* This year’s Final Four only includes one No. 1 seed — one year after no top seeds made the Final Four. Last year, the highest seed was a No. 3 (Connecticut), who won the title. In fact, the last time a team that wasn’t the highest remaining seed (including multiple No. 1 seeds) won the tournament was 2006, when No. 3 Florida beat No. 2 UCLA.
* I’m not sure if the committee had this in mind when they set the brackets, but boy does Louisville vs. Kentucky have some history. Firstly, coaches Rick Pitino and John Calipari have faced each other in the tournament — but not at their current schools. In the 1992 East Regional Semifinal (aka Sweet 16) and 1996 Final Four, Pitino’s Kentucky squad beat Calipari’s University of Massachusetts team by seven and 10, respectively. (The 1996 Minutemen later vacated its five tournament games.) The 1996 Wildcats went on to beat Syracuse for the national title, while the 1992 Wildcats lost in the Elite Eight to Duke on Christian Laettner’s famous shot.
* But wait… there’s more… Kentucky and Louisville have been playing each other since 1913 (although not every year) and Kentucky leads the series, 29-14 — including a 69-62 win on Dec. 31, 2011 in Lexington. The teams have split four all-time meetings in the NCAA tournament, with the last coming in the 1984 Sweet 16. Needless to say, there’s some history between these in-state rivals.
* The other match-up, Kansas vs. Ohio State, is nowhere near as heated, but includes two No. 2 seeds — which therefore gives it the later game on Saturday. It should also be a close game — but for very different reasons. (More on that later in the week.)
* Louisville is the third straight Big East tournament champion to make it to the Final Four. Last year, UConn. added the national title, while West Virginia lost to Duke in the national semifinals the year before.
* Three of the Final Four participants have won national titles before — and in fact, they’ve combined for 12 NCAA tournament crowns. Only Ohio State has never captured the championship.
* Comparing the four coaches, Rick Pitino leads most of the major categories — including all-time wins and NCAA tournament berths. Calipari is second, followed by Kansas’ Bill Self and Ohio State’s Thad Matta. Interestingly enough, though, Self’s teams have a higher points-per-game and field-goal percentage average than the others. Where it matters most (number of titles), though, only two coaches have delivered a crown (and they’ve each only done it once): Pitino (1996 with Kentucky) and Self (2008 with Kansas).
* The four top conferences (as rated by RealTimeRPI.com) are the same as the quartet represented in New Orleans. In order, they’re the Big Ten, Big East, Big 12 and SEC.
* Finally, if you’re thinking of going to the games, tickets (according to TicketNetwork.com, a Fanspeak partner) range from $233 to about $5,000.
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