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March Madness: Syracuse's Melo out and other fast NCAA tournament facts

The Orangemen lose their big man for the entire tournament and a quick rundown of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament, from powerhouses to possible Cinderellas.

By Ross AtkinStaff writer / March 13, 2012

Syracuse Orange center Fab Melo (51) goes up for a shot against Cincinnati Bearcats guard Jaquon Parker (44) in the first half of their NCAA men's championship basketball game during the 2012 Big East Tournament in New York March 9.

Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

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What began in 1939 with the University of Oregon’s “Tall Firs” winning the first men’s NCAA basketball championship before 5,500 spectators has grown into March Madness. The three-week tournament begins with a few undercard games Tuesday night (one attended by President Obama), but things start in earnest Thursday and Friday with 64 teams in the main draw getting into action in eight cities. Utlimately the road leads to New Orleans, the site of this season’s Final Four on March 31 and April 2.  Here’s a collection of random facts to help you enjoy the tournament:

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1. Top-seeded teams:  Syracuse 31-2; Kentucky 32-2; Michigan State 27-7; and North Carolina, 29-5.

2. Syracuse had its best regular season ever, but the team could be in trouble after it was announced Tuesday that center Fab Melo will not play in the NCAA tournament due to what the school called an "eligibility issue," the New York Times reported.

3. In an oddity, three of the four top seeds – Kentucky, Syracuse, and North Carolina – enter the tournament after being upset in their conference tournaments.

4. Connecticut, the defending national champion, enters the tournament with a 20-13 record. The Huskies will have to sit out next year’s “Big Dance” because of their poor academic performance.

5. Butler University in Indianapolis, the Cinderella that managed to reach the championship game the last two seasons, did not make the tournament this year. But Virginia Commonwealth, a big surprise in 2011, did.

6. Pat Knight, the son of Bob Knight, has coached Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, to its first NCAA berth since 2000. A few weeks ago he called his seniors “the worst group” he’d ever been associated with.

7. UCLA, which has the most NCAA titles, with 11, not only failed to reach the tournament, but its basketball program is rife with discipline problems, according to Sports Illustrated

8. The University of Kansas is making its 23rd consecutive tournament appearance, an NCAA record. Duke’s 17-year run is second best.

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