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Kragthorpe: 16 sweet thoughts on the NCAA Tournament

Published March 19, 2012 2:03 pm

NCAA Tournament • Georgetown being gone my best pick; Missouri my worst
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sixteen sweet, semi-sweet and bittersweet sentiments at this stage of the NCAA Tournament …

1 •The television network marketers who cite programming schedules for only the Eastern and Central time zones may have a point when it comes to the 2012 tournament. No schools from the Mountain or Pacific zones are represented in the Sweet 16. The farthest western outpost is Baylor, from Waco, Texas. Louisville has the shortest trip to the West Regional in Phoenix.

2 • The upsets staged by No. 15 seeds Norfolk State and Lehigh made Friday the craziest day ever in the round of 64. Yet there's actually a lot of normalcy in this Sweet 16. Eight top-three seeds remain, matching last year's total and topping the seven of 2010. The 2009 tournament marks the only time when all 12 top-three seeds advanced to this point.

3 • Ultimately, this tournament is still for the big boys — even more so than usual. The Pac-12 is out of entrants, not surprisingly, but the other five power conferences combine for 14 remaining teams: four each from the Big Ten and the Big East and two each from the Atlantic Coast, the Southeastern and the Big 12. The other contestants are from the Atlantic 10 (Xavier) and the Mid-American (Ohio). Each of the previous two years, the power conferences accounted for only 11 of the 16 teams.

4 • My worst pick: Missouri to the Final Four. The No. 2-seeded Tigers lost to Norfolk State, which lost to Florida by 34 points. Missouri now has appeared in 25 tournaments without reaching the Final Four, second only to BYU's 27.

5 • My best pick: Georgetown gone before the Sweet 16. Fine, except I had San Diego State advancing, not North Carolina State.

6 • We'll never know which party lost interest in the other, but N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried was involved in Utah's search last March. Assuming he could have done no better than Larry Krystkowiak, Gottfried ended up trading a 6-25 season for a Sweet 16 appearance.

7 • The world headquarters of college basketball? Ohio, with four schools in the Sweet 16. Included are crosstown rivals Xavier and Cincinnati, which staged an ugly, game-ending brawl in December that resulted in multiple suspensions.

8 • For the second year in a row, ex-BYU guard Michael Loyd Jr. is outlasting his former teammates, at a lower level. Midwestern State, of Wichita Falls, Texas, is back in the Division II Elite Eight, facing Western Washington on Wednesday. Loyd, who starred in BYU's 2010 victory over Florida before transferring, scored 19 points against Arkansas Tech in the regional final.

9 • BYU can relate to Colorado and Vanderbilt. The Cougars lost 86-83 to Baylor in December, when the Bears' Brady Heslip made six 3-pointers in scoring 18 points. Heslip delivered nine 3-pointers to score 27 points against Colorado. BYU lost 73-56 to Wisconsin in November after trailing by two points at halftime. Badgers reserve guard Ben Brust scored 21 points in that game and had 11 off the bench against Vanderbilt.

10 • After his Saint Louis team lost to Michigan State, former Utah coach Rick Majerus took a shot at Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer. That was a little brazen, considering Majerus was in Columbus, Ohio. Asked if would return to SLU, Majerus said, "I wouldn't [leave] the kids. I told all those kids at Utah I would stay, and I did. Urban Meyer and everybody else left Utah. They tried to get out. I made commitments to kids."

Of course, that account ignores Majerus' somewhat messy departure after 15 seasons.

11 • After producing two Sweet 16 teams (San Diego State and BYU) last March, the Mountain West had a letdown. With three top-six seeds, the league produced only one victory, New Mexico over Long Beach State.

12 • SPN reports that among 6.45 million entrants in its contest, only three brackets remain intact.

13 • Florida's road to the Sweet 16 obviously was widened by Norfolk State's upset of Missouri, but coach Billy Donovan deserves credit for retooling his program and making more deep runs in the tournament. Since his second consecutive NCAA championship in 2007, the former point guard who was cut twice by the Jazz has created another upward cycle. Donovan beat BYU in the Sweet 16 last March before losing to Butler.

14 • Xavier is in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years. The Musketeers nearly made it five of six, but they lost in overtime to No. 1 seed Ohio State in 2007 after beating BYU.

15 • Marquette vs. Florida pairs the teams that eliminated BYU this year and last year.

16 • In romanticizing the NCAA Tournament, there's danger in any comparison to football. Even in a 16-team playoff, you wouldn't quite get Norfolk State over Missouri or Lehigh over Duke. Last season, the No. 2 vs. No. 15 matchup, based on rankings, would have been Alabama vs. Clemson.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt