It's hard to believe that the end is near. It feels like just yesterday we were staying up all night together to watch Hawaii take on Houston Baptist. Now, we're just a little more than 24 hours away from the start of the Final Four. I'm not crying, Brian's Song is just on in the background. I guess that excuse doesn't really work, but whatever.
But now's not the time to let up, or lose focus. On the contrary, we must adequately educate ourselves in order to be properly equipped for this season's final stop.
Here's a start:
1. Louisville is a Heavy Favorite
You probably already knew that, but you probably didn't know this: The Cardinals are just the eighth team to make the Final Four after winning three of their previous tournament games by 20 points or more. Of those teams, just one has gone on to win the national championship: Rick Pitino's 1996 Kentucky Wildcats.
2. One Seeds Becoming a Rarity
Louisville, the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, is the only top seed left standing heading into the final weekend of the tournament. That makes this the fourth consecutive season without multiple No. 1 seeds in the Final Four, the longest such stretch in NCAA Tournament history. Just three top seeds have made the Final Four since 2010, the lowest four-year total in tournament history.
3. Wichita State Makes Rare Run
As a No. 9 seed, the Shockers are the only team seeded lower than fourth remaining in the tournament. They're also the first, and only other, nine seed to crash the Final Four since Penn did it in 1979. The Quakers were beaten by Michigan State in the national semifinals that year, 101-67, and then by DePaul in the national third-place game, 96-93.
4. Syracuse's Defense Has Been Ridiculous (in a Good Way)
In four games, the Orange have allowed point totals of 34, 60, 50 and 39, good for an insane average of 45.8 ppg. Syracuse has also held all four of its tournament opponents below 28 percent shooting from outside the paint.
5. Boeheim and Pitino Could Combine for 100 Tournament Wins
If Syracuse and Louisville win on Saturday, then Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino will meet in the championship game with 100 tournament wins between them.
Here's how the tournament wins shake out among the quartet of Final Four coaches:
Jim Boeheim 52
Rick Pitino 46 (20 with Louisville)
John Beilein 12 (6 with Michigan)
Gregg Marshall 5 (4 with Wichita State)
6. Non-State, State School ... What?
Try closely to follow, because this is difficult to word. Wichita State is the first school with "state" but not an actual state name in its university title to make the Final Four since Memphis State (which no longer has "state" in its title) achieved the feat in 1985.
7. Trey Burke is the Best Player in the Final Four
Michigan's first-team All-American added a couple more dashes to his resume when he was named AP Player of the Year and the winner of the Wooden Award this week. The sophomore point guard owns a tremendous stat line of 18.8 ppg, 6.8 apg and 1.6 spg. He's had at least seven assists in all four of the Wolverines' tournament games.
8. But Russ Smith Has Been the Best Player in the Tournament
The sometimes erratic junior guard heads to Atlanta leading the tournament in points, made field goals and steals. In four tournament games, the Midwest Region's Most Outstanding Player has scored a total of 104 points (26.0 ppg). That total puts him just eight shy of Darrell Griffith's U of L school record for points in a tournament.
9. The Big East Could Get One Last Game
Despite this being widely considered to be a down year for the Big East, teams from the conference make up half of the 2013 Final Four. If Louisville and Syracuse -- who are each headed to the ACC -- both win on Saturday, then the Big East as we've known it will have one final showdown. The conference has had an especially successful run in the Big Dance in recent years, sending seven teams to the Final Four over the past five years. That ties a tournament record.
10. 'Super Six' All Missing
The is the first Final Four since 1985 that hasn't included at least one of the "Super Six" of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas and UCLA. It's crazy to think that this was the year the streak was broken, as five of the six schools made the NCAA Tournament, and Indiana, Kansas and Duke were all No. 1 or No. 2 seeds.