Arizona Wildcats (20-10) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (21-11)
When: Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Where: New Orleans
1. Stretch Marks. The 2006-2007 season has resembled that of a young Alpha Phi freshman, heading to Tucson after a long summer of working out and tanning in the sun. Sure, she looks great when college begins, but five months of drinking any possible liquid (Everclear, YUMMY!) and ordering Domino's on her Cat Card has lead to a larger ass and a sudden case of college acne. Arizona begins the year 12-1 before dropping eight of the next 16 games, including six of eight during a stretch in January.
2. Deja Vu? Lute "My Dentures Bring All the Boys to the Yard" Olson's only National Championship came in 1997 when the Wildcats finished fifth in the Pacific-10 Conference, the same place they find themselves this year. Also in '97, Mike Bibby won the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award, something Chase Budinger has all but wrapped up.
3. Get the Stars the Ball. The two best players for Arizona are Marcus Williams and Chase Budinger, so it would make the most sense to get them the rock. When Williams or Budinger score more than 20 points, the Wildcats are 15-1 this season, with the only loss coming against Oregon by two. — Shane Bacon
1. Turnaround. The Boilermakers reached the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2000 season. Their 11-game turnaround from last season's nine-win campaign is one of the five best in the nation. Furthermore, their RPI at the end of last season was 175; this year it's 47. (For a point of comparison, Michigan is 53 and Iowa is 85.) Purdue scored key wins over Virginia, Illinois, Michigan State and Indiana, but had bad losses to Indiana State and Minnesota. Purdue's 16 home wins is the most ever for a Purdue basketball team, yet they only won two games on the road; they also won two on neutral courts. Carl Landry was the first Purdue player ever to be Big Ten player of the week three consecutive weeks, and Chris Kramer set a Purdue record this year for steals by a freshman. It will continue; second-year coach Matt Painter is set to welcome the best recruiting class in the history of Purdue basketball. In fact, Painter will land four top-50 players in one class. Many seasons, longtime Coach Keady (famous for the combover) didn't have a single one. (In fact, the most noteworthy Keady class got an assistant coach "re-assigned" and put Purdue into NCAA probation.)
2. Who To Know. David Teague's shooter's eye clearly got better as the season progressed, to where he's now averaging 14.4 points and shooting 43 percent from 3-point range as the second option behind senior Carl Landry. Chris Lutz became a better defender each game as well, and made better offensive decisions that really helped Purdue as a team. Expectation here is that Teague and Landry will carry them through one round but in the second they'll lose by 10-15 to a team with legit big men.
3. Purdue's Recent Tourney History Is Checkered At Best. Purdue hasn't been in the Tourney since 2003, when they sneaked in as an 18-10 9-seed and then demolished LSU by 24 in the first round before succumbing to Texas in the round of 32. In 2000, the Boilers got Gene Keady as close to a Final Four as he ever got, needing only to beat a mediocre Wisconsin team in the Elite Eight (in their fourth meeting of the season). Naturally, they fell short. In 1996, Purdue won their third consecutive outright Big Ten regular season title, becoming just the second team to ever accomplish such a feat. They followed that up by coming the closest any No. 1 seed has ever come to losing to a No. 16 as Western Carolina's shot at the buzzer rattled out and the Boilers exhaled with a 73-71 clunker (and went on to lose in the second round). In 1994, Glenn Robinson led the Boilers to the Elite Eight, again bringing Keady one win from a Final Four only to be upended by Duke. We could go on forever reliving these good old times ... but Purdue's last Final Four was 1980. Enough said. — Boiled Sports