Sweet 16 becomes Twisted 12

Baylor beat Tennessee, Duke defeated San Diego State, Xavier bested Gonzaga, and Stanford pummeled Georgia.

I think I’ll go slit my wrists now.

The early matchups tomorrow will probably be sleepers: Connecticut will pound Iowa State and Florida State will take out Mississippi State. But the evening games will be chock full of intrigue – especially the Kentucky and Nebraska matchup. The two teams have some eerie parallels that will make them feel like they’re looking at their own reflections tomorrow:

Both top-seeded Nebraska (32-1) and No. 4 Kentucky (27-7) have rebounded from disappointing seasons to break the school record for victories. Each team boasts its conference’s coach of the year and player of the year.

Both are energized by standout freshman guards, and both must avoid a letdown because they’ve already advanced as far or farther in the NCAA tournament than any other team in their school’s history.

“It’s kind of like playing yourself in a way,” said Nebraska senior Cory Montgomery.

With Kelsey Griffin sidelined last season by an ankle injury, the Huskers struggled to a 15-16 record and were not expected to do much this year. Kentucky last year was 16-16 and picked 11th in this year’s Southeastern Conference preseason poll.

But the 6-2 Griffin came roaring back for her senior season, averaging 20 points and almost 12 rebounds for a team whose only loss was to Texas A&M in the Big 12 tourney and is now in its first regional semifinals.

While Griffin was being handed the Big 12 player of the year award, Kentucky’s Victoria Dunlap was accepting the same honor from the Southeastern Conference. Dunlop averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals to lead the Wildcats to their first regional semifinals since the inaugural NCAA tournament in 1982. They’ve never been to the next round.

“There’s no question a lot of parallels there,” said Nebraska’s Connie Yori, the Big 12 coach of the year. “Two teams that got it turned around.”

It’s a shame that one has to end the season of the other.

The Oklahoma-Notre Dame game will also be tasty:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Oklahoma and Notre Dame last squared off in a near-empty gym in St. Thomas in late November, one day after the Sooners lost their emotional leader, guard Whitney Hand, to a season-ending knee injury.

The Sooners would love to forget about that one, since the Fighting Irish ran them out of the gym.

Now they can’t avoid it.

The third-seeded Sooners (25-10) get another crack at the Fighting Irish (29-5) on Sunday night. This time it’ll be in the Kansas City Regional semifinals, before a bigger crowd in a city Oklahoma knows so well.

The Sooners are rejuvenated, retooled and looking to settle a score with the Fighting Irish, who beat them 81-71 on Nov. 28. Oklahoma also lost to Notre Dame in the second round of 2008 NCAA tournament — in overtime, no less — so motivation certainly won’t be an issue.

ESPN’s Kara Lawson is the only one of her peers to pick the Sooners for the Final Four. We’ll see if she’s right.

Finally, I confess I’ve poked a bit of fun at Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey over the years for her wild outfits, and her jumpin-up-and-down-if-she’s-not-rollin-on-the-ground coaching style. But she sure has shown her true colors the last few months, and they’re classy colors. First it was taking the firm but compassionate stand with freshman Brittney Griner after she punched an opponent. Today in victory, she paid much tribute to Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt when she didn’t need to do so:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Baylor coach Kim Mulkey took plenty of pride in her team’s regional semifinal win. That doesn’t mean she took pleasure in seeing Tennessee’s Pat Summitt lose.

“You have to take satisfaction from winning for these kids up here. I don’t take any satisfaction in beating Pat Summitt today,” Mulkey said. “Pat is our John Wooden.”……..

“Pat is a legend in the game, and we want our program where Pat’s program has been and will continue to be,” Mulkey said. “She is just class. I go back a ways with Pat. I have watched her from a distance, and she is one of the classiest people in how she treats me or any other people she goes way back with.”

There will still probably be at least one idiot sportswriter who pens a “Pat Summitt has lost it” piece, though. But Mulkey gets it.

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