Rich Cirminiello’s Final Thoughts: Sweet 16 Thursday

– Bob Huggins with time to prepare would make me a little uneasy if I’m Ashley Judd right now. The fact that Huggy Bear is 8-2 all-time versus John Calipari is an unsettling historical nugget as well.

– Cal’s ability to keep Kentucky focused, amid all of the perfect season hoopla, is testament to his skill as a coach and a leader. Keeping young athletes, some of whom are just weeks from declaring for the NBA Draft, locked in is a vastly underrated and overlooked aspect of this profession.

– The ‘Cats get by the ‘neers in Cleveland, but West Virginia will keep this one entertaining into the second half, while making sure Kentucky is forced to break a sweat.

– Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker vs. Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson. The backcourt matchup alone makes Wichita State-Notre Dame a can’t-miss event Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

– Alright, so Alabama may be prepared to open up a houndstooth-clad vault for Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. But, unlike in college football, it is so refreshing that college basketball coaches can wait until after the postseason has ended before needing to address job rumors. Imagine an interim coach leading a team into the NCAA Tournament, a la many bowl games?

– Kennedy Meeks won’t play for Carolina. Traevon Jackson is getting closer to returning to Wisconsin for the first time since breaking his foot in January. Even if Jackson provides little more than an inspirational boost, advantage Badgers on the injury front.

– Wisconsin hasn’t exactly looked like a No. 1 seed thus far. The Badgers better up the ante in Los Angeles or else Carolina PG Marcus Paige is liable to send them packing back to Madison two days earlier than planned.

– I enjoy Notre Dame swingman Pat Connaughton’s game. When he gets hot, it’s as if he’s the only one in the building who can hear the Dropkick Murphy’s playing over the sound system.

– Really, is anyone outside of Lexington playing better than Arizona right now? The ‘Cats last lost on Feb. 13, and they’ve rarely been challenged over the last month. Even as a No. 6 seed, Xavier is a longshot to derail ‘Zona in L.A. Thursday.

– Xavier is—shockingly—the last Big East team standing. And Musketeer coach Chris Mack knows Arizona coach Sean Miller as well as anyone in the business. But it won’t be enough to offset the balance of the Wildcats.