Here’s your annual one shining moment, dear friends and hoop junkies, March Madness from A to Z:
A is for the Achilles’ tendon Georgia State coach Ron Hunter tore Sunday when his team won the Sun Belt Conference tournament title at UNO’s Lakefront Arena. “The pain between 1 and 10 is about a 17,” Hunter said. “But I wanted to celebrate with my team.” Hunter’s Panthers limp into a West regional game Thursday against Baylor.
B is for brown, the color of basketballs before former Butler coach Tony Hinkle teamed with Spalding to create an orange basketball that was first used in the 1958 Final Four.
C is for Craig Carton of CBS Sports Network’s “Boomer and Carton” show, who picked LSU to beat Kentucky … for the national title. Let the record show he filled out his bracket on a dry erase board.
D is for doubling down. Twenty-one schools have teams in both tournaments, including LSU for the first time since 2009.
E is for eleven, still the lowest seed ever to reach the Final Four. LSU was the first in 1986, followed by George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011.
F is for the first-timers in this year’s tournaments: Buffalo, UC Irvine and North Florida in the men’s, St. Francis Brooklyn, Savannah State and American in the women’s.
G is for the Green Wave women of Tulane, who travel to Durham, North Carolina, on Friday to face Mississippi State in a first-round game. Couldn’t they have met in Hattiesburg?
H is for the Huskies of UConn, whose women are almost as big a favorite as the Kentucky men. If the Huskies win, it will be a 10th NCAA title for coach Geno Auriemma, tying UCLA’s John Wooden.
I is for the Chili Pepper Institute at No. 15 New Mexico State, which tries to burn No. 2 Kansas in the Midwest regional.
J is for Hampton coach Edward Joyner, who pretended to call Jesus in his postgame presser after his team beat Manhattan in the First Four. Joyner was asked about his team’s odds of beating Kentucky next, so he decided to ring a higher power. Maybe Joyner should call David, the Goliath slayer.
K is for Kentucky, which is trying to be the first men’s team to go 40-0. UConn and Baylor’s women have each gone 40-0 in the past three years.
L is for the Lafayette Leopards, who aside from the first-timers have the longest victory drought. They haven’t won an NCAA game since 1957.
M is for Mamadou Ndiaye, UC Irvine’s cruise ship-sized center who at 7-foot-6 is the tallest player in Division I. His Anteaters face Louisville on Friday in Seattle, unless someone mistakes him for the Space Needle and tries to ride an elevator to his eyebrows.
N is for the best names in the game: N.C. State guard Staats Battle, Baylor forward Deng Deng, Purdue forward Basil Smotherman, Dayton guard Scoochie Smith, San Diego State guard Parker U’u and Harvard forward Steve Moundou-Missi.
O is for Omaha, where second- and third-round men’s tournament games are being played Friday and Sunday at the CenturyLink Center. It’s about a five-minute walk from TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, home of the College World Series. Maybe if LSU makes the CWS we’ll do an A to Z for baseball.
P is for Perfection, which no men’s team has managed since Indiana went 32-0 in 1976. The Hoosiers advanced to the Final Four that year by winning two Mideast regional games at LSU’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Q is for quintillion, as in 1 in 9.22 quintillion, which according to USA Today are the odds of picking a perfect bracket. But you, you’re going to be the one, right?
R is for Ralston Turner, the LSU transfer who is now North Carolina State’s second-leading scorer with 13.2 points per game. If he helps the Wolfpack beat the Tigers, the Curse of Trent Johnson will be to blame.
S is for the Stoehrs, wife Brooke and husband Scott, co-coaches of the Northwestern State women who are back in NCAA play for the second straight year.
T is for TBS, which gets the men’s national semifinal games at this year’s Final Four on April 4 for the first time. The title game will be April 6 on CBS. So don’t call the paper three Saturdays from now asking where the games are.
U is for the Utes of Utah. Like Judge Haller in “My Cousin Vinny” I ask you: what’s a Ute?
V is for Dickie V, baby, ESPN’s ubiquitous Dick Vitale. He plays a reduced role in tournament coverage these days, but March would be madness without him.
W is for the winners you’re searching for to be your office pool champ. Officially, we have to say we frown on unsanctioned NCAA tournament betting. Off the record, please Snapchat us whether you’re picking No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 Utah or not.
X is for Xavier. Thank goodness the Muskateers are in the tournament because we’re running on fumes. X marks the spot Thursday in Jacksonville against Ole Miss.
Y is for YouTube, home of all the “One Shining Moment” videos. Whether you love them or not, we can all agree Luther Vandross is the best.
Z is for Zags, as in Gonzaga, which in 13 straight NCAA appearances has made it past the round of 32 just twice. How far do you have them going in your bracket, buster?