If you are a 1-seed -- let alone the No. 1 overall team of the Tournament -- and you don't even make it to the Elite Eight (let alone to the Final Four), your season is a failure. Period. Full stop.
That is Ohio State's burden today: Their season is a failure. Maybe that's why Jared Sullinger insists he is coming back next season.
As a Florida fan, I believe him: Remember when Lottery locks Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer all decided to come back after the first title? And that was after a title, not a Sweet 16 flame-out. Sullinger is right to feel motivated. Then again: If OSU couldn't crack the Final Four this year, it's hard to believe they will have a better shot next year.
What a win for Kentucky and John Calipari -- it was Cal's best win at Kentucky (and, arguably, the finest win of his career). He combined a bunch of talented freshmen and a couple of upperclass role players into a defensively focused, long, athletic ass-kicking machine. Given the way they took out Ohio State, I see them giving UNC all sorts of trouble.
Meanwhile: Congratulations to VCU for making it to the Elite Eight. A nation -- well everyone except Jayhawk Nation -- will be rooting for you on Sunday. I'm having trouble deciding whether this will be a replay of George Mason vs. 1-seed UConn in the East regional final in 2006 (a thrilling win)... or George Mason vs. Florida in the Final Four (a blowout loss). This VCU team is better than that George Mason team; I'm not sure this Kansas team is better than that UConn team. (It's meaner, which is a good thing for KU fans.)
To the vanquished: Marquette, Richmond, Florida State -- feel good that you got this far. They are the opposite of Ohio State: Teams where the Sweet 16 itself is an accomplishment worth savoring. For Ohio State, it is epic disappointment.
Looking ahead to today's regional finals, with a Final Four spot on the line:
4:30 CBS: (2) Florida vs. (8) Butler. Florida played its best game in four years on Thursday night and nearly didn't pull it off. Butler is better than BYU. A lot better. Strategically brilliant. Murderously lock-down on defense. Pick-your-poison options on offense. Matt Howard, who will toy with Florida's Vernon Macklin and Patrick Young inside (and outside). If I was a Butler fan and wanted to feel nervous, I would look at Florida's depth of size and keep a wary eye on my own Andrew Smith's gimpy knee. Still: Butler has been here before, a year ago. This team knows exactly what to do to win in the Tournament. I think Florida is still learning; unfortunately, this is the last lesson. As a Florida fan, there's no shame in an Elite Eight run and being KO'ed by a phenomenal tournament team like Butler. Pick: Butler.
7:05 CBS: (3) UConn vs. (5) Arizona. Apologies to Jimmer, but this pits the two most sensational players in the Tournament this year -- Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams. I'm intrigued by this storyline that one of Arizona's assistants was Walker's longtime AAU coach (and Arizona's PG was Walker's backcourt mate in H.S.). That's not the same as stopping him, but at least they understand him. I've doubted Arizona since the first day of the Tournament. Not anymore. Pick: Arizona.
Enjoy the games today. Pop by Quickish for real-time analysis from all sorts of smart sources.