The awkward three days between the end of the first weekend of the tournament and the start of the Sweet 16 are some of the most painful on the sports calendar. After three straight weeks of non-stop league championship races, conference tournament games and NCAA Tournament thrillers, we're left with nothing but ordinary television programs and actual interaction with other human beings. It's awful.
Thankfully, the madness takes hold of us again on Thursday night, and it won't let go until the Final Four is settled on Sunday. In accordance with this being the Sweet 16, here are 16 things you should know to prepare yourself for what's about to go down.
1. Kentucky is the first team to reach this round with a 36-0 record. Wichita State was 35-0 a season ago before falling to the Wildcats in the round of 32. Ironically, the No. 7-seeded Shockers could exact some revenge on the Wildcats in the Elite Eight if both teams can win their regional semifinal games in Cleveland Thursday night.
2. Louisville and Michigan State are the only two teams remaining who are in the Sweet 16 for a fourth straight season. Florida was the only squad to achieve the feat a season ago, but the Gators' quest for a fifth straight appearance in 2015 was snapped when they were left out of the field of 68 entirely.
3. This will be UCLA coach Steve Alford's third trip to the Sweet 16 and his second straight with the Bruins. The past two haven't gone swimmingly, as Alford's 1999 Southwest Missouri State (now just Missouri State) team lost to Duke by 17, and the Bruins were handled by Florida a season ago in the regional semifinals, 79-68. Alford would appear to be facing yet another steep climb on Friday against No. 2-seeded Gonzaga.
4. Lon Kruger is now the first coach to reach the Sweet 16 with four different programs. Before guiding Oklahoma out of the tournament's opening weekend this year, he had also achieved the feat with Florida, Kansas State and UNLV. Kruger also made history last weekend by becoming the first coach to win an NCAA Tournament game with five different programs. He won tournament games at Illinois in three separate seasons, but never made it past the second round with the Illini.
5. The number of ACC teams still dancing -- Duke, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Louisville and NC State. The conference is 11-1 through three rounds of the tournament, with regular season champion Virginia being the only team to taste defeat. That loss column (and win column) is guaranteed to increase by at least one in the next two days, as the Cardinals and Wolfpack will meet in Syracuse on Friday.
The five ACC teams to make it past the tournament's opening weekend ties the record set by the Big East back in 2009. That year, the conference wound up with two teams in the Final Four (Connecticut and Villanova), but both fell in the national semifinals.
6. An 11-seed has won in the Sweet 16 six times in tournament history, and each time it was paired up against a No. 1 seed in the Elite Eight. The good news for UCLA? In those six games, the 11-seed has actually prevailed and moved on to the Final Four three times -- LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011.
Dayton became the sixth 11-seed to taste victory in the Sweet 16 a year ago, but the Flyers dropped a hard-fought contest to No. 1 overall seed Florida two days later.
7. There are only 14 Division-I programs that have won multiple NCAA championships, and seven of them will be represented in this year's Sweet 16. UCLA (11), Kentucky (8), North Carolina (5), Duke (4), Louisville (3), Michigan State (2) and NC State (2) are all still dancing.
Wisconsin (1941), Utah (1944) and Arizona (1997) also have national titles to their credit.
8. Since 2000, No. 8 seeds have squared off against No. 4 seeds on four separate occasions, and have won every time. The most recent instance took place last season, when Louisville fell to eventual national runner-up Kentucky, 74-69. The Cardinals will again be the No. 4 seed looking to break the trend when they face No. 8 NC State on Friday night.
9. The 2015 Sweet 16 is loaded with big-time coaches, nine of which have led teams into the Final Four before. The star-studded cast of regional semifinalists includes: Roy Williams (North Carolina), Rick Pitino (Louisville), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), John Calipari (Kentucky), Lon Kruger (Oklahoma), Gregg Marshall (Wichita State), Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Bob Huggins (West Virginia)
10. Bob Huggins and John Calipari have squared off against one another 10 times, with Huggins owning a commanding 8-2 all-time advantage in the series. No coach who has faced Coach Cal at least three times has a better record.
Perhaps the most notable of those Huggins victories came in the 2010 Elite Eight, when West Virginia stunned a top-seeded Kentucky team which featured the likes of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson. The Wildcats exacted a bit of revenge a year later, when they knocked off the Mountaineers in the third round on their way to the Final Four. The two teams haven't met since, but that will change on Thursday.
SB Nation presents: West Virginia looks to end Kentucky's bid for perfection
11. North Carolina has won 11 consecutive games in the Sweet 16, a streak which dates all the way back to 1993. The Tar Heels are 25-7 all-time in regional semifinal games, the best record of any program that has made it through to the tournament's second weekend at least 15 times. They'll have their hands full keeping that streak alive against Frank Kaminsky and Wisconsin.
12. The number of years it's been since Notre Dame has danced this deep in the NCAA Tournament. The Fighting Irish crashed the Sweet 16 in 2003, where they were pounded by Arizona, 88-71. The last time they won more than two games in the tournament was 1978, which is also their most recent trip to the Final Four.
13. Kentucky is currently a 13.5-point favorite over West Virginia, a number which is tied for the third-largest spread in Sweet 16 history. Florida was a 14.5-point favorite over Florida Gulf Coast in 2013, while Duke was also a 13.5-point favorite over Indiana in 2002. Neither team covered, with the Gators winning by 12, and the Blue Devils suffering a stunning 74-73 loss at the hands of an Indiana team on its way to the national championship game.
The largest spread in Sweet 16 history is a whopping 26.5, which is the number of points top-seeded Duke was favored to beat No. 12 seed Southwest Missouri State (now just Missouri State -- hey, we talked about this) by in 1999. The Blue Devils also did not cover in that game, winning by a final of 78-61.
14. It's been 14 years since Sean Miller started as an assistant at Xavier, a program where he wound up serving as the head coach from 2004-09. Miller led the Musketeers to six NCAA Tournament victories, including a trip to the Elite Eight in 2008, and a run to the Sweet 16 in 2009. He then bounced for Arizona, where he's been able to get the Wildcats to the Elite Eight twice, but still never over the hump and into the tournament's final weekend.
The road to reaching that next level for Miller starts with going through his former program on Thursday.
15. The number of times a No. 4 has taken down a top seed in the Sweet 16. Unfortunately for North Carolina, that number is 16 less than the amount of times the favorite has prevailed. The 1/4 matchup matchup has occurred 46 times since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament, with No. 1 seeds owning a 31-15 advantage.
Top seeds went 2-1 against No. 4 seeds a season ago, with Arizona and Florida taking care of San Diego State and UCLA, respectively, and Virginia falling to Michigan State. The Tar Heels are the only No. 4 facing that uphill climb this season, with Wisconsin waiting for them at the Staples Center Thursday night.
16. Arizona has been destroying teams on the glass in the big dance so far, out-rebounding its two tournament foes by an average of 16.5. They followed up a 35-19 rebounding demolition of Texas Southern by eating up Ohio State on the boards and winning the rebounding battle by a final total of 43-26. The Wildcats grabbed 78 percent of the Buckeyes' missed shots, and allowed just three second-chance points.