Texas Longhorns (24-9) vs. New Mexico State Aggies (25-8)
When: Friday, 7:10 p.m.
1. Kevin Durant. The lanky six-foot-nine freshman phenom is averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds a game and has led this team of toddlers— the No. 15 Longhorns started the season with four fish and a sophomore— to its eighth consecutive 20-win season. In their Feb. 28 double-overtime victory over then-No. 7 Texas A&M, Durant scored 30 points, including a long jumper from basically out of bounds at the end of regulation that should have ended the game (damn you Acie Law).
2. Kevin Durant. No, seriously: Have you seen this guy? He thrives in all five positions on the floor, bombing 3-pointers, leading fast breaks or using his height to pull down rebounds and block shots. His work ethic is now the stuff of legend, complete with tales of him running up a Maryland hill long past sundown. And in this, his first— and probably only— NCAA season, he's up for virtually every major award short of a leg lamp, including National Player of the Year.
3. Kevin Durant ... 's Ankle. Durant scored 25 points in the first half— the first half— of the Big 12 regular-season championship against No. 3 Kansas on March 3, but with 11 minutes to play in the second, he fell to the floor, clutching his left ankle (which he'd apparently injured in practice the day before). Durant returned with about seven minutes to play, but it was too late: The 'Horns had already blown a 16-point lead and were struggling to keep the game interesting. While they succeeded— D.J. Augustin's attempt at a game-tying 3 was blocked with five seconds to go, as the Jayhawks rock-chalked their way to a 90-86 win— Durant shot only 3 of 8 in the second half, and scared the bejeebus out of everyone. If he's not at full strength, this team's future is a giant question mark: The Texas bench scored only two points against Kansas. Which is, as even an Aggie could figure out, not good. (For what it's worth, Durant seemed fine in loss to Kansas in the Big 12 title game.) — Whitney Pastorek
NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES
1. Their Coach Is Not In A Wheelchair. After years of coaching at Illinois, coach Lou Henson retired after the 1995-96 season, to much fanfare. (He even shook hands with Bobby Knight, the big bully.) But he ended up taking only one year off before returning to New Mexico State, where he had taken the Aggies to the Final Four in 1970, for yet another farewell tour at a salary of $1 a month. Henson stayed there for seven years before retiring again because of his diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a disease that had him coaching two games from a wheelchair. He is the all-time winningest coach at both NMSU and Illinois.
2. The New Coach Is Much More Handsome Than Lou Henson. The Lou Do was succeeded at NSMU by current coach Reggie Theus, the former NBA star perhaps most famous for his performance as coach Bill Fuller on the cutting-edge sitcom "Hang Time." My personal favorite act of Theus thespianism, however, is his work alongside Joe Piscopo and Julie Hagerty in the 2000 family comedy "Baby Bedlam," playing "Mosiah 'The Messiah' Jackson."
3. They're Cleaning Up Their Act. For years, New Mexico State fans have had a ritual after an opposing player makes a free throw: They chant, "Nice shot, asshole!" Theus is not a fan of the chant and has asked fans to clean it up, and the athletic department has undergone the "Bigger Man Project" in an effort to make fans stop. (It turns out, television broadcasts don't like open vulgarity.) In response, some fans have begun yelling "Nice shot, Pendejo!" which is almost the Spanish equivalent of "Nice shot, asshole!" but is actually worse; it literally translates as "nice shot, anal hair!" — Will Leitch