Mark Story

21 facts to get fans ready for Selection Sunday

Fast-break points to help you navigate bracketville:

21. Why Kentucky fans should feel good this morning: Of the last 10 national champions, seven — including the last three — were No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

20. Why Kentucky fans should fret: Of the Cats' top eight players, not one has ever played in an NCAA tourney game.

For a school with the basketball pedigree of UK, that fact is astounding.

19. Why Kentucky fans should feel good: No other team in the country, including Kansas, has three players likely to be taken in the top 10 picks of the next NBA Draft. John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson should give UK a talent advantage against any possible foe.

18. Why Kentucky fans should fret: Only one team (New Mexico at No. 70) among the top 10 in the RPI (source: RealTimeRPI.com) had a lower-ranked strength of schedule than UK's No. 38 (through Thursday's games). Are the Cats as tested entering the NCAAs as an aspiring national champion should be?

17. Tip for picking the Final Four: Go with chalk. Of the last 40 teams to make the Final Four, 17 were No. 1 seeds.

16. The 5-12 upset line: In the 2000s, a No. 12 has beaten a No. 5 a relatively robust 16 times. In that span, No. 5s are 24-16 vs. No. 12s; No. 6s are 27-13 against No. 11s; and No. 7s are 25-15 vs. No. 10s.

15. Bracket tip: History says mediocre teams from big conferences that make unexpected runs to win league tournaments are fool's gold (see Syracuse 2006; Georgia 2008) in their first NCAA tourney game.

14. Murray's dance card: Murray State has not won an NCAA game since the Racers' famous upset of Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in 1988. This year, MSU (30-4) has a viable chance to change that.

13. Slow dancing: A Wall Street Journal analysis revealed that the five major college basketball teams that play at the slowest tempo are all from the Big Ten Conference (and no, ATB members, one of the slow five is not coached by Tubby Smith).

12. Fear the Dookies? In the rating system formulated by basketball statistics guru Ken Pomeroy, Duke is the top-ranked team in the country and Kentucky is ninth.

11. Bracket quiz: Everyone knows a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1, but can you name the last No. 15 to eliminate a No. 2?

Answer: Hampton over Iowa State in 2001.

10. Finding a Cinderella: Look for teams with prior NCAA Tournament experience and veteran guards (Siena and Cornell might fit the bill in 2010).

9. Picking the Final Four: Stay near the chalk. Of the last 40 teams to make the Final Four, nine were No. 2 seeds.

8. Where to find a champion: Of the last 10 NCAA tourney winners, none was seeded lower than a No. 3.

7. Where not to pick an upset: Teams seeded 14 through 16 are a collective 3-117 over the 10 most recent NCAA Tournaments.

6. Fear the Spiders: Richmond does not have prior NCAA Tournament experience with its current nucleus, but Chris Mooney's team has a unique style of play and is tougher than a bad steak.

5. Just say no to 96: As weak as the NCAA bubble is this year at 65, can you imagine how watered down the tournament would be if an expansion to 96 teams was already in place?

4. Bracket quiz: Over the past 10 NCAA tournaments, only three teams seeded lower than No. 5 have made the Final Four. Can you name them?

Answer: No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 8 North Carolina, both in 2001; and No. 11 George Mason in 2006.

3. Cats vs. Cards: In the 15 college basketball seasons before this one, Kentucky has gone deeper in the NCAA tourney than Louisville 11 times.

However, U of L has gone farther in March than UK three times in the past five seasons, and the schools tied by each losing in the second round in 2007.

2. Winning through losing? If Louisville played its way out of an 8 or 9 seed into something lower (a 10 or an 11) by losing its first Big East tourney game to Cincinnati, it was a very good loss.

As an 8 or 9 seed, you play a No. 1 in the second round, greatly reducing any chance of making a glass-slipper run.

1. No UNC, IU or UCLA. The last time an NCAA Tournament was held without at least one team from among North Carolina, UCLA and Indiana was 1966.

Having learned what it's like last year, I'm sure kind-hearted Kentucky fans are even now providing tips to fans from those schools on how to spend a March without NCAA Madness.

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