John Clay: NCAA Tournament notes as the Dance begins

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 19, 2014 

BSouth Winthrop C Carolina Basketball

Coastal Carolina Coach Cliff Ellis has also taken South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn to the NCAA Tournament.


Random NCAA Tournament notes:

■ Is the Midwest Region really the "Region of Death" or is it just a "Region of Big Names"?

No. 2 seed Michigan won the Big Ten regular-season, but lost in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament, its eighth loss of the season. And stats whiz Ken Pomeroy has the Wolverines ranked 18th nationally.

No. 3 seed Duke didn't win the ACC or the ACC Tournament and, according to Pomeroy, doesn't guard a soul. The Blue Devils are 101st nationally in defensive efficiency.

No. 4 seed Louisville tied for the American Athletic Conference title, was swept by Memphis, lost at home to Cincinnati and is ranked 19th by the RPI.

For all Kentucky's wailing about its No. 8 seed, the Cats defeated only one Top 25 team (Louisville), were swept by NIT participant Arkansas and lost to — yikes — South Carolina.

I know, I know, I called the Midwest a "monster" after the draw. But remove the names from the front of the jerseys and I'm not sure the description fits.

■ Cinderella candidate: North Dakota State, which features the nation's leading field-goal percentage shooter (63.6 percent) in Marshall Bjorklund.

■ While Alabama did not make the NCAA Tournament thanks to a losing season, former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried won his third NCAA Tournament game since being hired by North Carolina State. Gottfried could make it four when the Wolfpack play Saint Louis on Thursday.

■ As Auburn was hiring Bruce Pearl as its new basketball coach on Tuesday, former Auburn coach Cliff Ellis was preparing Coastal Carolina for its NCAA Tourney opener. It's the fourth school Ellis has taken to the Big Dance.

■ Kansas State's Bruce Weber is 11-9 in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach but has never faced Kentucky or John Calipari. Until Friday.

■ Cinderella candidate: Stephen F. Austin has won 28 games in a row. And Florida (26) thought it had a winning streak.

■ If you missed it, Nate Silver, the math whiz who picked the last two presidential elections on the nose, is picking Louisville to win the national title for a second straight season.

■ Steve Masiello, whose Manhattan team plays Rick Pitino and Louisville in the Round of 64, is not the only former Pitino assistant in the tournament. There's also Florida's Billy Donovan, Arizona State's Herb Sendek, Cincinnati's Mick Cronin and New Mexico State's Marvin Menzies.

■ Speaking of New Mexico State, remember a former UK commitment from the Billy Gillispie era named K.C. Ross-Miller? A junior guard at New Mexico State, Miller was suspended on Feb. 27 for an on-court fight and won't be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

■ Did you see where Indiana AD Fred Glass explained his school's decision not to play in the College Basketball Invitational by saying, "We're Indiana. We don't play in the CBI"?

Turns out no school from Indiana is playing in the NCAA Tournament. Not Purdue. Not Butler. Not Indiana State. Not IU.

■ Eastern Michigan played visiting Norfolk State in the first round of the Tournament and 373 fans showed up. Seriously.

■ If you remember, Tubby Smith's final two UK teams in 2006 and 2007 were both No. 8 seeds. Each lost in the Round of 32 and Tubby was off to Minnesota.

■ Cinderella candidate: North Carolina Central, which is making its first NCAA tourney appearance and beat North Carolina State in the regular season.

■ A reader wanted to know how many times, since 1983 when Kentucky and Louisville met in the Dream Game, has UK, Louisville and/or Duke been in the same region.

This is the 19th NCAA Tournament since 1983 that has included all three.

UK and Louisville have been in the same region four times, or 21.1 percent.

UK and Duke have been in the same region seven times, or 36.8 percent.

This is the first time UK, Louisville and Duke have all been in the same region.

John Clay: 859-231-3226. E-mail: Blog: Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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