Do you like rooting for the little guys? Because they're damn near everywhere. After this tournament, you can revert back to your cynical bad selves.
Today, the West and East regional semifinals commence. On Friday, the Midwest and South get their chance at shining moments.
WEST REGION, SALT LAKE CITY
7:07 p.m.: (1) Syracuse vs. (5) Butler — Wouldn't a Butler-Xavier matchup be awesome? Neither of those teams have ever broken through to the Final Four. In fact, this is Xavier's 21st ever tournament appearance and Butler's 10th. An an Atlantic-10/Horizon matchup would be just the event to ensure a true mid-major underdog.
Here's the thing, though. Ain't gonna be this year. Jim Boeheim and his Orange have a slew of incredible shooters and they are second in the country in team assists per game. Plus … there's no way I'm ever picking against that mascot. Syracuse 78, Butler 74
9:37 p.m.: (2) Kansas State vs. (6) Xavier — Oh, look. The one Sweet 16 game that's actually a rematch from the regular season. The Musketeers were well-handled back on December 8, but that was in the cozy confines of Bramlage Colosseum. On that day, Jordan Crawford had a sad shooting performance, but in this tournament he has sufficiently heated up to the point that in a Mexican restaurant the server would remind you not to touch him.
So simply shut him down, and the rest is cake. (Mmm. Mexican cake.) Kansas State 66, Xavier 56
EAST REGION, SYRACUSE, NY
7:27 p.m.: (1) Kentucky vs. (12) Cornell — The last time the Ivy League made it this far was during the Carter Administration. That team was Pennsylvania, who reached the Final Four in '79 before narrowly losing to Dean Smith and his UNC Tar Heels.
Kentucky has the remarkable youthful talent, but Cornell has a pantload of experience. The Big Red is the only team to have two players score at least 20 points in both games last weekend. Consequently, they're the only school in the Sweet 16 whose hockey team will also be in the NCAA tournament.
The knock on Kentucky is that, yeah, they only lost two games and won the SEC, but they really haven't played, let alone beat, anyone better than Tennessee. Meanwhile, Cornell upset Temple and Wisconsin and lost to Syracuse and Kansas in the regular season. It's also essentially a home game for the Big Red (Ithaca is about an hour away from Syracuse). This may not be riding the wave of sentimental support for Andy Bernard — this could actually be a smart pick. Cornell 78, Kentucky 73
9:57 p.m.: (2) West Virginia vs. (11) Washington – Oh, hey, don't forget about U-Dub. There's usually nothing Cinderellish about the Pac-10 champion, but that 11-seed might've been a little misleading. They're still on a hell of a run, and Quincy Pondexter is not only a great player, but also has one hell of a name. (Not good enough to make this tournament, however.)
Unfortunately, taking the Pac-10 is nice, but the Big East tournament winner carries a little more weight, and that's why the Mountaineers are still a trendy choice for the title game, even if there is little else trendy about the state. West Virginia 72, Washington 64