AP Sports Writer
Welcome to BracketRacket, your one-stop shopping place for all things NCAA.
For our first Sweet 16 edition, we've got a geography quiz by Shockers and Explorers, a coach in rarified air, a former Ohio attorney general rooting for Michigan State and Jim Larranaga's thought for the day. All that and some Bracket Bits that include all of Dunk City's postseason dunks and, in honor of Easter, Peeps.
Who says academics go by the wayside during the NCAA tournament?
La Salle and Wichita State took a geography quiz at the West Regional in Los Angeles, and the Shockers passed. Belying their name, the Explorers need to brush up a little.
Here's an excerpt of how it went from AP Sports Writer Beth Harris:
Question: Where is La Salle located?
Answer: "Philly, right? I believe it's Philly," Shockers guard Malcolm Armstead said.
Question: Where is Wichita State located?
Answer: "What state is it in?" asked La Salle guard Ramon Galloway.
And it went downhill from there.
"I saw a store down here called Which Wich," Explorers guard Tyrone Garland offered, not-so-helpfully naming a national sandwich chain.
Guard Tyreek Duren pitched in: "Steve Zack said we passed the Wichita exit when we were going to the airport. He pointed it out and said, 'That's who we play.'"
Informed of their opponent's confusion, Shockers forward Cleanthony Early, of Middletown, N.Y., admitted he was initially stumped, too.
"I didn't know where Wichita was either before I went there," he said. "I had to do my research. When I first heard of it, I couldn't even pronounce it correctly."
After losing to the Shockers in the Sweet 16, the Explorers probably know a little bit more about Wichita as well.
ONE IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS
Forgive Dana Altman and the Oregon Ducks if they have a bit of an inferiority complex this weekend.
And no, this isn't a gripe about the selection committee's seeding.
The Ducks, being covered at the Sweet 16 by AP National Writer Nancy Armour, are in the Midwest Regional semifinals with a veritable Who's Who of college hoops.
Their opponent, Louisville, is a two-time national champion and was in the Final Four last year. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is a surefire Hall of Famer, with two NCAA titles, 660 wins -- and counting -- and a 49-18 record in March alone.
There's also Duke, which won its fourth national title three years ago and whose coach, Mike Krzyzewski, has more wins than anyone else in Division I. (Coach K has a side gig, too, leading the U.S. men to gold medals at the last two Olympics.)
And don't forget Michigan State, which may as well include the Final Four on its schedule for as many times as Tom Izzo and the Spartans wind up there.
"Fortunately, it's our team going out there," Altman said.
Altman is no slouch, either. Oregon is the third school he's taken to the NCAA tournament, and the Ducks have had 20-win seasons in each of his three years as head coach. But Oregon is not exactly a tournament mainstay; this is the Ducks' first appearance since 2008, and their first trip to the regional semifinals since 2007.
"All three of those programs, because of their coaches, have great records, great traditions," Altman said. "We're trying to build a tradition. We're trying to build something that consistently competes year in and year out. That's a big challenge for us."
FORCED TO CHOOSE
Richard Cordray is the former Ohio attorney general and lives in Columbus, so he roots for Ohio State football.
He also went to Michigan State at the same time as Magic Johnson, so he pulls for Spartans basketball.
That left the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a dilemma while filling out his NCAA tournament bracket. But when it came down to picking a team -- he has the Buckeyes and Spartans reaching the Final Four -- Cordray went with Michigan State.
"I always go with my heart," Cordray told AP Business Writer Christina Rexrode.
Cordray's roommate at Michigan State had a few classes with Magic and he saw firsthand the impact the oversized and gregarious point guard had on the school.
"It was really exciting and fun to watch," Cordray said. "Of course he left after two years and went on to fame and fortune. The rest of us toiled for four years finding ourselves. He's a great personality, he just glows and picks everybody up around him."