Last time the Final Four was played in New Orleans, Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orangemen defeated Roy Williams' last Kansas Jayhawks team. Syracuse and Boeheim, along with Williams (now with North Carolina) and Kansas (now with Bill Self) all have designs on returning to the Big Easy.
Pete Rozelle would be proud.
Never has his dream of "parity" spread to something so expansive as the NCAA Tournament.
No matter where you click, there are talking heads or writers using the "P-word" like never before.
What, you say, a No.15 seed beat a No.2, not once, but twice ?! And there's a No.13 seed in the Sweet Sixteen for only the fifth time in history?
Well, the answer to both questions is yes.
But, are we seeing true parity or just a compressing of the gap between everyone but the cream, which has, and will, remain clearly on top, at least for another year?
Before anyone goes kneeling before a statue of the old NFL Commissioner, or imagining sheer craziness occurring not just outside the Superdome but in it, let's take a closer look at why a few teams might as well not show up this Thursday and Friday night.
UNC will make it to the weekend without Kendall Marshall.
The Ohio University Bobcats can definitely play this game. The no-fluke victory over No.4 seed and Big Ten Conference tri-champ, Michigan, should have proved that to anyone who hadn't seen them before.
In fact, the Mid-American Conference should consider scrapping their tournament and simply sending Ohio every year!
Since 2004, no other MAC team has won an NCAA Tournament game while the Bobcats stand a respectable 3-2.
But the 'Cats stop here.
And the reason is: Size matters, or more accurately, rebounding and inside scoring do.
Ohio will simply be overwhelmed by North Carolina's front line.
Sometimes it's all about how styles and personnel match up.
Ohio is extremely efficient in their half-court game and may have more of an opportunity to execute it with the absence of Kendall Marshall. But, they'll have to shoot lights out to have even the slightest chance in this contest. And the reason is: They simply will not be able to rebound with the nation's leading rebounding team.
Rather than throw simple rebounding stats at you (and always remember, there are lies, damned lies and statistics), let me throw some other numbers at you. These are the heights of Ohio's four leading rebounders: 6'8", 6'8", 6'7" and 5'11". Here's the same group for North Carolina: 7', 6'11", 6'8" and 6'7".
And that's without mentioning the talent discrepancy.
North Carolina's one flaw may be their inconsistent outside shooting, but don't expect that to make a difference on Friday night. The Tar Heels have made a living ramming the ball inside all season. Marshall's replacement at the point will be Stilman White, a freshman. To date, in White's UNC career, he has a total of 19 assists.
Don't be surprised to see that total increase by around 50 percent as the Tar Heels keep the history of no No.13 seed ever advancing past this round intact.
Yancy Gates has done yeoman's work for Cincinnati all year long. But, will he be enough all by himself against Ohio State's front court?
Cincinnati and Columbus are about two hours apart, but they might as well be on two different continents as far as Ohio State is concerned.
In the last 90 years, Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati have met each other to play basketball just once outside of the NCAA Tournament.
They have met twice in the tournament. No big deal, though. Besides, it was before most people reading this were born. It was in back-to-back years and involved some guys on the Ohio State side named John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas and Bob Knight. You may have heard of them.
And oh yeah, both games were for the national championship.
Cincinnati won them both with guys you really probably never heard of. Basketball is, after all, a team game. The first one was one year after some dude named Oscar Robertson graduated. You may have heard of him, too.
But enough history. Why shouldn't Cincinnati show up? They made it to the Big East final before losing to Louisville. In this tournament thus far, they've disposed of a respectable Texas team and stopped Florida State, the ACC tournament champ and two-time conqueror of both North Carolina and Duke.
So what's the problem? See Slide 1. It's size.
The Buckeyes like to go inside. Their two leading scorers, Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, are 6'9" and 6'7". Add to that a 6'6" guard, William Buford, who's also comfortable getting to the basket, and the four-guard lineup Cincinnati employs will have their hands full.
Cincinnati will make every effort to keep this game in the 50s and may very well accomplish that goal. So how, you ask, does that make them a team that "shouldn't show up?" Because Ohio State would beat them nine out of 10 times even under the Bearcats' best scenario.
Billy Donovan certainly knows his way to the Final Four.
Time to stir the pot.
The Florida Gators are a mere one-and-a-half point underdog. Plus, they have a coach who's been to three national championship games this century, winning the last two.
Why in the world shouldn't this team show up?
Glad you asked.
Florida has enjoyed by far the simplest route to the Sweet Sixteen. They romped over a depleted Virginia team that staggered into the tournament and dismissed a Norfolk State team that appeared to have made a one-night deal with the devil to upset Missouri.
That, of course, doesn't mean you can't play. And make no mistake, I'm not saying they can't play—obviously, they can.
But now they play a team who plays similarly to the Gators themselves. And the Marquette Warriors simply do it better, and they have done it better against much tougher competition.
The teams finished with similar records and in the same position in their respective leagues. But let's look around at the Sweet Sixteen, shall we?
Four Big East teams remain while only Kentucky joins the Gators from the SEC.
Florida has chucked it up from Bonusland more than any team in the country. But over the last month, they are connecting at only a 31 percent clip. Thus far in the tournament, the percentage has slipped to an even worse 27 percent.
Maybe they had better get that number from Norfolk State if they want to be playing this weekend.