The gap between the last Round of 32 games on Sunday and the first Sweet 16 games on Thursday always feels like it's about three months long. You go from having action flying at you from all directions for 12 hours a day to absolutely nothing in the snap of a finger. It's an abrupt revocation of joy that conjures up memories of the final present on Christmas morning and the knowledge that only dinner and forced conversation with over-served relatives lay ahead.
The joy returns in just a few hours when the Sweet 16 tips off with Miami and Marquette at 7:15 p.m. ET (check out the full schedule). Here's everything you need to know between now and then in order to be properly educated.
1. Florida Gulf Coast has already made history, and is looking to make more
By shocking Georgetown and San Diego State on the tournament's opening weekend, the Eagles became the first team seeded higher than 14 to ever advance to the Sweet 16. The 1986 Cleveland State Vikings and the 1997 Chattanooga Mocs, both 14 seeds, had previously been the worst-seeded teams to crash the Regional semifinals. Six 13 seeds, including Ohio last season, have advanced out of the tournament's first weekend, but none have wound up winning their next game.
The 2002 Missouri Tigers, a 12 seed, remain the worst-seeded team to ever play in a Regional championship game, which means...
2. La Salle can also make history
FGCU's run has resulted in an understudy role for La Salle, which has become the second "First Four" team in three years to win a trio of games during the opening week of the tournament. If the Explorers find a way to beat Wichita State on Thursday, then the comparisons to VCU, which went from the First Four to the Final Four back in 2011, will be ratcheted up a notch.
Though La Salle is actually a worse seed than VCU (11) was when the Rams made their run, this isn't the usual Cinderella story of a no-name program coming out of nowhere to capture America's attention. Though it had been 23 years since the Explorers last won an NCAA Tournament game, this is still a program which won a national title in 1954 and was one win away from cutting down the nets again the year after. That said, the 1955 run was the last time La Salle won more than a game in the big dance.
3. Rick Pitino has owned the Sweet 16
No. 1 overall seed Louisville was the only truly dominant team during the tournament's opening weekend, a trend which is likely to continue on Friday if Rick Pitino's Sweet 16 history is any indication. Not only is Pitino 10-0 in the round, his teams have won all 10 games by double digits.
6. Providence 103, 2. Alabama 82 (1987)
2. Kentucky 87, 3. Massachusetts 77 (1992)
1. Kentucky 103, 5. Wake Forest 69 (1993)
1. Kentucky 97, 5. Arizona State 73 (1995)
1. Kentucky 101, 4. Utah 70 (1996)
1. Kentucky 83, 4. St. Joseph's 68 (1997)
4. Louisville 93, 1. Washington 79 (2005)
3. Louisville 79, 2. Tennessee 60 (2008)
1. Louisville 103, 12. Arizona 64 (2009)
4. Louisville 57, 1. Michigan State 44 (2012)
That's an incredible average margin of victory of 22.0 points.
4. Coach K and Tom Izzo will have their tournament rubber match
There have been just three Sweet 16s since Tom Izzo took over at Michigan State in 1996 that haven't featured either his Spartans or Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils. Despite this, the two titans of the sport have met just twice in the NCAA Tournament.
In 1999, Elton Brand scored 18 points to lead Duke past fellow top seed Michigan State, 68-62 in the Final Four. The Blue Devils would go on to lose to Connecticut in the national title game two days later. Izzo exacted a little bit of revenge six years later when the fifth-seeded Spartans upset No. 1 Duke in the Sweet 16, 78-68. If the Blue Devils score 68 again when the two meet on Friday, well, I don't know how you should react, but it'll be weird.
Things get a little bit more one-sided when you look beyond the tournament, however, as Coach K owns a 6-1 all-time advantage over Izzo. All seven of those games have taken place while Krzyzewski has been at Duke and Izzo has been at Michigan State.
5. Indiana and Syracuse will meet in a 1987 title game rematch
Thursday night's meeting between the Hoosiers and the Orange will be just the fourth between the two storied programs since they played one of the most memorable championship games in history. With Syracuse needing just one stop to secure its first national title, Indiana's Keith Smart got free and delivered what is still referred to simply as "The Shot" around Bloomington.
6. The game is a bit more personal for Syracuse's Brandon Triche
The man Smart is hitting the game-winning shot over in that video is Howard Triche, the uncle of current Orange senior Brandon Triche. The Triches say the shot isn't one of those things that they talk about much, but Howard -- who was a senior in 1987 -- recently predicted that his nephew's college story will have a different ending than his did.
"This is his dream," Howard said. "This is where he's going to. It's going to turn out different for him."
7. Miami's Reggie Johnson will not play this weekend
The Hurricane center had a surgical procedure to repair a minor meniscus issue on Tuesday, and will not play in this weekend's East Regional games. Johnson, a senior who averaged double figures in both his sophomore and junior campaigns, has seen a drastic decrease in production this season, thanks in large part to a broken thumb he suffered just before Christmas. Johnson scored seven points and grabbed 15 rebounds in Miami's first two NCAA Tournament games.
Perhaps the most intriguing individual matchup in the Sweet 16 will be the showdown between Arizona point guard Mark Lyons and Ohio State's Aaron Craft. Lyons, who is averaging 25.0 ppg in the big dance, is one of the better pure scorers in the country, but the Xavier transfer has had significant issues with turnovers throughout this season. Craft has an earned reputation as the best on-ball defender in college basketball. He held Iona's MoMo Jones, a similarly-skilled point guard who also played at Arizona, to 3-for-14 from the floor with zero assists and four turnovers in Ohio State's tournament opener.
The game won't be as simple as Craft vs. Lyons, but it's hard to envision one of the players being dominated by the other and still being able to celebrate a victory.
9. Florida is the biggest Sweet 16 favorite
Vegas currently has the Gators as a 13-point favorite over Florida Gulf Coast, the largest spread of any Sweet 16 game. The second-biggest favorite is No. 1 overall seed Louisville, which is favored over Oregon by 10 points.
10. If Marquette beats Miami, Buzz Williams will probably dance
It's sort of his thing.
11. Kansas needs Ben McLemore to break out of his funk
The Jayhawks turned a nine-point halftime deficit against North Carolina into a 12-point victory, and did so with their best player on the bench for nearly the entire second half run. McLemore finished that game 0-for-9 from the field and scored just two points.
"I've talked to enough people (and) coaches over the years that say you don't (bench) your best player or leading scorer," Kansas coach Bill Self said after the UNC game. "We were actually better during that stretch. And Ben was the biggest cheerleader we had."
But McLemore's struggles aren't limited to last weekend. In his last four games, the freshman All-American has made just 8-of-26 shots and is averaging only 7.0 ppg. That has to change if the Jayhawks are going to be able to take care of business this weekend despite a drastic spike in the level of competition.
12. Wichita State received a surprise inspirational speaker this week
Wichita State hadn't even arrived back on campus following their massive upset of top seed Gonzaga before they got Tebow'd (am I using that right?).
"After we had gotten off the plane a gentleman taps me on my shoulder and says, ‘Tim Tebow would like to address your team.'" Shockers coach Gregg Marshall recalled. "There was no connection, other than the fact that he was in Wichita to load up for fuel. He congratulated our players and said he watched our game. He told us not to lose that fire and that we'd remember these moments the rest of our lives."
Tebow would know, based on his own extensive personal NCAA Tournament experience.
13. Russ Smith and Mark Lyons are the tournament's (active) leading scorers
Temple's Khalif Wyatt dropped 31 in back-to-back games before the Owls were bounced by Indiana in the Round of 32, a scoring average unlikely to be surpassed by any player left in the tournament. Still, the tournament's active leading scorers are Russ Smith of Louisville and Mark Lyons of Arizona, both of whom scored 23 and 27 points in their first two tourney games.
14. If Florida Gulf Coast can hang in there early, they'll have a chance late
Bill Connelly, take it away.
On the flipside, Florida has had basically one weakness in 2012-13. The Gators have decimated almost every team with whom they crossed paths this season, but they have played six games decided by single digits ... and lost all six. It is the reason they were only a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament despite statistical dominance. It doesn't doom them to failure in the NCAAs -- among other things, six games isn't much of a sample size -- but it certainly suggests that, if the game is close in the final minutes and FGCU is playing loose and effective basketball, the edge might turn ever-so-slightly toward the team from Fort Myers.
15. Rick Pitino says his team's game with Oregon is a "coin flip"
Pretty much everyone agrees at this point that the selection committee flubbed up by dealing Oregon a No. 12 seed, but Pitino might be going just a tad overboard with his Duck-lovin'.
16. Four of the five highest-paid coaches in the game are in the Sweet 16
That would be Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Louisville's Rick Pitino, Kansas' Bill Self and Florida's Billy Donovan. The one absentee? John Calipari, who failed to get his Kentucky team into the tournament a year after winning the national championship.