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It's our first edition for the regional finals, with Syracuse and Wichita State having secured the first spots in the Final Four. Stops along our tour include: the bracket-busting Shockers, Coach K's ever-present concerns about conference realignment, former Georgia Tech star John Salley's excitement at having the Final Four in Atlanta, a heartwarming tale of sportsmanship and a farewell to tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast.
THE SHOCKING SHOCKERS
Wichita State has gone from a ninth-seeded mid-major aiming to win an NCAA game to an unexpected arrival in the Final Four.
Just how unexpected?
According to ESPN, less than 1 percent — 0.24 percent, to be exact — of 8.15 million brackets submitted in ESPN's Fantasy Tournament Challenge had the Shockers reaching the national semifinals.
Head over to Yahoo! for its Tourney Pick 'Em contest, and only 32 percent of more than 3.3 million brackets had the Shockers even winning their opener against Pittsburgh, much less beating top seed Gonzaga and No. 2 seed Ohio State on the way to the West Region title.
WICHITA STATE 101
Since Wichita State isn't a household name, here's a quick primer to impress friends with your Missouri Valley Conference knowledge:
The school opened in 1895 as Fairmount College, then became the Municipal University of Wichita in 1926 on the way to becoming a state university in 1964. It has an enrollment of 14,893 students.
The "Shockers" mascot is short for "Wheatshockers" and recalls when students shocked wheat to earn money during the harvest season, according to the school's web site.
While the Shockers reached the Final Four in 1965 and won the College World Series in 1989, the most successful athletic program has been — surprise! — bowling. Wichita State has 19 national championships between its men's and women's programs since 1975.
Among the school's biggest sports names: former NFL coach Bill Parcells, a former Shockers football player; former NBA player Xavier "The X-Man" McDaniel; and former big leaguer Joe Carter, who hit the World Series-clinching home run for Toronto in 1993 against Philadelphia.
K, THE ACC AND THE FUTURE
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot reports from Indianapolis that Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is thinking about more than just Sunday's regional final against future Atlantic Coast Conference member Louisville.
"For all these schools that have joined, it makes (the ACC) the most powerful basketball conference, I think ever," Krzyzewski said Saturday of the latest round of conference realignment. "I hope our league is able to understand the assets that we've accumulated and what it does to the assets we already have. I think if positioned properly, it sets us apart from anybody, and we should look at where football is or whatever."
Next year, the league will add Syracuse — which beat Marquette in a Big East matchup for the East Regional title Saturday — along with Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. The Cardinals are scheduled to join in 2014 when Maryland bolts for the Big Ten.
Krzyzewski is already urging ACC officials to start contemplating what they need to do to avoid other leagues from poaching ACC schools. He said the best way is to rethink how the ACC does business — down to developing its own TV network or where it holds its tournament.
"In other words, to take a real close look at our league with the new members and say: Why are we different, why are we better and how can we be the top league?" Krzyzewski said. "If we don't do that, then we're negligent, to be quite frank with you."
John Salley says he'll feel like a proud host when the Final Four returns to Atlanta.
"I cannot wait," Salley told AP Sports Writer Charles Odum. "Ever since last year, I've been talking about this to all my friends. I get to show all the people in Atlanta what I do, my hosting technique."
Atlanta was Salley's home from 1982-86 when he played for Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-11 Salley helped lead the Yellow Jackets to their first ACC championship in 1985, though that team fell a game short of the Final Four.
"That school is where I grew up," he said. "That city is where I became a man."
For the Final Four, the former NBA player is joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as celebrity hosts for the NCAA official VIP pregame hospitality event hosted by PrimeSport. For one price, fans can attend the VIP pregame events at the Georgia World Congress Center and then attend the games next door at the Georgia Dome.
The packages can include food, drinks, entertainment, tickets and even travel to Atlanta.
"It's the party of all parties," Salley said. "I put on a good show, so I've been told."
More information about the packages can be found at www.ncaa.com/hospitality .
DON'T LOOK AWAY
News flash: people like to watch NCAA tournament games on television, especially when upstarts and big-name programs are involved.
CBS Sports and Turner Sports reported Saturday that Friday's round of 16 games on CBS and TBS — featuring 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast along with perennial heavyweights Duke, Kansas, Louisville and Michigan State — earned an 8.2 household rating and 16 share. That was up 22 percent from last year and the highest for a Friday regional semifinal since 1994.
Overall, the tournament is averaging a 6.1 household rating and a 13 share for its highest ratings since 1998.
SPORTSMANSHIP STILL LIVES
Check out this story about how a turnover on an inbounds pass involving rival high school teams ended up making national news and sending both teams to the NCAA tournament's South Regional games at Cowboys Stadium: http://bit.ly/10pTDEl
To go with it, here's the link to the CBS News report of the story, including the big moment around the 2:05 mark: http://bit.ly/Xb2ivX
A FAREWELL TO DUNK CITY
In honor of Florida Gulf Coast's NCAA run, check out this compilation of moments that captured why "Dunk City" was just so much fun this March (check out the 1:25 mark against Georgetown): http://deadsp.in/ZKT5dw
STAT OF THE DAY
Kansas' loss to Michigan on Friday night left Louisville as the last No. 1 seed in the tournament.
This is only the third time in the 29 years since the tournament expanded to 64 teams that only one No. 1 seed reached the regional finals, according to STATS. The only other times that a single No. 1 made it to the round of eight came in 2000 with eventual champion Michigan State and 2011 with Kansas — which fell to VCU to miss the Final Four.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I don't think we're Cinderella at all. Cinderellas usually are done by this stage. If you get to this point, you can win the whole thing. You beat a No. 1 seed and a No. 2 seed. I think Cinderella just found one glass slipper. I don't think she found four. So that's just the way it is." — Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall after Saturday's win against Ohio State.
Syracuse 55, Marquette 39
Wichita State 70, Ohio State 66
At Arlington, Texas
Michigan (29-7) vs. Florida (29-7), 2:20 p.m.
Louisville (32-5) vs. Duke (30-5), 4:55 p.m.