Here are some quirks, oddities and unintentional humor from the humorless Gene Smith and the 2011 NCAA tournament selection committee.
Is there such a thing as a Weekend Pass?
We all have become very familiar with the BYU Honor Code this year thanks to the suspension of Brandon Davies. It should be interesting to see how that plays in New Orleans, which is where the Cougars will go if they make it to the Sweet 16. I’m pretty sure the Bourbon Street Code reads a little differently.
Don’t I know you from somewhere?
A year ago, Kentucky’s Final Four train was unexpectedly derailed in the Elite Eight when Joe Mazzulla, hampered much of the season by an injured shoulder, started for the first time and dropped 17 on the unsuspecting Wildcats to lead West Virginia to the Final Four.
Fast forward to this season’s bracket. If Kentucky gets past Princeton in its first game, and if the Mountaineers beat either Clemson or UAB, the two will meet up again.
We like to think the Selection Committee is as serious as the Warren Commission, but there’s no way the crew couldn’t have snickered a little bit when they saw what they had put together. Former chair Gary Walters once referred to the unintended matchups as the “serendipity of the tournament itself.”
There are several interesting twists in this year’s field but how about this one in particular: Illinois coach Bruce Weber will face former Illinois coach Lon Kruger in the second round when the Illini take on UNLV. If the former is successful, he is likely to face another “former” when Weber and Co. would see Kansas and Bill Self, who coached the Illini prior to Weber’s arrival in Champaign.
Another interesting matchup is Memphis coach Josh Pastner facing off with Arizona, his alma mater and the school where he got his first shot at coaching under Lute Olson.
Spell that, please
When Kentucky readied to square off against Cornell a year ago, DeMarcus Cousins scored the quip of the week when asked about facing the Ivy League champion.
“We’re here to play basketball. It’s not a spelling bee,’’ he said.
It was funny then and it’s downright ironic now.
This year the committee paired the Wildcats with the latest Ivy League champ, Princeton.
Fear the B
It’s wildly improbable but the last two times Kansas lost in the first round it was to B-lettered universities. In 2005, Bucknell took down the Jayhawks and in 2006, it was Bradley. This year’s opponent is Boston University.
What’s the Matta?
The committee did Thad Matta no favors, putting two coaches with national championships (Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams) and four more with Final Four (John Calipari, Bob Huggins, Jim Larranaga and Jay Wright) between him and Houston.
Other fun facts
Princeton is a 13 seed. The last time the Tigers were a 13, they beat defending national champ UCLA in 1996. By the way, Princeton's last (and only win) over Kentucky came in 1926.
Marquette (11 seed) and Kentucky (4 seed) could meet in the East Regional final. These two teams have met 10 times in the NCAA tournament, most all-time.
The last time Florida was a 2 seed was in 2003. The Gators played in Tampa in the first two rounds just like this year. They lost in the second round to Michigan State by 22, a team they could play in the second game against if the Spartans beat UCLA.
The last time St. John's faced Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament was 2000. The Johnnies were the 2 seed and Gonzaga was the 10. The Bulldogs pulled off the upset.
Louisville faces in-state foe Morehead State in the first round. Morehead's last NCAA appearance was in 2009, when it also played the Cardinals.