East Region: No. 5 Florida State (25-9) vs. No. 12 Wisconsin (19-12)
When: Friday, 9:55 p.m., EDT
Where: Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
1) Douglas 3:16 says "You just got scalped." Florida State point guard, ACC first teamer, and conference player of the year runner-up Toney Douglas was born on March 16th, 1986. Douglas shares this remarkable day of birthing with several celebrities, including the gorgeous Brooke Burns, the hot-but-not-as-hot-as-Brooke-Burns Nicole Trunfio, everyone's favorite Tiger Curtis Granderson, Eddie's kid Wolfgang Van Halen, fellow college hoops star Blake Griffin, the illustrious Flavor Flav, and comedian Jerry Lewis. Lewis, of course, is huge in France, where he was recently inducted into the French Legion of Honor. Also big in France? Another scoring point guard named Tony, Tony Parker.
2) Solomon Alabi, From Nigeria to New York via destiny? After not playing much last season, Florida State center Solomon Alabi has quickly become one of the more dominating big men in the ACC. Considered the 24th best player in the nation when he came out of high school, Alabi didn't start playing organized hoops until leaving his home country of Nigeria as a teenager. So no, he has absolutely nothing in common with Saleh from the 1994 Kevin Bacon classic, "The Air Up There." As a matter of fact, Alabi might want to do whatever it takes to distance himself from the movie as Bacon's character was named "Jimmy Dolan", a name way too close to New York Knicks craptastic CEO James Dolan. To add insult to frequent injury, according to the official Florida State athletic site, Alabi is being compared to Knicks bust Antonio McDyess.
3) Many, many, moons ago in 1998 The Noles have not made an NCAA Tournament in over 10 years. Not since 1998. Yet even their dance in the Year of McGwire and Slammin' Sammy is ripe with coincidences. Way back in the ancient days of yester-century, the Noles engaged in battle with the mighty Crusaders from Valparaiso. Led by Bryce Drew, what they had there was a Crusader victory. But all was not lost for the team from Tallahassee. Even in defeat, they could find solace. After winning, Bryce Drew married Tara Thibedeaux, daughter of Keith Thibodeaux, better known as "Little Ricky" on the show "I Love Lucy." Also making an appearance on "I Love Lucy", albeit for one show, was actress Joan Crawford. In her epic disaster of a bio pic, "Mommie Dearest", Crawford was played by Hollywood starlet Faye Dunaway, who went to, among other colleges, Florida State.
Bonus plea to the Seminole gods: Back in 2000-2001, current FSU coach Leonard Hamilton presided over a disastrous Washington Wizards team that went 19-63. According to Basketball-Reference.com, however, the Wizards were supposed to have won 23. Those four wins destiny owes Leonard Hamilton could get the Noles to the Final Four. — Jordi Scrubbings (The Serious Tip/ScalpEm/Thunder Matt's Saloon)
1) Livin' on the Edge The 12th-seeded Wisconsin Badgers have been up-and-down this year, to put it mildly—in conference, they had winning streaks of three and five games apiece, and a losing streak between the two that reached six—but thanks to a surprisingly strong not-completely-horrible better-than-the-SEC Big Ten, head coach Bo Ryan managed to smuggle the Badgers into the dance for the 11th straight season. Only Arizona, Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State have longer active streaks—pretty heady territory for the Badgers, considering they earned bids only twice between 1947 and 1997.
2) Defensive Struggles It may come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Ryan's coaching style, but statistically, the Badgers have struggled more on defense than offense this season. According to Ken Pomeroy's rankings, Wisconsin is the 24th best team in the country (and best in the Big Ten) in terms of offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions), yet only ranks 60th in defensive efficiency. Neither of these stats is especially notable (especially for a team that went only 18-12 in the regular season), but they are interesting when compared with Coach Ryan's last few squads. Since 2004, only the 2006 team failed to finish in the top 10 in defensive efficiency, and none finished better than 26th on the offensive end. Combined with the Badgers' top 20 strength-of-schedule and mediocre record, the efficiency stats create an interesting situation in which the Badgers are actually ranked higher in Pomeroy's rankings than their first round opponent, fifth-seeded Florida State.
3) A Glimpse Into the Future The starter with the most potential on this year's squad, and probable frontcourt anchor in '10, is sophomore center/guard Jon Leuer. Center/guard might not be a real position, but if anybody plays there, it's Leuer. A guard his first two years in high school, Leuer grew 9 inches by the time he graduated. The result is a 6-10 power forward with perimeter skills (last year, in his first Big Ten game, he was 5 of 5 from distance) who can also put the ball on the floor and finish around the rim. Leuer started the year coming off the bench in support of fellow sophomore Keaton Nankivil, but his first start came against Illinois, and the Badgers subsequently went on a five-game tear that put them above .500 in conference play for good. He needs to bulk up and improve his defensive skills, but there's a good chance he will end up better than Brian Butch when all is said and done. — Sam Gardner