Order the pizza, get the March Madness app on your phone, call in sick or burn some of your precious vacation time, just get ready because March Madness is here. Here’s your A to Z guide to the best three weeks in American sports, 2016 edition:
A is for Geno Auriemma. If unbeaten Connecticut wins a fourth straight NCAA women’s tournament as the Huskies are favored to do, it will be UConn’s 11th title under the sarcastic but successful Auriemma, surpassing John Wooden’s 10 men’s titles at UCLA.
B is for a wide-open men’s bracket — or is it? According to CBSSports.com, 12 of the last 13 national champions finished in the top 20 for offensive and defensive efficiency according to college hoops geek website KenPom.com. There are six teams that fit that profile this year: Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Villanova and Virginia.
C is for the Crusaders of Holy Cross, Southern’s First Four opponent Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. The Jaguars are the favorite given Holy Cross’ 14-19 record, but consider this: while the Crusaders went 0-9 in Patriot League road games, they won four road games to capture the conference tournament, winning at Loyola-Maryland, Bucknell, Army and Lehigh.
D is for doubling down on double-digit seeds. At least two teams seeded No. 10 or higher have reached the Sweet 16 an amazing 15 of the last 19 tournaments. The issue for your bracket is picking the right ones. So we ask you: how much do you South No. 10 Temple to upend slumping Iowa then probably get past fellow Philadelphia resident Villanova in the second round?
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 first-timers in this year’s tournaments: Buffalo, Central Arkansas, Duquesne, Iona and Jacksonville in the women’s tournament; Cal State Bakersfield and Stony Brook in the men’s. Yes, that Stony Brook.
G is for Gary Payton II of Oregon State, son of Hall of Famer Gary Payton. The Beavers are in the NCAA tournament for the first time since Gary Sr. led Oregon State there in 1990.
H is for Houston, which is hosting the men’s Final Four for the third time. UCLA won the 1971 NCAA title in the Astrodome, the first time the Final Four visited a domed stadium, while Connecticut won at NRG Stadium in 2011.
I is for Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead, who describing himself on Twitter modestly said “Underrated Is An Understatement.”
J is for the Jaguars of Southern, one of the feel-good stories of the tournament. Southern is back for the first time since 2013 after a two-year banishment because of bad APR scores.
K is for Texas A&M coach and Metairie native Billy Kennedy. His career was once threatened by Parkinson’s Disease, but now he’s got a new five-year contract extension after leading the Aggies to a share of the SEC regular-season title and an NCAA tournament berth for the first time in five years.
L is for Oklahoma’s Khadeem Lattin, whose grandfather David Lattin was the starting center for UTEP’s historic win over Kentucky 50 years ago in the 1966 NCAA final. And as you probably know, the scenes from the 2006 movie “Glory Road” recreating that championship game were filmed at LSU’s Parker Coliseum.
M is for the most combined losses by the four No. 1 seeds ever: 23.
N is for the best names in the men’s tournament: Diamond Stone from Maryland, Deyshonee Much of Iona, Pierfrancesco Oliva from St. Joseph’s, Scoochie Smith of Dayton and Giddy Potts from Middle Tennessee. By the way, Potts leads the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at an astounding 50.3 percent.
O is for “One Shining Moment.” Like James Bond movies are best with Sean Connery, this song is best when Luther Vandross sings it.
P is for lost productivity due to the NCAA tournament. According to CNBC, an outplacement firm (nice term) figures 20 percent of American workers (more than 50 million of us) will be so distracted fretting over our office pools and watching the tournament it will cost American companies $4 billion in lost revenue this week alone. So watch out your boss doesn’t catch you watching the tournament at your desk, or your job may get outsourced to India.
Q is for quintillion, as in 1 in 9.22 quintillion, which is one estimate made by a mathematician of how hard it would be to pick a perfect office pool bracket. But you, you think your bracket is going to be the one, don’t you?
R is for RP40. It sounds like a name for rocket fuel, but it’s Green Bay coach Linc Darner’s shorthand for “Relentless Pressure for 40 minutes.” The Phoenix (yes, that’s singular, like Stanford Cardinal) leads the NCAA averaging 84.2 points per game. That’s the relentless pressure part.
S is for the sixteen seeds, who are 0-124 all-time in men’s tournament (No. 16 Harvard shocked No. 1 Stanford in the 1998 women’s tournament). It’s got to happen sometime – can this be the year?
T is for TBS, which gets the men’s national championship game on April 4 for the first time. So don’t call the paper in a dither three weeks from now asking where the big game is.
U is for the Utes of Utah. Utah center Jakob Poeltl may be one of the best rebounders in the country and an NBA draft lottery pick, but can he he help the Utes get past Fresno State in their Midwest first-round game?
V is for Dickie V, baby, ESPN’s basketball-loving Dick Vitale. Dick is usually pretty positive about most teams, but he ripped LSU a new one for its effort against Texas A&M in the SEC tournament.
W is for Wichita State, which lowered its NCAA-best scoring defense to 59.3 points per game Tuesday with a 70-50 First Four win over Vanderbilt.
X is for Xavier. The Musketeers are a trendy pick as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional, led by guard Trevon Bluiett.
Y is for Yale, in the NCAA men’s tournament for the first time since 1962.
Z is for Zags, as in Gonzaga, who are the No. 11 seed in the Midwest but reached the Elite Eight a year ago. Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis bring back plenty of experience, so don’t be shocked if the Bulldogs (real nickname) get past Seton Hall and Utah and back into the Sweet 16.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.