The NCAA Tournament unofficially began on March 13 with Selection Sunday, with games starting on March 15. Once the round of 64 gets into full swing on March 17, the debates about Selection Sunday, bubble teams and seeding will take a back seat. But until then, fans will have a lot in the bracket to be confused and outraged over.
There was no debate over the Kansas Jayhawks being the NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed in the South Region, or with the Villanova Wildcats as the region’s No. 2, although the Wildcats lost their chance for a potential Sweet 16 berth in Philadelphia at the East Regional. The Wildcats may still get to face the Temple Owls in the round of 32, if the 10th seeded Owls get past the slumping Iowa Hawkeyes.
The South also pairs two bubble teams in the First Four that barely made the cut, with the Vanderbilt Commodores facing the Wichita State Shockers for the 11’th seed and a match up with the Arizona Wildcats. The Miami Hurricanes may await later as the No. 3 seed, while the California Golden Bears and Maryland Terrapins make up the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds.
Over in the West, the Oregon Ducks surged all the way to No. 1, where the highest ranked No. 2 is the Oklahoma Sooners and not the Michigan State Spartans. The region’s third seed is the Texas A&M Aggies despite their SEC title game loss hours earlier to the Kentucky Wildcats, who are only the fourth seed in the East. The Aggies could face former arch-rival Texas in the round of 32 if the sixth seeded Longhorns beat Northern Iowa, while the Duke Blue Devils and Baylor Bears are the fourth and fifth seeds.
The East might have a share of blue bloods facing off, with the top seeded North Carolina Tar Heels possibly facing Kentucky or the fifth seeded Indiana Hoosiers in the Sweet 16. The region also has the Michigan Wolverines and Tulsa Golden Hurricane facing in a ‘First Four’ game, between two teams who may be the most controversial bubble selections. Notre Dame awaits the winner, while Xavier and West Virginia sit pretty as the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds.
Finally in the Midwest, winning the No. 1 seed may be the worst thing for the Virginia Cavaliers, since the No. 2 seed is the same Michigan State team that knocked them from the last two NCAA Tournaments. But that rematch wouldn’t be until the Elite Eight this time, and the Cavaliers have the likes of fourth seed Iowa State and fifth seed Purdue on their side of the bracket first, all as the Spartans may contend with third seeded Utah or sixth seeded Seton Hall.
Syracuse got another controversial selection as the Midwest’s 10’th seed against Dayton, all while mid-majors Monmouth, St. Mary’s, Valparaiso and San Diego State each got snubbed. This is a committee that also made Oregon State a No. 7 seed in the West, put Texas Tech as an eighth seed in the Midwest and couldn’t stop the entire bracket from leaking online halfway through CBS’s Selection Show.
The NCAA Tournament is often the great redeemer of Selection Sunday, if not for the teams snubbed out or for the teams given a bad draw. Fans will have to hope for better results starting with the First Four on March 15 and 16, all the way to the title game at Houston on April 4.