Basketball: Semi-sweet 16 musings

The Prez wasn’t the only one whose NCAA Tournament bracket got healthier in the second round. I nailed 13 of 16 winners on Saturday and Sunday, and all eight of my projected regional finalists are still alive.

Thank you, chalk.

Here are 16 factoids, obervations, complaints and predictions as the tournament heads toward its second weekend: 

— If you’re a fan of the little guy, root like crazy for Gonzaga and Xavier, the only two teams left in the NCAA field who have not already been to the Final Four at least once.

—  In fact, teams still playing have accounted for 18 of the past 30 national championships, fueling the selection committee’s inclination to weed out teams from the non-power leagues.

— Thirteen of the 16 teams still alive come from the six heavyweight conferences. Memphis, which terrorizes overmatched opponents from Conference USA, fits into its own category, Godzilla trampling on all those toy cars in the 1950s monster movies.

— Whichever side of the fence you sit on the Arizona issue, there’s no denying fortune has smiled so far on the Wildcats. They opened with a Utah team whose No. 5 seeding was inflated, then got lucky when Cleveland State upset No. 4 Wake Forest. It gets tougher now, with Louisville waiting Friday in Indianapolis.

— No big surprise that the Pac-10 has just one team left. But five of six won first-round games, which is more than you can say for the ACC, where four of their seven teams lost in the opening round.

— Yes, 22 of Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin’s 25 baskets last weekend were dunks, layups or tip-ins. But what coach wouldn’t take that. When Griffin  masters the 16-foot jumper, he’ll be a mix of Amare Stoudamire and Karl Malone.

— More on Griffin, the 6-foot-10, 251-pound future Sacramento King: With 28 double-doubles this season, he needs two more to have half as many as Washington’s Jon Brockman totaled in a splendid four-year career.

— Best tag-team duo: the Pitt forward tandem of DeJuan Blair and Sam Young, who combined for 83 points and 49 rebounds in two games.

— It’s been a virtual given that Arizona juniors Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger will enter the NBA draft this spring. How about point guard Nic Wise? He was the Wildcats’ best player last weekend, scoring 50 points and making all 17 of his free throws in two games.

— Arizona State guard James Harden still figures to be a lottery pick, but he couldn’t have helped himself by shooting 6-for-27 the past three games and appearing less than assertive in Sunday’s loss to Syracuse.

— Congratulations to Kansas center Cole Aldrich, who had 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks against Dayton. But before we put his name alongside Shaq as the only players in tournament history to ink triple-doubles including blocked shots, let’s not forget Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor played before they kept official stats for blocks.

— Memphis sophomore Roburt Sallie, who had shot 13-for-19 from the 3-point line last weekend, grew up in Sacramento and spent one season at City College of San Francisco before joining John Calipari’s program.

— Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn can play on my team anytime.

— Best matchup in the next round: Memphis vs. Missouri. These teams play defense like piranhas — they attacak.

— Scary enough that five Big East teams advanced to the Sweet 16 — the first time any conference has sent as many into the regional semifinals. But it’s no longer a reach to imagine four of them playing April 4 at Ford Field.

— With all due respect to the NCAA women’s tournament, it’s simply crazy that tonight’s NIT matchup between Patty Mills (Saint Mary’s) vs. Stephen Curry (Davidson) is tipping off at 8:40 p.m. PDT on ESPN2. The game figures to end just before 2 a.m. on the East Coast, and still it’s a duel worth losing sleep over.

Jeff Faraudo