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.

Lucas Jackson/REUTERS
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.

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:

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.

9. Sportscaster Brent Musburger is credited with popularizing the use of “March Madness” in referring to the tournament in the 1980s.

10. This year the tournament concludes in New Orleans at the Superdome, where four previous championship games have been decided by an average of 2.7 points.

11. Baylor could produce the best overall postseason showing of any school. The men are 27-7 and the Lady Bears 34-0.

12. The highest scoring player in this year’s tournament is Creighton’s Doug McDermott (23.1 points per game), who leads the nation’s most accurate shooting team (50.9 percent).

13. The stingiest defensive team in the nation: Wisconsin, which gives up only 51.8 points a game.

14. Florida State enters the tournament with a very impressive double: a pair of wins this season over perennial Atlantic Coast Conference powers North Carolina and Duke.

15. Cinderella candidates: Wichita State, South Dakota State, Long Island, Montana, St. Mary’s, Mississippi Valley State, et al.

16. North Carolina leads the nation with five teams in the field: North Carolina, Duke, UNC-Asheville, NC State, and Davidson.

17. The schools in this year’s tournament that that do the best job of graduating their players are Belmont, Creighton, Duke, Harvard, Western Kentucky, Davidson, Notre Dame, and Brigham Young.

18. Indiana University, which finished last in the Big Ten Conference four years ago, has returned from the dead with a 25-8 record. 

19. The minimum seating capacity to host the Final Four is 70,000. In 2013, Atlanta’s Georgia Dome hosts the finals, with Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to follow in 2014.

20. Harvard is making its first appearance in the tournament since 1946 and is doing so without Harvard grad and current NBA phenom Jeremy Lin.

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