Strange ties bind these tourney teams

Scout looks at the most intriguing connections — and when they could happen — in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

ATLANTA – Among the most intriguing aspects of March Madness are the myriad ways that teams are bonded together, generating endless, six-degrees-of-separation storylines that help make this tournament more than just a series of college basketball games.

Here are some of the interesting possible connections as the Big Dance swings into motion.

WHAT’S UP, NEIGHBOR?

Several states are well-represented in this year's field, but remarkably, the Selection Committee found a way to put five schools from the state of Indiana in the Midwest Region, more evidence of Hoosier State hospitality.



The Irish come into the Madness hot
Included in the Midwest Region are No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 6 Butler, No. 9 Purdue, No. 10 Indiana and No. 13 Valparaiso. Butler and Notre Dame will both be favored to advance from their first-round games, setting up a potential Round of 32 matchup in Pittsburgh.

Oddly enough the same region also features two teams from Kansas, including the flag-ship Jayhawks, the second seed, and Wichita State. Should Bill Self’s team take care of New Mexico State and the seventh-seeded Shockers defeat Indiana, there would be an all-Kansas Round of 32 game Sunday in nearby Omaha.

Other neighbors on a potential collision course: Iowa and Iowa State, which could play in Houston in the Sweet Sixteen of the South Region; Xavier and Ohio State, which could meet in Los Angeles in the Sweet Sixteen of the West Region; Kentucky and Louisville, who can't meet until the title game in Indianapolis, but would set the state of Bluegrass on fire if the matchup somehow came to fruition.

FROM SIDELINE TO SIDELINE

The ever-spinning college coaching carousel creates some interesting reunions in March.Some of the most intriguing possibilities this year involve Arizona head man Sean Miller.



Will Miller face his former team?
If the Wildcats, seeded second in the West Region, advance to the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles, there’s a good chance they’ll play Xavier, the six seed. Miller’s last job before 'Zona was as head coach at Xavier from 2004-09.

Want to get even weirder? Miller’s predecessor at Xavier, Thad Matta, leads Ohio State these days. In order to get to that possible Sweet 16 matchup with Xavier, Miller and Arizona might have to go through the 10-seed Buckeyes, who need only get past VCU to set up the battle of two former Xavier coaches in the Round of 32 (for the right to maybe play Xavier).

Elsewhere, if Cincinnati, the Midwest Region’s eight seed, can somehow beat mighty Kentucky in the Round of 32, they could match up with West Virginia and former sideline boss Bob Huggins, in Cleveland.

Some other fun ones: If eighth-seeded San Diego State takes care of business in its opening game in Charlotte, it’s probably going to run into No. 1 Duke on Sunday. The Blue Devils and Coach K beat SDSU coach Steve Fisher’s Fab Five Michigan team in the 1992 NCAA Tournament Championship Game. The Most Outstanding Player of that tourney? Bobby Hurley, whose Buffalo Bulls take on West Virginia in Columbus Friday in the Midwest Region.

In a similar fashion Tommy Amaker just can’t seem to get away from North Carolina. The Harvard coach, who played point guard at Duke from 1983-87 and was on Coach K’s bench for years afterward, will lead his Crimson against the Heels Thursday in Jacksonville.

The best of the rest: UNC's Roy Williams could meet Williams’ former club Kansas in the Final Four ... Former Duke assistant Mike Brey (1987-95) could lead Notre Dame up against the Blue Devils in the championship game ... Virginia coach Tony Bennett could meet Wisconsin in the finals. Bennett started his coaching career as an assistant at Wisconsin from 1999-2003 ... Oklahoma, seeded third, and Michigan State, seeded seventh, are both in the East Region. If the two met in the Sweet 16 in Syracuse, it would reprise an old Big Ten coaching matchup. Lon Kruger, now the Sooner’s head coach, led the Illini from 1996-2000, and used to frequently lock horns with the Spartan’s Tom Izzo.

HEY, I REMEMBER YOU

Coaches aren’t the only ones who play musical chairs in college basketball. Player transfer numbers have hit record levels each successive offseason, and invariably old teammates become foes in the tourney.



Turner’s found his stride with the Wolfpack
That will certainly be the case on opening night of the Round of 64 when N.C. State and LSU contest an 8/9 game in Pittsburgh. Former Tiger Ralston Turner, who transferred to the Wolfpack to play for Mark Gottfried, was in Baton Rouge for two seasons. He’s now NC State’s second leading scorer and will have to go through the Bayou Bengals to get to the East Region’s top seed, Villanova, on Saturday.

Another LSU transfer is also dancing this March in Oklahoma State point guard Anthony Hickey. The Pokes lead off with a game against Oregon and would have to advance all the way to the final game in order for Hickey to square off against the purple and gold.

If Butler and Indiana both advance to the Sweet 16 in Cleveland, the game would pit the Bulldogs’ Austin Etherington against his former team. Etherington, whose father Brett played for Butler, spent three seasons with Indiana before moving to another in-state school.

Justin Martin jumped from Xavier to SMU this past offseason, and while both teams are in the NCAA Tournament, they’re on opposite sides of the bracket, meaning they couldn’t reunite unless both made the championship game. Also in that position, but sitting out this season: Eron Harris, who went from West Virginia to Michigan State; and Terry Henderson, who also bolted West Virginia, but for NC State.



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