Dana Altman, this is your Nigel Hawthorne moment.
Hawthorne was by all accounts a fine British actor. But he was never a top-of-the-marquee megastar. Then in 1994, Hawthorne was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor. His fellow nominees? Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, Paul Newman and John Travolta.
Altman, the former Creighton coach, has craftily guided an Oregon squad picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12 to the Sweet 16. The other three coaches who will roam the sideline Friday in Indianapolis? Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski, a who's who in another entertainment profession.
That's the beauty of the Sweet 16. For every De Niro-like perennial like Duke, there's always a fresh-faced phenom like Florida Gulf Coast, poised to shock the world (again) with one more burst of inspired play.
Eight games, two nights. Make sure the remote has new batteries. And don't forget the popcorn.
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At Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
No. 2 seed Miami (29-6) vs. No. 3 Marquette (25-8)
Time, TV: 6:15 p.m. (CBS)
The plot: This is Miami's best team. The Hurricanes have a star point guard (Shane Larkin), a deep front line (somewhat depleted by the loss of backup big man Reggie Johnson to injury) and a coach good enough to guide George Mason to a Final Four. The only thing they don't have are players who have experience winning on the second weekend. We'll find out how big of a hurdle that is to clear.
The directors: Miami's Jim Larranaga is the ACC coach of the year. Buzz Williams has led Marquette to its third straight Sweet 16.
The leading men: Miami: Larkin (14.5 ppg), Durand Scott (13.2 ppg), Kenny Kadji (13.0 ppg). Marquette: Vander Blue (14.8 ppg), Davante Gardner (11.3 ppg), Jamil Wilson (9.7 ppg).
The envelope, please: It's another grind-it-out team at Marquette, which prides itself on defensive stops, scoring balance and toughness. It's been an effective recipe again this year, but this feels like Miami's game. After squeezing out a hard-fought win over Illinois, Miami should ride that momentum into the regional final.
No. 1 Indiana (29-6) vs. No. 4 Syracuse (28-9)
Time, TV: 8:45 p.m. (CBS)
The plot: The Hoosiers, despite a third-round scare against Temple, should still enter regional play with confidence, having won the nation's strongest league. If it's not the field's most complete team, it's on the short list. That said, many a gifted unit have left the floor with dazed looks after dealing with the Orange's trademark zone defense for 40 minutes.
The directors: Tom Crean has Indiana in back-to-back Sweet 16s for the first time since 1994. Syracuse's Jim Boeheim has a 50-27 (.649) NCAA tournament record, ranking fourth in career wins in the event.
The leading men: Indiana: Cody Zeller (16.7 ppg), Victor Oladipo (13.6 ppg), Christian Watford (12.3 ppg). Syracuse: C.J. Fair (14.5 ppg), Brandon Triche (13.8 ppg), James Southerland (13.7 ppg).
The envelope, please: Indiana shoots better than 40 percent from 3, but beating the Orange zone isn't just about launching treys. It's about penetrating the open gaps when available and kicking to shooters from the interior of the zone. It will take patience, but Indiana should have enough to solve it.
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At Staples Center, Los Angeles
No. 2 Ohio State (28-7) vs. No. 6 Arizona (27-7)
Time, TV: 6:47 p.m. (TBS)
The plot: Which Aaron Craft will we get? The one who is the nation's top perimeter defender and who should be oozing confidence after burying the game-winning 3 against Iowa State? Or the one who can't shake the memory of his two late missed front ends of one-and-ones and crucial turnover? Ohio State will need more of the former to advance.
The directors: Since 2004-05, Ohio State's Thad Matta's 52-12 record (.813) in March ranks third nationally. Arizona's Sean Miller was an assistant under Matta at Xavier from 2001 to 2004.
The leading men: Ohio State: Deshaun Thomas (19.7 ppg), Craft (10.0 ppg), Lenzelle Smith Jr. (9.4 ppg). Arizona: Mark Lyons (15.4 ppg), Solomon Hill (13.3 ppg), Nick Johnson (11.6 ppg).
The envelope, please: Arizona does not possess six-seed talent. The Wildcats were as high as No. 3 in the polls in early January. With a large following expected to make the trip west and since we refuse to pick all of the favorites, we'll go with the Pac-12 entry.
No. 9 Wichita State (28-8) vs. No. 13 La Salle (24-9)
Time, TV: 9:17 p.m. (TBS)
The plot: Yes, it stings a little bit, Creighton fans, to see yet another Missouri Valley school reach the Sweet 16 (Bradley, UNI, SIU all in the past seven years) and for it to find a 13 seed when it gets there. It will be interesting to see if the Shox can maintain their psychological edge while being a favorite for the first time in three games.
The directors: Say what you want about Gregg Marshall (and many do), but he's made nine NCAA tournaments in 15 seasons. John Giannini has La Salle in the tournament for the first time in 21 years, but the Explorers are making the most of their stay.
The leading men: Wichita State: Cleanthony Early (13.9 ppg), Carl Hall (12.6 ppg), Malcolm Armstead (10.6 ppg). La Salle: Ramon Galloway (17.4 ppg), Tyreek Duren (14.5 ppg), Tyrone Garland (12.8 ppg).
The envelope, please: According to kenpom.com, Wichita State ranks 20th nationally in offensive rebounding, while La Salle is 256th in preventing offensive boards. Look for the Shockers to exploit that advantage.
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At Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
No. 1 Louisville (31-5) vs. No. 12 Oregon (28-8)
Time, TV: 6:15 p.m. (CBS)
The plot: Way too much outcry about the Ducks' low seeding. The tournament is about matchups, and Oregon had good ones with Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. (Would you rather have had Cincy/Duke or Oregon's draw, Bluejay fans?) Now the ante has been upped, as the Ducks meet the team many feel is poised to win the whole thing.
The directors: Rick Pitino has Louisville into its fourth Sweet 16 in six years.
The leading men: Louisville: Russ Smith (18.4 ppg), Gorgui Dieng (10.0 ppg), Peyton Siva (9.9 ppg). Oregon: E.J. Singler (11.6 ppg), Damyean Dotson (11.3 ppg), Carlos Emory (11.1 ppg).
The envelope, please: Oregon had 18 turnovers in each of its tournament wins. That's not going to cut it against Louisville, which can unleash as much end-to-end pressure as any team in the country. The Ducks have the personnel to be in contention at the last under-four timeout, but we can't pick the upset here. The Cardinals have too much.
No. 2 Duke (29-5) vs. No. 3 Michigan State (27-8)
Time, TV: 8:45 p.m. (CBS)
The plot: After grinding Creighton's season to a halt, the Blue Devils knock heads with Sparty in a meeting of NCAA tournament royalty. Both teams can beat you a number of ways, and both would relish an underdog role in a potential Elite Eight matchup with Louisville.
The directors: Duke's Mike Krzyzewski has won a record 81 NCAA tournament games and has made 21 Sweet 16s in 33 seasons. Tom Izzo has led Michigan State to 10 Sweet 16s in 15 years.
The leading men: Duke: Seth Curry (17.3 ppg), Mason Plumlee (17.2 ppg), Ryan Kelly (13.3 ppg). Michigan State: Keith Appling (13.3 ppg), Gary Harris (13.1 ppg), Adreian Payne (10.4 ppg).
The envelope, please: Creighton did a superb job of keeping Plumlee (10 points) and Kelly (one) in check, while Curry (2 of 9) struggled from deep. Duke still won handily. That's a good enough sign to take Coach K's crew, as we're assuming that trio will rebound.
* * *
At Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
No. 1 Kansas (31-5) vs. No. 4 Michigan (28-7)
Time, TV: 6:37 p.m. (TBS)
The plot: The Jayhawks survived some choppy stretches in games against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, aided by a pro-KU crowd in Kansas City. Michigan also enjoyed home cooking in nearby Auburn Hills, but was more impressive in dispatching trendy upset pick South Dakota State and VCU.
The directors: Bill Self is leading Kansas to the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in his 10 years. Sixth-year man John Beilein has Michigan into its first regional semifinal in 19 years.
The leading men: Kansas: Ben McLemore (15.8 ppg), Jeff Withey (13.8 ppg), Travis Releford (11.8 ppg). Michigan: Trey Burke (18.8 ppg), Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.9 ppg), Nik Stauskas (11.3 ppg).
The envelope, please: Difficult Kansas team to figure out. McLemore and Elijah Johnson have been spectacular at times, spectacularly average at other times. A key will be how gifted point guard Burke fares on his trips into the lane against the 7-foot Withey. More often than not, Burke has figured it out, so we're siding with Michigan.
No. 3 Florida (28-7) vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (26-10)
Time, TV: 9:07 p.m. (TBS)
The plot: A 15 seed in a regional is uncharted waters for the NCAA tournament, so it's fitting that a school with beachfront dorms is involved. Playing with house money, there's no reason for the Eagles to rein in their free-wheeling style now, with a chance to slay another state giant (they beat Miami this year).
The directors: Florida's Billy Donovan (seeking his fifth Elite Eight in eight years) is smooth, but he takes a back seat to FGCU's Andy Enfield here. Enfield made millions at a tech company before returning to basketball. He married a former model after taking her to Taco Bell on their first date, making every red-blooded male on the planet jealous.
The leading men: Florida: Erik Murphy (12.8 ppg), Mike Rosario (12.5 ppg), Kenny Boynton (12.1 ppg). Florida Gulf Coast: Sherwood Brown (15.6 ppg), Bernard Thompson (14.5 ppg), Chase Fieler (12.1 ppg).
The envelope, please: Eagles, it was fun while it lasted. It won't last beyond Friday. Unless you count the “One Shining Moment'' tribute on championship night.