones (Oakland), John Wall (Kentucky), Greivis Vasquez (Maryland), Tweety Carter (Baylor) and Ishmael Smith (Wake Forest).
The only man left out is Demetri McCarney of Illinois (ranked 2nd), who was a high school teammate of national Player of the Year Evan Turner, who himself is ranked tenth in this category.