The NCAA men’s basketball tournament field of 68 was announced Sunday and, for once, much of the snub controversy seemed subdued.
The four No. 1 seeds are Louisville (29-5), Kansas (29-5), Gonzaga (31-2) and Indiana (27-6). The Cardinals are the top overall seed and landed in the Midwest region (Indianapolis), meaning they get to play the first few rounds in their own backyard. No. 4 Saint Louis (27-6, champions of Atlantic-10), and No. 3 Michigan State (25-8), appear to pose the biggest challenge to Louisville making a return trip to the Final Four.
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The top opening game during the tourney’s first two days could very well be No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 Missouri, two teams that dominate on the glass. Higher seeds on upset alert should be No. 5 Oklahoma State, which faces No. 12 Oregon (who won the Pac-12 tournament) and No. 7 Creighton, which opposes No. 10 Cincinnati. Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott (23.1 ppg, 7.5 rebs) might be the best player in the country and could have landed the Wooden Award if his team didn’t have a tailspin late in the regular season.
Gonzaga has a nice path to the Sweet 16 in the West region (Los Angeles), starting in Salt Lake City, although a matchup with No. 5 Wisconsin looms and the Badgers are always a tough out. No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 New Mexico also appear on a collision course.
Once again, an 8-9 game provides a great matchup with Pittsburgh taking on Wichita State - two under-the-radar but very solid teams. No. 10 Iowa State has a great chance to beat No. 7 Notre Dame and maybe this is the year that No. 11 Belmont finally gets a win (they’ll meet No. 6 Arizona).
The Jayhawks were rewarded with arguably the toughest region (South), in terms of the other high seeds. Kansas begins in Kansas City and No. 2 Georgetown, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Michigan and even No. 5 VCU all have the capability to reach the Final Four.
Michigan vs. South Dakota State should be highly entertaining as Big Blue sophomore guard Trey Burke (19.2 ppg, 6.7 asts), the likely Wooden Award winner, takes on senior guard Nate Wolters (22.7 ppg, 5.8 asts, 5.6 rebs).
The Hoosiers looked like the top team for much of the season but they kept losing whenever they were ranked No. 1. They are in the East region (Washington D.C.) and will start things off in Dayton. Other than No. 2 Miami, which had a legitimate case for a No. 1 seed, the rest of the East looks pretty weak. It is definitely Indiana’s to lose but there could be plenty of juicy upsets. No. 11 Bucknell meets No. 6 Butler, No. 14 Davidson could scare No. 3 Marquette and No. 10 Colorado is basically a pick ’em against No. 7 Illinois.