The NCAA Tournament from A to Z as we dribble-drive into Dick Vitale Land:
A -- Arizona State twice beats Arizona and knocks off Stanford, USC and Xavier. The Sun Devils then bow out of the Pac-10 tournament on a hideous call that gift-wraps the game for USC. So, of course, Arizona goes dancing while ASU wonders whom it wronged on the committee.
B -- The Butler Bulldogs used to be best known for Hinkle Fieldhouse, their historic home where "Hoosiers" was filmed. Closer to home, we remember Butler for Aaron Hoover, a Modesto Junior College star from the 1980s who later returned home and started for Butler. Today, Butler is 29-3, a certified national power whose coach, Brad Stevens, should be carded if he even walks near a bar. For the record, he's 31.
C -- It's Christmas year-round for the Atlantic-10 champion Temple Owls and their 6-5 swing man Dionte Christmas (20.2 ppg,) whose 3-point shot is sweeter than a Bill Cosby one-liner.
D -- A slap on the back to UC Irvine's Pat Douglass (ex-Manteca, Columbia College), probably the best coach in the country not to have led a team into the tournament. His Anteaters reached the Big West final, only to be turned away by Cal State Fullerton.
E -- Freshman Eric Gordon (21.3 ppg) and his Indiana mates have slumped since the mid-season firing of coach Kelvin Sampson. As for Gordon, he's still Public Enemy No. 1 in Illinois for reneging on his commitment to the Illini.
F -- The only other time Fullerton appeared in the tournament, the year was 1978 and its star was Greg Bunch. The Titans are back, however, after ex-West Valley coach Bob Burton revived the program in only four seasons.
G -- Two teams in the Bay Area can say they've been to the tournament twice in the last four years: the Gaels of Saint Mary's and Stanford. The Gaels are fun, too, with Hayward's Diamon Simpson, Australia's Patrick Mills and San Ramon's Omar Samhan.
H -- Chuck Hayes (Modesto Christian) is too busy role-playing the Houston Rockets to 22 consecutive wins, but he's still beloved at Kentucky. Though his Wildcats twice fell one painful win shy of the Final Four, they still logged a 9-4 record during the tournament with Hayes on board (2002-05).
I -- The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame have been transformed into a basketball school, thanks to Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody (20.8 ppg, 10.2 rebs.), the poor man's Tyler Hansbrough. What do you do when your football team tanks? You qualify for the NCAA for the fifth time in eight years under Mike Brey.
J -- Julian Conyers, a reserve senior forward from Milpitas who averages only 6.7 points a game, is more important than you think. He plays for Coppin State, the first team in NCAA history to qualify with 20 losses. The Eagles from Baltimore must play into the bracket Tuesday night against Mt. St. Mary's.
K -- The Kansas Jayhawks average 81 points a game behind Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush and Sherron Collins. No one in the field is more aesthetically pleasing and, by the way, it can't be 20 years since Danny (Manning) and the Miracles won the title, right?
L -- Kevin Love of Pac-10 champion UCLA, one of the four No. 1 seeds, exceeded all expectations as a 6-10 freshman center. He showed his mettle Jan. 24 at Oregon's McArthur Court when, while Duck fans taunted him for leaving his home state for Westwood, he responded with 26 points and 18 rebounds.
M -- Cal hasn't sniffed the tournament since 2006, when Richard Midgley (Modesto Christian) made his 101st and final career start. Three years before, Midgley's 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left carried Cal over North Carolina State for the Golden Bears' last tournament win.
N -- Sheldon High (Elk Grove) graduate DeMarcus Nelson, Duke's leader in points, rebounding, steals and field-goal percentage, must sparkle for the Blue Devils to break their recent tournament funk. Duke hasn't beaten a higher seed since 1994.
O -- Freshman O.J. Mayo says he may stay at USC. Methinks he's auditioning for the NBA. Fireworks are promised when Mayo collides with Kansas State's freshman phenom, Michael Beasley.
P -- Michael Porter (Modesto Christian) has improved in lockstep with Kentucky. His minutes increased from 6.7 as a freshman to 15.1, numbers which reflect his development more than his 2 ppg. Local fans caught a break when the Wildcats were shipped out to Anaheim for a date with Marquette.
Q -- Think of all those North Carolina icons: Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Billy Cunningham, etc. None of them have won more games than backup senior point guard Quentin Thomas, a graduate of Oakland Tech. Not bad for a player who opened his career with a loss -- to Santa Clara.
R -- Thankfully, these aren't your father's UNLV Runnin' Rebels, the fast-and-loose 1990 national champions. The new-age Rebels don't break any rules under coach Lon Kruger, but they still sizzle at home. They've punched their ticket the last two years with wins over BYU at Thomas & Mack Center.
S -- Stanford's refined and enlightened image is a ruse on the basketball court. The Cardinal bludgeons opponents with the 7-foot Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who toss around opposing power forwards like ping-pong balls in the paint. Win or lose, they'll deal major pain.
T -- The 6-9 Tyler Hansbrough (23 ppg, 10 rebs.) is nicknamed "Psycho-T," high praise at North Carolina. His combination of work ethic and production in the clutch makes him the nation's best player. Hide all small children for a possible Harangody-Hansbrough matchup in the Sweet 16.
U -- UCLA was assisted by benevolent officiating late in the season to beat Stanford and Cal but, honestly, does one question the pedigree? The Bruins also own the field's best omen, a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1995, their last title year. Note to Pac-10 coaches: How could you not place classy point guard Darren Collison on your all-conference team?
V -- Vitale without hoops is like Gator without Ade. He missed two months because of surgery on vocal-cord lesions, but the lesions were benign, and Vitale -- in his 29th year with ESPN -- gets our comeback-of-the-year award. He remains the game's ultimate PTP-er. That's "prime time performer," baby.
W -- John Wooden, 97, fell earlier this year. Bones broke. His spirit, however, remains as unbreakable as his legacy at UCLA. One can't lose when using his "Pyramid Of Success," on or off the court. And, remember: Be quick, but don't hurry.
X -- Xavier, the Musketeers from Cincinnati, is no Brand-X team with 5-7 whirlwind Drew Lavender. But what to do with its first-round game against Georgia? The Bulldogs, shaken but not stirred by the tornado that blew a hole in the roof of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, bring Cinderella with them after winning four games in three days.
Y -- BYU advances for the fifth time since 2001, though it hasn't won an NCAA game since 1993. No matter. The Cougars get style points with one of the tournament's coolest names -- Jimmer Fredette.
Z -- Zapped, as in rejected, passed by and rendered not important in 2008: Ohio State, Arizona State, Virginia Tech, Illinois State, Syracuse, Dayton, Massachusetts, UAB and Mississippi. See you in the NIT, gentlemen.
Begin the madness.
Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.