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16 reasons why the Sweet 16 is going to be awesome

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We appreciate the 72 hours to catch our breath, but it's time for the madness to return.

The awkward three days between the end of the first weekend of the NCAA 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 Big Dance 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. The ACC has sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament's second weekend, the largest number from any conference in tournament history. The previous record of five was set by the Big East in 2009, and then matched by the ACC last season. In 2009, the Big East wound up sending two teams to the Final Four (Connecticut and Villanova), but both lost in the national semifinals. A season ago, Duke was the only ACC team to win its regional, and the Blue Devils went on to cut down the nets in Indianapolis.

2. Wisconsin is making its third straight appearance in the Sweet 16, the longest such streak in college basketball. Michigan State and Louisville both entered this season riding nation-best streaks of four consecutive Sweet 16 appearances, but the Spartans were stunned in the first round of the tournament by Middle Tennessee State, while the Cardinals self-imposed a postseason ban back in February.

3. This is North Carolina's 27th Sweet 16 appearance, the most of any program in Division-I. Duke (25) and Kansas (21) rank second and third, respectively, among the teams still standing.

Before last season, North Carolina had won 11 consecutive games in the Sweet 16, a streak which dated back to 1993. The Tar Heels fell in the regional semifinals last year to No. 1 seed Wisconsin, 79-72.

4. There is not one member of the Sweet 16 that is appearing in this round for the first time. Fifth-seeded Maryland, which hadn't been to the Sweet 16 since 2003, is the team breaking the longest second-weekend drought.

5. For all the craziness of the regular season and the opening round of this year's Big Dance, this is the first time that all four No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16 since 2012. Only one of those top seeds ended up making the Final Four that season, eventual national champion Kentucky.

The four No. 1 seeds this season entered the tournament with 23 combined losses, the most ever for a top line quartet. They will attempt this weekend to make more history by creating just the second all-No. 1 seed Final Four ever.

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 potential good news for Gonzaga? 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.

A year ago, the Zags prevented UCLA from becoming the seventh No. 11 seed to win a Sweet 16 game by eliminating them with a 74-62 victory.

7. When Villanova takes the floor against Miami Thursday night inside the KFC Yum! Center, it will be their first appearance in a tournament game played in Kentucky since their shocking upset of No 1 Georgetown in the 1985 national championship game.

8. Only three teams left in the field have never advanced to a Final Four: Texas A&M, Gonzaga and Miami.

9. Seven of the teams left in the field have never won a national championship: Texas A&M, Gonzaga, Miami, Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Notre Dame.

10. Oklahoma's Buddy Hield, a top candidate for national Player of the Year honors, enters this weekend's games averaging 25.4 points per game. If he can carry the Sooners into the Final Four, he'll be the first player to make the national semifinals averaging 25.0 points per game or better since Dennis Scott did it for Georgia Tech in 1990.

11. Wisconsin's walk-ons are awesome. If you're playing a game in Philly, you should be contractually obligated to do some sort of Fresh Prince parody. Thanks to Matt Ferris and Aaron Moesch for answering the bell.

12. This will be the fourth time that Iowa State has squared off against a No. 1 seed in the Round of 16. The previous three times, the Cyclones have lost by double-digits to the team that has gone on to win the national title. Good news for Virginia.

13. The meeting between No. 10 seed Syracuse and No. 11 seed Gonzaga will mark only the fourth time that double-digit seeds have squared off against one another in the Sweet 16. The meeting also guarantees that we will have one double-digit seed in the Elite Eight for the fourth time since 2002.

14. Half of the 16 coaches in the Sweet 16 have been to the Final Four at least once. Mike Krzyzewski leads the pack with 12 Final Four appearances, Roy Williams has been to seven, Jim Boeheim four and Bill Self two. Tom Crean, Lon Kruger, Jim Larranaga and Jay Wright have all been to the tournament's final weekend once.

15. Fifteen is the number of times a No. 4 seed has taken down a top seed in the Sweet 16. Unfortunately for Duke and Iowa State, that number is 17 fewer than the amount of times the favorite has prevailed. The 1/4 matchup has occurred 47 times since the expansion of the NCAA Tournament, with No. 1 seeds owning a 32-15 advantage.

The only 1/4 matchup from last season occurred when No. 1 Wisconsin eliminated No. 4 North Carolina.

16. Despite March Madness being an event defined by crazy upsets as much as anything else, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament has made it to at least the Final Four in four consecutive seasons now. Since the committee began assigning a No. 1 overall seed in 2004, three of those teams have wound up cutting down the nets at the end of the tournament -- Florida in 2007, Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville in 2013. Kansas will look to make those numbers even more formidable by booking a trip to Houston this weekend.