The NCAA Tournament returns tonight with the Sweet 16. Even though it was only last weekend, it may feel like a long time since we all sat down to stream 50-plus hours of meaningful basketball. One tends to forget the storylines during a busy work week. Thankfully, the broadcast narratives and talking points are fairly easy to predict and an interested parties can prepare themselves accordingly.
Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect.
Loyola: Sister Jean. She’s a 98-year-old nun who has risen to national — sorry — international fame. She does scouting reports. She’s objectively heartwarming. Setting the over-under on cutaway shots at 17, and pounding the over is the play.
Nevada: The comeback kids. The Wolfpack have overcome double-digit second-half deficits in both their games. Coach Eric Musselman, a former NBA player himself, still looks good shirtless.
Texas A&M: Resilience. The Aggies sustained a wrath of injuries and got off to an 0-5 start in SEC play. Is that all in the rearview mirror or was their throttling of North Carolina an aberration, not a sign of things to come?
Michigan: New lease on life/team of destiny. Jordan Poole’s miracle buzzer-beater made last weekend’s lackluster performances all okay. The Wolverines have a nice path to the Final should they start looking like the team that breezed to a Big Ten Tournament title.
Kansas State: Dean Wade. The Wildcats’ best player is hoping to play despite a stress fracture in his foot. If he can, it will completely change the dynamic against Kentucky.
Kentucky: Freshmen maturation. Once again, the Wildcats are rounding into form after some early-season hiccups. John Calipari’s brilliance is not reloading with young talent, it’s making it look like seasoned veteran play when it matters most.
Florida State: Giants. The Seminoles have a 7-footer in Ike Obiagu and a 7-4 mountain in Christ Koumadje. Tough not to comment on such height. Ask any taller person who’s constatnly stopped in the airport with the same four questions.
Gonzaga: Redemption. The Zags finally broke through and made the Final Four last year, but fell short in the title game. Is this the year Mark Few reaches the summit? There will be speculation.
Clemson. Who? No offense to the Tigers but they’ve made it this far without capturing much national attention. They didn’t fit into the mold of a lovable underdog or elite side. Expect a casual introduction.
Kansas: Devonte’ Graham. Just be sheer will and force, the all-everything guard asserts himself as the dominant storyline. This is great news for Bill Self and the unfortunate Bill Self letdown quips.
West Virginia: Press Virginia. Uhh, duh, you guys. The Mountaineers press and they press hard. Bob Huggins wears a pullover. Brace for a pros/cons discussion of said strategy.
Villanova: Jalen Bruson’s dad played in the NBA. His name was Rick. Look it up.
Syracuse: The 2-3 zone. Jim Boeheim has been using it forever, and it still works. In fact, Michigan State just clanged another three-pointer. It yields a brand of basketball so ugly only a Cuse slappy could love, but the results speak for themselves. Also expect to hear how some idiot doubters said the Orange didn’t belong in the tournament. So much egg on so many faces.
Duke: Co-opting the Orange’s trademark defense. Coach K, an old dog, has a learned a new trick — out of necessity. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
Texas Tech: Chris Beard’s long journey. Nothing snarky to say here. Geniuine respect for a grinder who put in the time with stops at Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian along the way to tournament prominence.
Purdue: Bionic elbows. Isaac Haas’ injury figures to hamstring the Boilermakers. Unless, of course, the brilliant engineers in West Lafayette have finally perfected a miraculous device allowing the 7-3 center to become an actual superhero.