Hey there gang – I’m proud to introduce the newest member of the CS family, known henceforth as “The Little Ticket”. He’s our guru on all things Madness and has given us this little gem this evening. Enjoy, and adjust your brackets accordingly if the guy on in your office passing them out simply for the attention isn’t watching:
The First Four is in the books and the meat of the NCAA tournament is set to tip off. Come Thursday at around Noon ET/9am PT everyone from small-city hoops hotbeds like Murray, KY and Moraga, CA, to big, evil metropolises like New York and Las Vegas will have their picks in with a prayer to win a few hundred bucks in their office pool (life sounds so fulfilling, doesn’t it?). Once you’ve covered your entire bracket in red ink, however, all that is left is the theater itself. 3 weeks of drama, hope, disappointment and heaven are on the horizon and I am here to prepare you by throwing you useless information you probably won’t retain! Time to get acquainted with some of the teams, coaches and players in this year’s field of 64 (er, 68).
67 – Number of teams whose season will end in heartbreak these next 3 weeks. This realization is also a good example of the extent of my math acumen.
64 – as in the field of 64. No team is more grateful to be in the tournament this season than #5 Wichita State, who was left out last year after a 24 win regular season. They responded by winning 5 games in a row to capture the NIT title. Can they win 4 straight this year to get to New Orleans?
63 – The amount of PPG that the Virginia Cavaliers average, this ranks as 269th in the country. Here’s one guy guessing they should probably score more than that if they are to beat first round opponent Florida, who averages a robust 76 PPG.
56 – as in “couldn’t get there”. Iona scored 55 points in the first 16 minutes of their First Four game with BYU, then proceeded to score 17 points the rest of the way, including a 4 minute drought where they failed to record a 56th point. It takes 40 minutes to win in March, not 16, evidently.
55 – the digit worn by Baylor’s Pierre Jackson – the heart and soul of the hyped-then considered soft-now resurgent Bears. Also, shout out to any guard who rocks a number in the fifties, ala Jason Williams. It should also be noted that Xavier’s Tu Holloway is on the Greg Anthony plan, he wears number 52.
54 – years since Temple’s last final four appearance. The Owls went in 1958 in a 24 team field and 2012 would seem like a good time to return, boasting a team that beat #2 Duke and #5 Wichita St. this season.
52 – as in .52. Speaking of the Musketeers, that is Xavier’s winning percentage since their on-court brawl with Queen City rival Cincinnati in December.
47 – PPG that San Diego St. lost from last year’s Sweet 16 team that featured stars Kawhi Leonard, DJ Gay, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas. Somehow, this year’s rendition didn’t miss a beat, going 26-7 and earning a #6 seed in the Midwest region.
46 – as in 1946, the last time Harvard was in the NCAAs. For those who are curious, they lost to Ohio St. Rematch in the Elite 8 this year? Unlikely.
43 – as in UNLV’s Mike Moser. The UCLA cast off and potential All-American wears that rare number because he overheard a fan say “Yeah that’s the UCLA transfer, but he only averaged, like, 4.3 points per game”. Motivation. Pass it on.
42 – as in, the percentage of available offensive rebounds Kansas State grabs per contest. Syracuse better be ready in the round of 32.
41 – as in 4 guard, 1 big man lineups. In the West region alone there are 5 dangerous teams that play this up-tempo, entertaining style. They are: Mizzou, Marquette, Florida, Murray St. and Louisville. One or two of those teams facing off against Michigan St. could make for some fascinating basketball.
40 – as in 4.0. Definitely not Fab Melo’s grade point average last semester. Sorry, couldn’t resist, but the big man is so crucial to the Orange’s chances but blew HIS chance to make a difference this year.
38 – Combined seed numbers of the 3 teams Vanderbilt has lost to in their last three appearances in the Big Dance. Siena (#13) in ‘08, Murray St. (#13) in ‘10 & Richmond (#12) last season.
35 – Age of Uconn coach Jim Calhoun, he of the 3 national titles and designated oldest coach in the tournament this year, when Memphis coach Josh Pastner, aged 34 and the youngest coach in the field, was born.
33 – as in the numbers of points #1 seed North Carolina lost by at Florida State on January 14th. No team that has lost a game by that many points as has ever won a national title in the same year. Take that information as you wish.
32 – as in, how many years it had been since a team from the MAAC (or if spoken verbally, the “MAAAAAAAAC” to distinguish it from the MAC) had received an at-large bid until #14 seed Iona got the call this year. Well, it was fun while it lasted!
30 – the number that Iowa State’s do-everything forward Royce White wears. I can’t tell if he is a beefy Lamar Odom or a skinny Anthony Mason. Time will tell. Or you can decide.
28 – the overall 2012 NBA draft rank of St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson from ESPN’s Chad Ford. If any one player in this tournament can put a team on their back and take on a superior opponent, it’s #44 in brown.
27 – the age of #3 seeded Florida State’s star forward Bernard James. As if the 6’10, 240 pound pro prospect wasn’t already intimidating enough, his advanced age is simply a product of an extended tour in Iraq, serving in the United States military.
24 – the number worn by Missouri guard Kim English, or in the twitter-verse, @EnglishScope24. He is simply the best follow in college basketball other than maybe Jay Bilas. The thoughtful senior, along with fellow senior Marcus Denmon, begged his home fans not to rush the court after the Tigers beat rival Kansas in Columbia this season. They listened.
23 – amount of games started by Indiana’s Verdell Jones III this year before tearing his ACL in the Big Ten tournament in a cruel, cruel twist of fate (he has never played in the NCAAs and now never will). Indiana will miss their 4-year starter against a high-tempo New Mexico State squad.
22 – All-time tournament wins by Missouri. Sounds pretty good, right? Ah, but the context – that is the most tournament wins by any team without appearing in a final four. The Tigers are hoping for their 6th try in the Elite 8 this March.
20 – years since Kentucky and Duke played what many consider to be the finest college basketball game of all time in a regional final at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Will Kentucky get revenge exactly two decades later in the same round?
19 – The margin of victory for South Dakota St. when they won at Washington on December 18th. Star player Nate Wolters dropped 34 on the Huskies, who look a lot like the #14 seeded Jackrabbits second round opponent, Baylor. Hmmmm.
16 – Duke’s national ranking in scoring offense. Their defense? Ranked 218 out of a possible 345. They are not winning the national championship, sorry.
14 – Games in a row that #13 seeded Montana has won. Guards Will Cherry & Kareem Jamar not only have subtly cool names, but also subtly effective game to match.
14 – The margin of defeat when Ohio U., seeded 14th, beat #3 Georgetown in the 2010 NCAAs – and it wasn’t even that close. Both teams find themselves in similar positions this year, with the Bobcats playing Michigan in a 4/13 game and Georgetown trying to avoid an all-too-familiar fate against #14 Belmont, who has been getting awfully close to winning a game in the big dance the last few seasons.
12 – Ah, yes. The magical seed. We’ve seen 12/5 upsets so frequently I often use the phrase “12/5 upset” in everyday life to describe a mild, but not too far-fetched surprise. Like, if everyone at your table orders a filet even after the server just informed you the chef’s best dish was pork chops, I can’t help but think of those pork chops sitting back there in the kitchen feeling like Vanderbilt. 36 times since 1985 a 12 has knocked off a 5.
12 – Years since a Big Ten team won it all. The conference has lost in their last 3 title game appearances – Illinois in ‘05, Ohio St. in ‘07 & Michigan St. in ‘09. Only the Pac-12 has a longer championship drought among the power conferences. is this the year Ohio St. breaks through, or will one of the Michigans make a run to the final?
11 – That is the number of at-large bids handed out to teams from non-BCS conferences this year – the most since ‘04. I cannot recall a year with so many capable “mid-major” teams in the field.
7 – Number of tourney teams #12 seed Long Beach State played on the road or a neutral setting BEFORE their conference season began. The Beach got swag if you haven’t seen them play this year.
7 – number of teams in this year’s field that average more than 80 ppg. They are North Carolina, Creighton, Iona, Belmont, LIU Brooklyn, Missouri & UNC-Asheville
6 – The number of final fours that Michigan St. has played in the last 12 seasons, which is already astounding. 7 in 13 years would be absurd. At this point I feel like Tom Izzo could coach me to wash dishes more efficiently and I’d listen.
5 – Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith have all brought banners back to Lexington. Can John Calipari become the 5th coach to win a national championship at Kentucky? Either way, people will still hate him.
4 – Number of UCLA transfers currently playing big roles on NCAA tournament teams. UNLV’s Mike Moser and Chace Stanback, New Mexico’s Drew Gordon and BYU’s Matt Carlino, the latter of which was allegedly bullied out of Westwood by dismissed Bruins forward Reeves Nelson.
3 – number of teams that received fancy/shiny Adidas uniforms right before their conference tournaments. All three of them (Cincinnati, Louisville & Baylor) reached their respective conference title games. Will the look good/play good theme continue?
2 – The number of father/son – head coach/star player tandems in this year’s dance. #15 Detroit’s Ray McCallum spurned every major program in the country to play for his dad in the Horizon League, while Creighton’s Doug McDermott fills it up for his pops in the Missouri Valley. They say if you coach your child’s team it’s best if they are the best player or worst player on the team in order to avoid conflict with other parents and players. No question who the best player is on these two high-scoring squads.
1 – The number of teams whose season will end in overwhelming joy, not heartbreak. Welcome to March Madness America!!