The basketball-less three days between the end of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament and the start of the Sweet 16 are always among the most painful on the sports calendar. Thankfully, we’re rapidly approaching the return of the madness and a Sweet 16 that might be the strongest in the history of the Big Dance.
Here are 16 things you need to know before we get back to basketball on Thursday night.
1. This is just the second time in the history of the tournament that all 12 top three seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16. The only other year was 2009, and the seeding of the teams that advanced to the second weekend that year (1, 2, 3, 4 — 1, 2, 3, 4 — 1, 2, 3, 5 — 1, 2, 3, 12) is exactly the same as it is this year.
2. Four programs — Gonzaga, Kentucky, Purdue and Michigan — are playing in the Sweet 16 for the third straight year. The Zags are playing in their fifth-straight Sweet 16, the longest active streak in the country.
3. Kentucky is making its 44th all-time appearance in the Sweet 16, the most of any program in college basketball history. The No. 2 team on that list, North Carolina, is also still playing. The Tar Heels are in the Sweet 16 for the 34th time.
4. In each of the last six NCAA tournaments, at least one team seeded seventh or worse has won a regional title and moved on to the Final Four.
2018 — No. 11 Loyola-Chicago
2017 — No. 7 South Carolina
2016 — No. 10 Syracuse
2015 — No. 7 Michigan State
2014 — No. 7 Connecticut and No. 8 Kentucky
2013 — No. 9 Wichita State
The only team with a chance to keep that streak alive this weekend is 12th-seeded Oregon.
5. No. 12 seeds are 0-19 all-time in the NCAA tournament against No. 1 seeds. Oregon will look to break that streak Thursday night against top-seeded Virginia.
6. There is no team in this year’s Sweet 16 that is playing in the round for the first time. Virginia Tech (1967) and Houston (1984) are the teams breaking the longest Sweet 16 droughts.
7. Gonzaga vs. Florida State is a rematch from last year’s NCAA tournament that took place in the same round and the same region (West). Despite being a 6.5-point underdog, the ninth-seeded Seminoles upset the fourth-seeded Bulldogs in that game, 75-60.
8. Every seed line from 1-8 has produced at least one national champion besides the 5-seed line. No. 5 seeds have made it to the Final Four six times, the national title game three times, but have never been able to be the last team standing. Auburn is the only team with a chance to break that lifelong streak of futility this year.
9. Nine of the 16 coaches left have been to at least one Final Four. Four — Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Tom Izzo and Roy Williams — have won national championships.
10. Duke is looking to become just the fourth No. 1 overall seed to cut down the nets since the NCAA tournament selection committee began designating a No. 1 overall seed in 2004. Florida (2007), Kentucky (2012) and Louisville (2013) are the only previous top dogs to get the job done.
11. Four teams in this year’s Sweet 16 — Auburn, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech and Tennessee — are searching for their first ever trip to a Final Four. All four have previously made at least one appearance in the Elite Eight.
12. This is the 12th straight year that the Big Ten has sent multiple teams to the Sweet 16. Still, the conference is looking for its first national championship since Tom Izzo and Michigan State cut down the nets in 2000. Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue are all looking to end the streak of futility that is nearing the two decade mark.
13. Villanova’s second-round loss to Purdue guaranteed not only that this will be the 13th straight year without a back-to-back national champion, but the 13th straight year that the reigning national champ has failed to make it back to the Final Four.
Since Florida won the second of consecutive championships in 2007, here’s how the reigning champ has fared in the NCAA tournament:
2008: Florida – Missed tournament
2009: Kansas – Sweet 16
2010: North Carolina – Missed tournament
2011: Duke – Sweet 16
2012: Connecticut: – First round
2013: Kentucky – Missed tournament
2014: Louisville – Sweet 16
2015: Connecticut – Missed tournament
2016: Duke – Sweet 16
2017: Villanova – Second round
2018: North Carolina – Second round
2019: Villanova — Second round
14. Four states — North Carolina, Texas, Michigan and Virginia — have two teams still alive in the Sweet 16, but no teams from the same state could meet any earlier than the Final Four.
15. The ACC has five teams still alive in the tournament’s second weekend, tied for the second most in history. The ACC also owns the record for the most Sweet 16 teams from the same conference in the same year, a record it set with six back in 2016.
16. No. 1 seeds are 37-15 all-time in Sweet 16 games against No. 4 seeds, and haven’t lost in that situation since Michigan State’s upset of Virginia back in 2014. There are two 1 vs. 4 matchups (Duke-Virginia Tech and Gonzaga-Florida State) in this year’s Sweet 16.