The so-called "madness" that comes along with the NCAA men's basketball tournament is into its second phase, reconvening this evening at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The Sweet 16. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? (Not really.)
Beyond Duke, the sports media has been quick to dismiss the remaining three programs in the West region as serious title contenders. But this is March, and like the name implies, madness ensues. The so-called experts are regularly wrong. The little guy sometimes wins. Buzzer-beaters come with the territory. Which makes the tournament great--and means Arizona, Connecticut and San Diego State have a fighter's chance.
Even if you aren't a die-hard fan and didn't fill out a bracket (mine is garbage--seriously, who expected Butler to beat Pittsburgh?!), we've put together a list of five items of interest to those who care . . . or it can be used as a cheat sheet for those who don't give a damn but might stumble into a conversation about the tournament.
5. College Basketball Royalty . . . and San Diego State
Mike Krzyzewski. Lute Olson. Jim Calhoun. Grant Hill. Ray Allen. Christian Laettner. Richard "Rip" Hamilton. Gilbert Arenas. Mike Bibby. ACC. PAC-10. Big East. Seven NCAA men's Division I championships. There has quite a bit of college-basketball history represented in the West region, practically a Who's Who of former coaches and players. Arizona has only won it all once (1997) but regularly runs deep into the tournament and has produced a number of NBA-ready guards, leading to the nickname "Point Guard U." Connecticut (UConn) has two titles (1999, 2004) but may be better known for its winning women's program. Duke is Duke. With its four titles (1991, 1992, 2004 and 2010), it's among the most storied programs in the country. And then there's San Diego State, which, before this year, had never won a game in the NCAA tournament. Under head coach Steve Fisher (see No. 3), the team had all sorts of firsts this season and is aiming to continue its unlikely run to the Final Four.
1. Warm-up for the Anaheim Royals
With every passing day, and every comment from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (a former NBA star point guard), it seems more likely Orange County will have an NBA franchise by the 2011-2012 season. The Sacramento Kings will be no more, and what shall arise from the ashes is the Maloof brothers relocating the team to Anaheim and renaming them the Royals, the team's original name when it began in Rochester as a semi-professional organization in the 1920s. The Honda Center has had its fair share of pro basketball, hosting Clipper games in the past and the NCAA tournament, but with all the talk about the NBA coming to town, it will be interesting to see what sort of turnout the tournament brings.