Pop that jersey like it is 2004 young man! The sweet 16 is set and perhaps the field loaded up on old school metamucil because it is rather chalky. The top 3 seeds are a combined 24-0 and only one double-digit seed remains and it is Arizona. The number one seeds have been tested somewhat but are still alive. As we must wait in agony for Thursday night to get here and the games to resume, here is a fun fact about each team that is left remaining in this talc-like field of favorites.
Connecticut: Their impressive 82 point margin of victory in the first two rounds are the largest since the Elton Brand, Shane Battier, William Avery, Trajan Langdon team of 1999. That Duke team ended up losing in the finals....to Connecticut.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are the only team from the state of Indiana left in the tournament. This is the first time
Bruce Matt Painter has led Purdue to the Sweet 16 in his time in West Lafayette following the first Big Ten tournament title for the school. Can this be the first Final Four for Purdue since 1980? Catfish's bracket depends on it.
Missouri: It is hard to believe that Mike Anderson has the Tigers where they are. After convinving his nephew, DeMarre Carroll to come back for one more year, Mizzou is in the Sweet 16 since Quinn Snyder took them there 7 years ago. For Tigers fans, it has to feel like a century ago; a different time and world when the game was played with peach baskets and the ball had laces.
Memphis: Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez and his statements about Memphis were a point of contention on our latest podcast, but whether or not you agree with what Vasquez said, let's look at a number. The Tigers have 13 NCAA Tournament wins in the past 4 years, this year included. That is more wins over the same period by Duke, Maryland, Wake, FSU, Clemson, and Boston College combined. Memphis would not dominate the ACC like they do Conference USA, but then again, Tennessee is not on the Atlantic Coast.
Pittsburgh: Feel free to joke about Bryant Gumble all you want, but HBO's Real Sports is one hell of a show. The latest episode had a segment on Pitt coach Jamie Dixon and the tragedy of losing his sister and coach of the Army women's team in 2006 shortly after both had made the NCAA tournament. Dixon was a great player at TCU and went overseas to play professionally. In one of his first games he ran full on into a 7 footer and ruptured his pancreas. He finished the game but then spent months in a foreign hospital where he went without food for 50 days at one point. It's hard to cheer against Dixon and Pitt after watching this story.
Xavier: Catfish was all over this one before I realized it, but Sean Miller played his college ball at Pitt. He was the 1988 Big East Freshman of the Year, and leads them all time in assists and FT percentage. Miller has led the Musketeers to the tournament every year he has been at Xavier, including a Sweet 16 this year and two years ago, and an ELite 8 appearance last year. This will not be the first time Miller faces a former friend, in 2007, Miller faced Ohio State and former boss Thad Motta and had the game in hand until a furious comeback by the Buckeyes, which included the mind rape of a non-intentional foul on Greg Oden.
Villanova: Many people are still fixated on Jay Wright's teams from years past when it was Randy Foye, Allen Ray, and Kyle Lowery jacking three pointers all over the place, but aside from Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes, no one on the Wildcats has made over 30 three pointers this year. Two years ago Nova had 4 such shooters, and 3 years ago with the guards mentioned above attempted 734 shots behond the arc, which is 99 more than this year's team combined. Nova is more balanced than ever before which is why they will be a tough out.
Duke: I wonder how much it was burning Carolina fans to see the Duke fans cheering in their game against LSU. Catfish will be happy to know Coach K's bunch has been called for 10 less fouls and shot 22 more FTs than their opponents thus far in the tournament. However, Kyle Singler did foul out of the game against Texas and if the Devils want any shot at making it to Detroit he has to be on the floor.
Louisville: Aside from their 3 6'9" players, the Cardinals only have one player who sees the floor that is over 6'6" (Terrence Williams). Only T Dub and Earl Clark average over 5 boards per game. Catfish's favorite and no doubt one day Charlotte Bobcat Samardo Samuels only notches 4.7. The Cards did manage to outrebound Siena 44-31 including 15 from Williams.
Arizona: Anyone else get the feeling this next game against Louisville will determine the fate of interim Arizona coach Russ Pennell. You would think a Sweet 16 appearance would be enough to convince UA to keep Pennell on, but AD Jim Livengood is keeping mum on the subject, preferring to play the "let's enjoy the moment" card.
Kansas: In 1986 blocks and steals were included officially in statistics, and since then only 6 triple-doubles have been recorded in the tournament. Cole Aldrich joined the club with his 13 point, 20 rebound, and 10 block performance yesterday in the win over Dayton. I'm sure XM would overlook this as a crappy triple double because it did occur in the tournament. The others to have recorded one are Gary Grant (Michigan '87), Shaq (LSU '92), David Cain (St. John's '93), Andre Miller (Utah '98), and D-Wade (Marquette '03).
Michigan State: This is the best record (28-6) Tom Izzo has had at Michigan State since 2001 when his team went 27-5 and lost in the Final Four to Arizona. Even if the Spartans lose to Kansas on Friday, the seven losses will equal the total of the 2005 Final Four team and his national championship team from 2000.
North Carolina: Tyler Hansbrough had 15 points on Saturday when Carolina beat LSU. The Tar Heels are 5-1 when he scores 15 points or fewer this season. Tar Heel fans can be relieved about Lawson's toe, it may give him pain, but there is no way it is turf toe.
Gonzaga: Demetri Goodson has one of the most memorable shots in a tournament that was somewhat lacking from definitive ones. The games have been good, but with a faucity of upsets and no shot going in at the horn, Goodson's is as good as it gets for now. Goodson is a freshman averaging just 3.8 PPG, that is 2,192th nationally in case you were wondering.
Syracuse: The Cuse is most definitely in the house. The Orange are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. Paul Harris is is the lynchpin for this team; averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. His highs in each category this year are 26, 16, and 6 (I excluded the UCONN game). He will have to play big if the Orange are to beat Oklahoma. He also was a highschool teammate of Johnny Flynn and likes popcorn.
Oklahoma: Tony Crocker has started the habbit of wearing a longsleeve shirt under his jersey. I cannot recall seeing this ever in a men's game. Candace Parker wore one due to injury last year. I thought at first it was just some fashion statement he was trying to make, but Crocker's reason is also medical. He has a condition where the ability for his body to stay warm is slowed. Oh no, I forgot to mention Blake Griffin, Freeman must be alerted!