"Sweet 16"...sweet NOTHING!

Well, it’s that time of the year again (besides starting our tax returns, that is). The NCAA basketball championships are underway, and along with that damn jingle coming on every three minutes…cripes, were watching the damn games, do they really need to signal us every time a new score comes in…the one thing that annoys me the most is the endless references to the “Sweet 16”.

Would someone please explain to me what’s so “sweet” about the third round? You think Duke or Kentucky is thrilled about winning two games? Okay, granted the semi-quarters are a signifigant milestone for some teams…lord knows if our Rainbows made it that far, we’d be dancing in our already-overcrowded streets…but even the big underdogs who win the first game rarely win the second. And even then, they’re certainly not going to stop playing just because they’ve accomplished so much.

I mean, “Final Four” I can understand. The semifinals are definitely crunch time, and no one gets there who doesn’t deserve to. (Well, some tennis tournaments, but always the unimportant rinky-dink ones, so never mind.) Four is a good number; big enough to give a good cross-section of great teams, but small enough to actually mean something. Even football commentators often use the term (which is copyrighted, BTW…ooh, careful, you could get sued!). But sixteen? The preliminaries have barely ended. The action’s heating up, but not quite hot. A few pretenders are still in.

Anyone care to explain just how “sweet 16” originated, and who, if anyone, finds 4 wins away sweet or fitting?

Related question: Since 13, 14, and even 15 seeds winning first-round games is so common, is it really appropriate to call them upsets?

It just sounds cool.
I think that the round of eight is also referred to as the “great eight”. Neither of the larger rounds has a nickname, probably because it’s hard to come up with something snappy involving “thirty-two” or “sixty-four”. What I’ve always been confused about (as I walk disinterestedly through the den where male members of the family watch March Madness) is why there isn’t a nickname for the round of two.

The round of eight is also known as the “Elite Eight.”