How do you like your Final Four?
Straight-up blue bloods, or with a dash of trailer trash? All A-listers, or with a couple of party crashers thrown in? A bourgeois affair, or a proletariat party?
History says that college basketball's final weekend is usually a mix of top dogs and (mild) underdogs. But from where we stand today, on the cusp of the Sweet 16, we're still in play for an unprecedented celebration of snobbery: All four No. 1 seeds could make it to Indianapolis.
Since the NCAA began publicly seeding its tournament in 1979, it's never happened before. In fact, it's rarely been close to happening.
There have been only four instances when all four No. 1s even reached the Elite Eight: 1987, 1993, 2001 and 2003. Two of the four (eventual champion Indiana and UNLV) advanced from there to the Final Four in '87; three (champ North Carolina, Fab Five Michigan and Kentucky) advanced in '93; two (champ Duke and Michigan State) advanced in '01; and just one (Texas) advanced in '03.
(If it didn't happen in '93, one of the greatest years ever for college basketball, it might never happen. The only No. 1 to miss the party was Indiana, which might have had the best team in the country until Alan Henderson hurt his knee late in the year. The Hoosiers were beaten in the regional final in St. Louis by No. 2 seed Kansas.)
So the odds are stacked heavily against Duke, Connecticut, Villanova and Memphis advancing en masse to Indy. Don't count on seeing it.
None of the four has relinquished the favorite's role in its respective region, but there is plenty of competition -- plus past precedent -- still blocking the path. Let's take a brief look at each No. 1's chances:
Memphis The Tigers won their first two games by the most points (32) of any No. 1 seed, and face the lowest remaining seed in the tournament Thursday (No. 13 Bradley). That's the good news if you're a Memphis fan.
The bad news is that Bradley has proven itself in this event by beating two trendy Final Four picks (Kansas and Pittsburgh). And not only have the Braves traveled a tougher tournament road, they played in a tougher conference (Missouri Valley vs. Conference USA).
Average RPI of Bradley's opponents in February and March: 88. Record against those opponents: 10-3.
Average RPI of Memphis' opponents in February and March: 140. Record against those opponents: 13-1.
Nevertheless, the Tigers are a solid favorite to make the Elite Eight and face either No. 2 seed UCLA or No. 3 Gonzaga, whereupon anything can happen. Top seeds are 4-4 in regional finals over the past three years, with all of the losses coming to No. 2s or No. 3s.
If you're into potential foreshadowing of a Memphis-UCLA Elite Eight game, there is one more thing to consider. The last time a No. 1 seed from outside a BCS conference made a regional final, it faced a No. 2 from a BCS league and lost: Oklahoma State 64, Saint Joseph's 62 in 2004.
Duke The Blue Devils always make the Sweet 16, but don't always make the Final Four. Not even as a No. 1 seed.
Seven times in the previous eight tournaments, Duke has toted a top seed into a regional. Four times it has been upset short of the Final Four.
Over that period of time, Duke's record is much better against an easier Sweet 16 road than a hard one. The Blue Devils are 3-5 against teams seeded fifth or better and 4-0 against teams seeded sixth or worse.