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Column: A little tournament trivia

One of the best things about the NCAA basketball tournament, which enters its second weekend Thursday, is the way it brings people together. For three weeks, millions of people across the country watch the same games, experience the same emotions, even think many of the same thoughts. It's like Scientology, but with more dunking.

Consider the University of Minnesota Gophers. For two games last weekend fans far and wide joined die-hard Minnesota in wondering if coach Tubby Smith was fully aware there was a basketball game going on around him.

Or, for a more positive example, consider Florida Gulf Coast University. Opened in 1997, the school is younger than this year's high school seniors. It held its first classes roughly seven years after the last time a Gopher player who did his own homework won an NCAA tournament game. The Eagles are in just their second year of eligibility for the tournament, and they're already managed two big upsets and become the favorite team of pretty much anybody who's not a fan of the team they're playing against.

The tournament is full of stories like that. Tiny schools who play far from the spotlight get one chance a year to make an impression, leaving basketball fans to wonder things like, "Where is Florida Gulf Coast?" or "They have a basketball team at Harvard?" or "Wait, do people really still pick Gonzaga in their tournament pools?"

There is almost too much to take in, which is why I'm here. I want to help you learn.

Take LaSalle, which as a No. 13 seed would be the story of the tournament if FGCU hadn't come along and messed everything up. Did you know the Explorers got their nickname because of a licensing deal with Microsoft? Or that most of the student body would prefer to ditch the deal and rename the team the Firefoxes?

Then there's Georgetown, the No. 2 seed that lost to Florida Gulf Coast in the first round. You won't hear this from major sports media, but the Hoyas haven't actually had a basketball team since 1986. The team in its current form exists as part of an incredibly elaborate practical joke played on people who enter tournament pools.

No. 1 overall seed Louisville is a team made up entirely of clones. Not clones of skilled basketball players, though. They're clones of sheep that failed to take. Weird, right?

Ninth-seeded Wichita State took out No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday night. Did you know the Shockers aren't named for shocks of corn, like many people think, but for the reaction people have when they discover people voluntarily live in Kansas?

St. Louis' mascot is the Billikens, which is a slang term for people whose hobby involves climbing the St. Louis arch in the nude.

Coming into this year's tournament, many considered the Big Ten to be the best conference in the country, and four Big 10 teams advanced to this year's Sweet 16. The 12-team conference has filed a formal protest, however, arguing the round should actually have 23 teams.

The University of Florida produces 38 percent of the nation's Denny's managers.

Ohio State University calls its teams the Buckeyes. A buckeye is a nut, but also a pretty good price for an eye.

In its definitions for Hoosier, the mascot of the University of Indiana, my 1957 Webster's New World Dictionary lists "Native of Indiana" behind "dirty person, tramp." That's actually completely true. reverses the order, but still, good choice, IU.

Duke sucks. Science has proved it.

The University of Wisconsin was the only Big 10 team to lose in the first round. That's not a huge surprise when you consider Badgers coach Bo Ryan is actually a puppet operated by a team of angry kindergarteners.

There are plenty more tournament facts, but that's a pretty good start. Break some of those out at your next NCAA Tournament gathering and you're sure to impress your friends.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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