JOHN MARSHALL,AP Sports Writer
Welcome to BracketRacket, your one-stop shopping place for all things NCAA.
For our first Sweet 16 edition, we’ve got a geography quiz by Shockers and Explorers, a coach in rarified air, a former Ohio attorney general rooting for Michigan State and Jim Larranaga’s thought for the day. All that and some Bracket Bits that include all of Dunk City’s postseason dunks and, in honor of Easter, Peeps.
Who says academics go by the wayside during the NCAA tournament?
La Salle and Wichita State took a geography quiz at the West Regional in Los Angeles, and the Shockers passed. Belying their name, the Explorers need to brush up a little.
Here’s an excerpt of how it went from AP Sports Writer Beth Harris:
Question: Where is La Salle located?
Answer: “Philly, right? I believe it’s Philly,” Shockers guard Malcolm Armstead said.
Question: Where is Wichita State located?
Answer: “What state is it in?” asked La Salle guard Ramon Galloway.
And it went downhill from there.
“I saw a store down here called Which Wich,” Explorers guard Tyrone Garland offered, not-so-helpfully naming a national sandwich chain.
Guard Tyreek Duren pitched in: “Steve Zack said we passed the Wichita exit when we were going to the airport. He pointed it out and said, ‘That’s who we play.'”
Informed of their opponent’s confusion, Shockers forward Cleanthony Early, of Middletown, N.Y., admitted he was initially stumped, too.
“I didn’t know where Wichita was either before I went there,” he said. “I had to do my research. When I first heard of it, I couldn’t even pronounce it correctly.”
After losing to the Shockers in the Sweet 16, the Explorers probably know a little bit more about Wichita as well.
ONE IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS
Forgive Dana Altman and the Oregon Ducks if they have a bit of an inferiority complex this weekend.
And no, this isn’t a gripe about the selection committee’s seeding.
The Ducks, being covered at the Sweet 16 by AP National Writer Nancy Armour, are in the Midwest Regional semifinals with a veritable Who’s Who of college hoops.
Their opponent, Louisville, is a two-time national champion and was in the Final Four last year. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is a surefire Hall of Famer, with two NCAA titles, 660 wins — and counting — and a 49-18 record in March alone.
There’s also Duke, which won its fourth national title two years ago and whose coach, Mike Krzyzewski, has more wins than anyone else in Division I. (Coach K has a side gig, too, leading the U.S. men to gold medals at the last two Olympics.)
And don’t forget Michigan State, which may as well include the Final Four on its schedule for as many times as Tom Izzo and the Spartans wind up there.
“Fortunately, it’s our team going out there,” Altman said.
Altman is no slouch, either. Oregon is the third school he’s taken to the NCAA tournament, and the Ducks have had 20-win seasons in each of his three years as head coach. But Oregon is not exactly a tournament mainstay; this is the Ducks’ first appearance since 2008, and their first trip to the regional semifinals since 2007.
“All three of those programs, because of their coaches, have great records, great traditions,” Altman said. “We’re trying to build a tradition. We’re trying to build something that consistently competes year in and year out. That’s a big challenge for us.”
FORCED TO CHOOSE
Richard Codray is the former Ohio attorney general and lives in Columbus, so he roots for Ohio State football.
He also went to Michigan State at the same time as Magic Johnson, so he pulls for Spartans basketball.
That left the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a dilemma while filling out his NCAA tournament bracket. But it came down to picking a team — he has the Buckeyes and Spartans reaching the Final Four — Codray went with Michigan State.
“I always go with my heart,” Codray told AP Business Writer Christina Rexrode.
Codray’s roommate at Michigan State had a few classes with Magic and he saw firsthand the impact the oversized and gregarious point guard had on the school.
“It was really exciting and fun to watch,” Codray said. “Of course he left after two years and went on to fame and fortune. The rest of us toiled for four years finding ourselves. He’s a great personality, he just glows and picks everybody up around him.”
HOLD THAT THOUGHT
During his Final Four run with George Mason, Miami coach Jim Larranaga became known for giving a “thought for the day” to his players.
He’s carried on the practice with the Hurricanes, although it’s hard to tell what effect it has, as AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Washington D.C. found out.
“Every day he gives us a thought, and something that sticks with us, and it’s not something that’s complicated,” forward Julian Gamble said, “just something that’s very simple and just to let you know that we have to enjoy these moments.”
If that’s the case, Gamble was asked, can he name a favorite “thought for the day?”
“Can’t think of one. Know one?” he said, turning to teammate Shane Larkin.
“I can’t think of one,” Larkin said.
But Gamble made a nice recovery, saying: “The one for this game is keep ’em out of the paint and block out on rebounds, so that will be my favorite one for now.”
Larranaga will have to come up with a new thought, one that will last the entire offseason, after the Hurricanes lost to Marquette in the Sweet 16.
Hopefully, it’ll be one that sticks.
That speck in the middle isn’t a postage stamp. It’s the court inside Cowboys Stadium for the Sweet 16: http://bit.ly/YGOWYA
Apparently the cordial feelings between Ohio State and Arizona aren’t just between the coaches: http://bit.ly/10VBWPv
In honor of Easter, a bracket made out of Peeps: http://bit.ly/YGPJZm
Dunk City’s dunks during the postseason, all of them: http://deadsp.in/XColZj
A couple of celeb sightings at Sweet 16 games: Drew Carey at Ohio State-Arizona in LA, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at Syracuse-Indiana in DC.
STAT OF THE DAY
Dunk City is rattling the search engines along with rims.
According to Yahoo! Search, Florida Gulf Coast University is dominating as the most-searched team after becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16.
Searches for the Eagles spiked 3,367 percent this week and FGCU has gotten more searches than North Korea, Lindsay Lohan and Justin Bieber.
FGCU has been searched more than any of the remaining teams in the tournament, ahead of better-known schools such as Syracuse, Duke, Michigan and Kansas.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We’re so used to people not giving us credit. … That fuels our fire,” Marquette’s Vander Blue said after the Golden Eagles beat Miami to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003.
Marquette 71, Miami 61
Syracuse 61, Indiana 50
Ohio State 73, Arizona 70
Wichita State 72, La Salle 58
At Arlington, Texas
Kansas (31-5) vs. Michigan (28-7), 7:37 p.m.
Florida Gulf Coast (26-10) vs. Florida (28-7), 30 minutes following
Louisville (31-5) vs. Oregon (28-8), 7:15 p.m.
Duke (29-5) vs. Michigan State (27-8), 30 minutes following
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