March 25, 2008
HOW "SWEET" IT IS: By advancing to the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals with two wins last week, Michigan State is one of only four teams that has played in more than 50 percent of the Sweet 16's during the last 10 years. The Spartans have made it to the Sweet 16 in six of the last 10 years. MSU equals Kansas and UCLA with six appearances since 1999. Duke leads all teams, making eight trips to the Round of 16 in the last 10 years.
RARE AIR: Wisconsin joined Michigan State in this year's third round, making them two of 12 programs that have advanced to the Sweet 16 in at least three of the last six years. Duke, Kansas and Texas lead the group with four appearances. The Spartans and Badgers join Connecticut, Memphis, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Villanova and West Virginia with three appearances.
THEN THERE WERE 16: With 16 teams advancing to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, the Big Ten equaled the Pac-10 for the lead among the top six RPI conferences by advancing 50 percent of their tournament teams to the regional semifinals. Of the 16 teams still playing for the national title, 12 come from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC. The Big Ten sent four teams to postseason play and two continue on to the Round of 16. The Pac-10 saw six teams go to the Tournament and three are left standing in UCLA, Washington State and Stanford. The Big East advanced 38 percent of its tournament squads to the third round, as three (Louisville, Villanova and West Virginia) of its eight tournament teams remain in competition. The Big 12 has advanced two (Kansas and Texas) of its six tournament teams through the first and second rounds (33 percent). The ACC and SEC round out the group of the aforementioned conferences, each with one representative remaining in the field (North Carolina and Tennessee, respectively). The ACC sent four teams to the Tournament (.250), while six squads were selected from the SEC (.167).
POSTSEASON SUCCESS: Entering this weekend's NCAA Championship Regionals, the Big Ten boasts the best winning percentage among the top six RPI conferences. With a 5-2 record, the Big Ten owns a .714 winning percentage. The Big East and Pac-10 follow, sporting 10-5 and 6-3 records, respectively, for a .667 win percentage. The Big 12 was 7-4 after the first weekend of competition for a .636 clip. The ACC (4-3) and SEC (4-5) round out the six conferences, with winning percentages of .571 and .444, respectively.
SPARTANS RETURN TO SWEET 16: Michigan State, the fifth seed in the South Region, defeated No. 12 Temple and No. 4 Pittsburgh to advance to the Sweet 16. Memphis upended No. 16 Texas-Arlington and No. 8 Mississippi State enroute to the Regional matchup. Michigan State and Memphis will meet for the first time in Houston. The two teams have no common opponents this season. MSU is 9-6 all-time versus current Conference USA foes.
BADGERS BACK AMONG ELITE COMPANY: Wisconsin, seeded third in the Midwest Region, defeated No. 14 Cal State Fullerton and No. 11 Kansas State to advance to the Sweet 16, while 10th-seeded Davidson defeated No. 7 Gonzaga and No. 2 Georgetown. Wisconsin and Davidson have played just once before. The Wildcats won the only previous meeting, 67-63, on Dec. 12, 1980 in the opening round of the First Union Classic in Charlotte, N.C. UW is 6-1 all-time against teams currently in the Southern Conference, including a 70-43 win over Wofford on Dec. 3 in Madison.
VERSUS THE FIELD: Wisconsin and Michigan State are combined 2-1 versus the Round of 16 field. Both teams defeated Texas in back-to-back weekends in December. The Spartans met UCLA in the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo., and fell to the then-No. 2 Bruins, 68-63. MSU could meet Texas in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
BUCKEYES ADVANCE IN NIT: Ohio State enters the third round of the 2008 MasterCard NIT with a 21-13 overall record after wins against UNC Asheville and California. Thad Matta and the Buckeyes meet third-round opponent No. 3 seed Dayton Wednesday night in Columbus. OSU is making its eighth appearance in the NIT all time.
WINNING 30: Wisconsin has won a school record 31 games this season. That breaks the former record of 30 set last year. The Badgers' 61-10 (.859) record over the last two seasons is the fifth-best in the country. UW is one of just five teams in the country that have won at least 30 games in each of the last two seasons, joining North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis and Kansas. In Big Ten history only two other schools have won at least 30 games in back-to-back seasons, Indiana in 1974-75 (31-1) and 1975-76 (32-0) and Michigan State in 1998-99 (33-5) and 1999-2000 (32-7). This year's Wisconsin team is the 14th squad in Big Ten history to record at least 30 victories.
BO'S "SWEET" SUCCESS: Wisconsin has advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last six years. The Badgers also made a Sweet 16 appearance in 2003, an Elite Eight appearance in 2005 and a Final Four appearance in 2000. UW is making its 14th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers are 19-12 all-time in the Big Dance, winning their only NCAA title in 1941.
ELITE COMPANY: Wisconsin's No. 3 seed is the second-highest in school history, topped only by last year's No. 2 seed. The Badgers join Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Georgetown as the only schools to earn top-3 seeds in each of the last two seasons.
FAMILIAR SETTING: Michigan State is making its 11th-straight NCAA appearance, the fifth-longest streak in the nation. Only Arizona (24), Kansas (19), Kentucky (17) and Duke (13) have made more consecutive appearances. The last time the Spartans were tabbed as the fifth seed, they won four games, including triumphs over Duke and Kentucky enroute to the Final Four. This is the fifth time in school history that the Spartans enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 5 seed. This is MSU's seventh trip to the Sweet 16 in 11 NCAA Tournaments under Tom Izzo.
MR. MARCH: Michigan State's Tom Izzo is no stranger to coaching basketball in March and has a top resume to prove it. Izzo has coached the Spartans to 11 NCAA appearances and owns a 26-9 record. Of the 64 coaches in this year's NCAA Tournament, Izzo boasted the third-best winning percentage (.727) entering this year's event only behind Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (.773) and Louisville's Rick Pitino (.744). He is only the second coach in NCAA history to reach four Final Fours in his first 10 years of coaching, joining Ohio State's Fred Taylor who took his Buckeyes to four Final Fours in his first 10 seasons. Izzo is also one of only nine coaches in NCAA Tournament history to advance to three straight Final Fours, which he accomplished from 1999-2001.
LOW SEEDS TURN INTO HIGH WIN TOTALS: Big Ten teams have made a habit of advancing deep into the tournament despite low seeds. In 2005, fifth-seeded Michigan State was the lowest-seeded team to advance to the Final Four. The Spartans are again seeded fifth in the 2008 version of the NCAA Championship and will appear in the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in the last six events. Five years ago, the Spartans were the lowest seed to reach the 2003 Elite Eight after winning three games despite earning a No. 7 seed. Two other conference teams have advanced to the Final Four in the last eight years despite their low seeds, as fifth-seeded Indiana advanced to the 2002 national championship game and eighth-seeded Wisconsin reached the national semifinals in 2000.