Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NCAA Regionals - East and West

Click here for the South and Midwest Regionals.

What I know about college basketball this year could fit on an old style 8-inch floppy disc. In other words, it's not much. Prior to the start of conference tournaments, I had not sat down and watched an entire game all season. But why should that stop me from posting a guide to the NCAA regionals? This is not original stuff, but I just gathered and assembled the info from around the internet into a concise package for your edumaction.

East Region - The Andy Griffith Region
This is the only region in which three of the four teams are actually located in relatively close proximity to the regional site (Charlotte, NC). I think Louisville is going to beat UNC for the spot in the final four.

For all the blather about UNC and tradition and Dean Smith and Michael Jordan and yadda yadda yadda, you would think they'd won like a hundred national titles. Nope. Just four. By the way, a "Tar Heel" is an inhabitant of North Carolina. Its origins are uncertain, but it probably has something to do with tar. And heels. Most famous alumni are basketball players, but some more notable non-basketball alums include novelist Russell Banks (The Sweet Hereafter, Cloudsplitter, Rule of The Bone), baseball guru Peter Gammons, comedian Lewis Black, actor Andy Griffith, President James K. Polk, Senator John Edwards, Caleb Bradham (inventor of Pepsi Cola), and Rick Dees (of "Disco Duck" fame).

What you need to know to watch the game: Rotation goes 9 or 10 players deep, and team averages just under 90 pts per game. "Carolina Blue" is only the second gayest color in the region.

Washington State
Washington State does not have much of a basketball tradition. They have one national title, and that came back in 1917, when they were still using peach baskets, there were only four teams competing, and all the players were 5'8" and had handlebar mustaches. And I think they used an inflated sheeps bladder for a ball. They last reached the final 4 in 1941. The Bennett family has brought basketball back to respectibility in Pullman, WA. Dick Bennett was followed by his son Tony as head coach. Last year, they lost in the second round of the NCAA tourney to Vanderbilt. Their most famous alumni are Microsoft co-founder and owner of the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks Paul Allen and Bill Nye The Science Guy.

What you need to know to watch the game: Bennett coached teams are known for their tough defense. There is nothing else interesting about this team. Nothing.

The Cardinals have two national titles to their credit (1980, 1986). Head coach Rick Pitino has one title of his own from his years at Kentucky. They last reached the final four in 2005. Since 2000 the Cardinals are the only NCAA team to win a BCS bowl game, appear in the men's basketball Final Four, College Baseball World Series, and win a national championship in Track and Field. I've always wondered why their mascot is not horse-related, since the most famous horse race in the world, The Kentucky Derby, is held in Louisville. Their most famous alumni are senator Mitch McConnell, NPR host Bob Edwards, and celebfucker Larry Birkhead.

What you need to know to watch the game: Head coach Rick Pitino is short and wears nice suits. Team playes frenetic defense - often with a full-court press.

The Volunteers are not known for their basketball program. Their most accomplished era, prior to this one, was when they featured the "Ernie and Bernie" show, starring Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King, and that was back in the 70s. Now, with Bruce Pearl at the helm, they are becoming a perennial NCAA tournament team. They also made it to the sweet 16 last year. Their women's team probably out-draws their men's team. The women have 7 NCAA titles. The men have never won a national title, and have never been to a final four. Their most famous alums include authors Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse 5), Alex Haley (Roots), and Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), as well as noted poker player Chris Moneymaker, and former Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu al-Ragheb.

What you need to know to watch the game: Head coach Bruce Pearl wears a loud orange sport coats on the sidelines, and sometimes does a good imitation of David Puddy. Volunteers "creamsicle orange" is the gayest team color left in the sweet 16.

West - The Don Knotts Region
I'm picking UCLA to beat Xavier for a trip to the final four.

The Musketeers have become virtually a perennial participant in the NCAA tournament, despite the fact that their coaches often leave for more lucrative jobs elsewhere - Thad Matta to OSU, Skip Prosser to Wake Forest, Pete Gillen to Providence. They've made the field in 7 of the last 8 years. In that period, they have only lost in the first round twice. Not bad for a small private school (4000 undergrads). Notable alums include hall of fame pitcher and current senator Jim Bunning, and actor Robert Romanus, who played Mike Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

What you need to know to watch the game: Xavier has six players averaging between 9.8 and 12.1 points per game.

West Virginia
The Mountaineers have recently encountered some prosperity, thanks in part to the coaching and recruiting of John Beilein, who's now Michigan's head coach. They've never made the final 4, but they made a run to the elite 8 in 2005, and the sweet 16 in 2006, behind the sweet shooting and multiple tatoos of Kevin Pittsnogle. They also won an NIT championship in 2007. So Bob Huggins (a WVU alum) inherited a tourney-tested squad this year. It's no surprise that he has them in the sweet 16 again. Notable alumni include actor Don Knotts, coaches Terry and Tommy Bowden, logo Jerry West, accused felon Pacman Jones.

What you need to know to watch the game: Bitter WVU fans are still threatening to kill Rich Rodriguez. Perhaps a trip to the final four will help them move on. Well, that and some moonshine from cousin Cleetus' still.

The Bruins have 11 national titles to their credit, and current coach Ben Howland has had them back into the final four the last two years. It's hard to top the tradition of UCLA basketball. Like UNC, their list of alumni is also basketball-intensive. As you might expect, it's pretty entertainer-heavy as well. Notable non-hoops alums include astronaut Story Musgrave (missions on all five space shuttles), overactor Jack Black, actor James Dean, MILF Heather Locklear, Spinal Tap's Harry Shearer, The Doors' Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison, former LA mayor Tom Bradley, and writer Carlo Castaneda.

What you need to know to watch the game: PAC-10 player of the year and freshman of the year Kevin Love is the nephew of Beach Boys singer Mike Love.

Western Kentucky
Located in Bowling Green, KY, the Hilltoppers made it to the NCAA tourney by virtue of their upset victory in the Sun Belt Conference tournament. WKU has previously made it to one final four - in 1971. Notable alums include filmmaker John Carpenter, PGA pro Kenny Perry, journalist Duncan Hines. Now, I'm not an expert, but when I looked up "hilltopper" in urbandictionary.com, this is what I got. Instead of putting it here for all to be disgusted by, I'll just link to it, and you can be disgusted by choice. "I'm a Hilltopper!"

What you need to know to watch the game: The Hilltoppers rely on two players to do most of their scoring. Lee and Brazleton average more than 34 ppg between them, and no one else on the team averages more than 8 ppg. Also, they have one of the most inexplicable mascots in all of sports. His/her/its name is Big Red, and that's him/her/it on the right.

Check back later to see the midwest and south regions.

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