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Graney: Compelling Sweet 16 storylines await March Madness

How’s your bracket?

Thought so.

We have reached the second week of the NCAA Tournament and, per usual, some memorable upsets highlight the event.

While three No. 1 seeds remain — Baylor is the only one to have been bounced —a few unlikely results have paved the way for another intriguing second week of play.

Here, then, is a closer look at some of the main Sweet 16 storylines that await Thursday and Friday.

S is for St. Peter’s. Cinderella is a small, private Jesuit university in Jersey City, N.J. It was founded as Saint Peter’s College in 1872. Total undergraduate students: 2,600. Its home venue is called Run Baby Run Arena and (maybe) seats 3,200. So of course it has — as a 15 seed — knocked off Kentucky and Murray State.

W is for Wildcats. As in No. 1 seed Arizona out of the South Region. If it thought Texas Christian was a grind in the second round, wait until 5 seed Houston ratchets up the pressure. Houston is also one of the nation’s best offensive rebounding teams. Arizona plays really fast. Houston ranks 334th nationally in adjusted tempo. My favorite of the Sweet 16 matchups.

E is for eyes on Michigan. This was a Top 10-15 team when the season began and is now playing like it. If it can keep head coach Juwan Howard from going after any more opposing coaches, it just might ride Hunter Dickinson past Villanova and into the Elite Eight.

E is for Ed Cooley. The head coach at Providence has his 4 seed in the Midwest lined up opposite No. 1 Kansas. It’s the first regional semifinal for the Friars since 1997. Suddenly, the Big East regular-season champs are looking the part.

T is for titans of college basketball. Two of the more storied programs — 4 seed UCLA and 8 seed North Carolina — meet in the East Region. Something to watch: UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez (14.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 48 percent shooter) badly injured his ankle against Saint Mary’s in the second round. Bruins coach Mick Cronin to assembled media: “Trust me — if he can walk, he’ll play.”

S is for shirt. Because if Arkansas beats No. 1 Gonzaga out West, you can bet your last Razorback that head coach Eric Musselman will be ripping off his in the locker room celebration. By the way, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson also took off his following a win against Illinois. So, you know, there’s that.

I is for intimidating. Which the overall No. 1 seed in Gonzaga remains offensively. Tops in efficiency in the nation at that end, the Zags have a gauntlet of capable scorers in names like Drew Timme, Andrew Nembhard, Chet Holmgren and Liberty High alum Julian Strawther.

X is for X factors, leading players who often make the difference between advancing and going home. One from each region: Ochai Agbaji (Kansas); Collin Gillespie (Villanova); Bryson Williams (Texas Tech); and Jaden Ivey (Purdue).

T is for T.J. Otzelberger. He left UNLV after two seasons, inherited a two-win Iowa State team and is in the Sweet 16. The only times he has missed the postseason as a head college coach? Those with the Rebels.

E is for everything Mike Krzyzewski. The final journey continues for Duke’s head coach, who now has 1,200 career wins, including 99 in the NCAAs. His team faces Texas Tech in the West Region and a victory could set up one of the more anticipated matchups of the draw — Duke vs. Gonzaga with a Final Four trip on the line.

E is for eerily quiet. Doesn’t that best describe Kansas right now? Where headlines have focused elsewhere, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest has advanced with four starters who average double digits scoring. Still as dangerous as anyone.

N is for no more schools for Charlie Moore. The Miami point guard is competing at his fourth one and his terrific play has Jim Larranaga’s team a win over Iowa State away from a regional final in the Midwest. Believe it: The Hurricanes who pounded Auburn 79-61 can make a Final Four.

Happy hoops watching.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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