- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Welcome back to BracketRacket, the one-stop shopping place for all your NCAA needs.

In this pre-Final Four edition, we’ve got Steve Kerr reminiscing and breaking down the national semifinals, Superman as a super fan, the missing power schools, the Big East’s two-step and early odds to win the 2014 NCAA tournament.

There’s also some bracket bits that include Ron Baker’s `do and Wheatlanta T-shirts.


Steve Kerr was a member of what may be the most cherished team in Arizona history, the 1988 Wildcats that reached the Final Four.

It’s been 25 years since that magical run, but the memory of the way it ended still sticks with him.

Arizona’s best perimeter shooter, he went 2 for 12 from the field and scored six points in the Wildcats’ 86-78 loss to Oklahoma.

“That was very painful _ we lost and I had a lousy game,” Kerr said. “It was my worst game of the season. You see the teams that lose the championship and see the tears, you understand the disappointment.”

Kerr’s one trip as a player didn’t go so well, but he still gets excited about the NCAA tournament as he prepares for his third straight Final Four as an analyst for Turner/CBS.

“I love it,” Kerr said. “It’s such an incredible event and to be part of it in the broadcasting booth is amazing. I think about all the broadcasters who were never lucky enough to do a Final Four and the fact I’m able to do this three years in a row is pretty amazing.”

So what does Kerr think about the matchups in this year’s Final Four?

Start with Wichita State and Louisville. Do the Shockers have a shot?

“You always have to take care of the ball and I think they’re going to have to adjust to the speed of the game quickly,” Kerr said. “Where Louisville beats you, it’s not just forcing turnovers, it’s getting into your legs, they wear you down. And when you look like you’ve got an open shot and they’re flying at you, they make you rush a little bit. You deal with all that pressure until your body wears down and you miss shots you would probably normally make, so they’re going to have to adapt to speed and strength of the game itself.”

Now Michigan and Syracuse.

“Michigan has small guards, but they’re very capable; they have four NBA players on their roster,” he said. “They’re really well-coached and rarely turn the ball over. Syracuse is playing at a really high level, so I think that’s a great matchup.”



Actor Dean Cain grew up playing sports, earning multiple scholarship offers out of high school and a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills before injuring his knee.

So when it comes to the NCAA tournament, it’s no surprise the man who’s best known for playing Superman is a super fan.

“I’ll go into a pool with anyone, literally. Anything I can do,” Cain told AP Entertainment Producer Nicole Evatt. “I wanted to go to Vegas with my buddies. I couldn’t go, they went. … (looking into the camera) I’m not going to forgive you guys. They all went and had a great time.”

As for Cain’s picks, he’s from Michigan and is pulling for the Wolverines, but he lost out on getting two Final Four teams when Louisville beat Duke.

He’s also a big fan of the little guys.

“I love watching the underdogs,” Cain said. “I love watching teams match up that have never matched up before.”



This year’s Final Four has some familiar teams in it with former national champions Louisville, Michigan and Syracuse all getting through to Atlanta.

There will be something missing, too.

For the first time since 1985, the Final Four will be missing the six teams with the most national championships: UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Duke and Kansas.

The six power schools, which have combined for 36 national championships, have been regulars in the national semifinals, with three of the teams making it in the same year three times and two schools getting in eight other times in the past 28 years, including Kentucky and Kansas last season.

The 1985 Final Four _ the last without the six power schools _ included Villanova, Georgetown, Memphis State and St. John’s.



The Big East was considered one of the toughest conferences in college basketball and came through with two teams in the Final Four: Louisville and Syracuse.

It marks the first time in four years that a conference has gotten two teams through to the Final Four. The Big East, which will be dramatically altered after realignment next season, had two in the national semifinals in 2009, too, when Connecticut and Villanova made it.

In all, it’s happened 22 times since 1976, though it doesn’t always increase the odds of the conference winning a championship.

Conferences that have gotten two teams into the Final Four have produced the champion 10 times, most recently Florida in 2006, when LSU also made it.


2014 ODDS

The 2013 NCAA tournament isn’t over yet, but there are already odds on next year’s bracket.

And the favorite probably won’t come as a surprise after John Calipari pulled together another top-rated recruiting class: Kentucky.

According to The Greek Sports Book, Coach Cal and the Wildcats, despite missing this year’s tournament, are 3-1 favorites to cut down the nets at Cowboys Stadium in North Texas next year.

Next in line is Duke at 5-1, Florida and North Carolina at 8-1, then Louisville and Memphis at 12-1.

Among the other 2013 Final Four teams, Syracuse is 15-1, while Michigan and Wichita State are 30-1.



Louisville’s range of emotions after Kevin Ware broke his leg, in photos: https://bit.ly/103nZ0T

Andrew Wiggins has nothing to do with this year’s NCAA tournament, but he could next year for whatever school he picks. See what we mean with this spectacular dunk: https://bit.ly/12cl8CS

Check out Wichita State guard Ron Baker’s `do from his university photo. Has an 80s perm vibe to it, though we’re pretty sure those curls are natural: https://bit.ly/17b9zj7

This graph of our March Madness watching habits isn’t exactly scientific, but seems pretty close to us: https://bit.ly/XGqw2w

Get your Wheatlanta T-shirts here! https://bit.ly/YtxSWB



This from our friends at STATS:

The national semifinals have historically been much kinder to Michigan teams than Louisville teams.

The Cardinals are just 2-7 all-time with a berth in the title game at stake, worst among all schools that have reached the Final Four at least six times.

Michigan, on the other hand, is 5-1 in national semifinals, the best record among the 33 schools that have appeared in that round at least three times.



“Cinderella found one glasses skipper. We won four games. I don’t think she found four glass slippers. Cinderella usually wins a game or two, much like Butler a couple seasons ago. When you get to this point, you’re good enough to win it all.” _ Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall on being a Cinderella team.


Follow John Marshall on Twitter at https://twitter.com/johnmarshallap

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