NCAA tourney: 15 fun facts for regional weekend

Julius Randle (Kentucky), UCLA coach Steve Alford, Adreian Payne (Michigan State) and Louisville coach Rick Pitino are all viable contenders to reach the Final Four in North Dallas.

Here are 15 fun facts to ponder before the Thursday-Sunday slate of regional games for the NCAA tournament:

1. Counting the last four seasons (including 2014), at least three double-digit seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tourney.

Which brings us to this: The last time a pair of double-digit seeds met in the same regional game? No. 11 VCU clipped 10th-seeded Florida State in 2011, with the Rams then knocking off top-seeded Kansas in the Southwest final.

(Note: The 2011 tourney produced four double-digit Sweet 16s — VCU, Florida State, Richmond and Marquette.)

2. Steve Alford is the fifth UCLA head coach to guide the Bruins to the Sweet 16 round in his first year running the program (along with Steve Lavin, Gary Cunningham, Gene Bartow, Larry Brown).

But Alford still needs two more tourney wins to match Brown’s school record of getting the Bruins to the NCAA title game in Year 1 (1980).

3. Here’s some dire news for Connecticut: Since the NCAA’s modern-day seeding format was instituted in 1979, only eight No. 7 seeds have advanced to the regional final — with just one club (1984 Virginia) reaching the Final Four.

Adding to the ignominy, no No. 7 seed has ever claimed the NCAA championship.

4. Since we’re indirectly picking on UConn … the Huskies won all three of their national titles (1999, 2004, 2011) when sent out West for regional play. (Connecticut resides in the East this year.)

5. Louisville coach Rick Pitino is a perfect 11-0 in Sweet 16 games — a sublimely spotless career record that covers the better part of four decades. Of equal importance, Pitino’s average margin of victory for the 11-pack is 20.7 points. Whoa!

6. No team outside of the power-six conferences (ACC, Big Ten, SEC, Big East, Big 12, Pac- 12) has won a national championship since the 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (Big West).

That distinction, though, could fall in two weeks … since each region has one "outsider" in the mix (Louisville, Connecticut, San Diego State, Dayton).

7. This year’s Michigan squad (highest-remaining seed in the Midwest Region) has a chance to become the second Wolverines group to reach the Final Four (or national semifinals) in consecutive seasons. The previous back-to-back regional winners: 1964 and ’65 (led by Cazzie Russell).

Michigan’s ‘Fab Five’ teams of 1992 and ’93 reached the NCAA title game two years in a row … but those era victories have been officially vacated (due to NCAA sanctions involving Chris Webber).

8. Tennessee has never reached the Final Four in the program’s 106-year existence. In fact, of the Volunteers’ 19 NCAA tournament appearances (excluding 2014), they have advanced to the regional final just once (2010 — falling to Michigan State).

9. Of this year’s Sweet 16 crop, all but four teams (Tennessee, Iowa State, San Diego State, Baylor) have been to the Final Four at least once in their respective histories.

But that factoid cannot compare to last season’s Sweet 16 field … which included 14 programs with Final Four pedigrees (excluding only Miami and Florida Gulf Coast).

10. Louisville’s Rick Pitino (seven) and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo (six) have 13 total Final Fours in their highly decorated careers.

The other 14 coaches in the remaining Sweet 16 have currently combined for just eight Final Fours — when excluding the vacated-wins seasons of Steve Fisher (1992 and ’93) and John Calipari (2008).

11. Of the last 19 seasons (1995-2013), Wisconsin has been a two-true-scenarios club when assigned to the West region: Either go out in the Round of 64 (2001, 2013)… or reach the Final Four (2000).

12. Since the tourney field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the Midwest Region has produced nine NCAA champions. The South (or Southeast) region comes in second place with seven national titles. And the West and East, respectively, boast five championships by region.

So, doing the math, what’s to account for the missing three years? Well, for 2004-06, the NCAA adopted an ill-conceived notion of naming regions after the venue-city for that particular year. Thankfully, that practice ended after three seasons.

13. Neither Virginia, Dayton nor San Diego State has registered any victories over the remaining Sweet 16 clubs this season. Within that realm, Arizona and Florida have the most wins against Sweet 16 teams — five apiece.

14. Dayton hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 round since 1984, a year in which the Roosevelt Chapman-led Flyers knocked off LSU (No. 7 seed), Oklahoma (2-seed) and Washington (6-seed) to reach the West Region final.

The second-longest drought — among the current Sweet 16 crop — involves Virginia, which hasn’t been to the regionals since 1995 (losing to Arkansas in the Midwest final).

15. Thirty-one years have elapsed since all four No. 4 seeds collectively advanced to the Sweet 16 round — just like the 2014 tourney (Michigan State, Louisville, San Diego State, UCLA).

It’s worth noting: Of the four 4-seeds from 1983 (Georgia, Boston College, Arkansas, Memphis State) … only the Bulldogs reached the Final Four.