Good luck filling out those brackets. The No. 1 seeds are set for the NCAA tournament, but very little has gone as predicted in this college basketball season.
No reason for things to change now.
Louisville received the top overall seed Sunday after romping through the Big East tournament, while Kansas Jayhawks, Indiana and Gonzaga Bulldogs claimed the other No. 1 spots. Yet, considering all of the upsets that have prevented any person from establishing themselves as a clear-cut favorite, there are a lot of teams that think they can run the table.
”More than any year I can remember, I don’t believe seeding truly matters,” announced Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, whose team has an opportunity at getting Louisville in the round of 16. ”Probably if you’re a 1 seed, your first game, you’ve a good chance of getting by that. Then even after that, I think it’s throw it up in the air.”
One thing is for certain: Kentucky won’t be repeating as national champion.
The Wildcats didn’t even make the 68-team field, turning into the first defending champ since North Carolina in 2010 to miss out the following season.
Louisville (29-5) actually earned it, impressing the committee with a 10-game lucky streak capped by a remarkable turnaround in the last Big East championship game as it is known. The Cardinals were 16 points down to Syracuse Orange early in the 2nd half, but they turned up the full-court pressure and wound up with a 78-61 triumph.
Now, they are what passes for a favorite in this wide-open field, after making an extraordinary run to the Final Four as a No. 4 seed in 2012.
The Big East, in its final year before the basketball-only schools break away to form their own league, lighted the way with 8 NCAA teams. Scores
”We are happy to be the No. 1 seed, especially after finishing off one of the best conferences in the history of university basketball with a Big East championship,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino recounted.
The Cardinals might face a difficult matchup with Saint Louis on the second weekend, and could get No. 2 seed Duke – which led the RPI rankings but lost out on a top seed after stumbling in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament – in the regional final.
”We know we’ll be challenged right away in one of the toughest brackets that I’ve seen in quite some time,” Pitino declared. ”I think our guys are up for the challenge.”
The Big 10 was next with 7 NCAA teams, but the so-called power conferences hardly had a monopoly on the at-large berths. For the 2nd year in a row, the committee gave 11 of the 37 spots to groups from the lesser known leagues.
Most surprising was Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, which lost in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference tournament after winning the regular-season title.
In previous years, that likely would have been enough to knock the Blue Raiders (28-5) out of the NCAAs. Not this time. They are headed to the tournament, helped along by another in a series of upsets on the last weekend – Mississippi, which lost at Middle Tennessee in early December, knocked off Florida in the SEC championship game Sunday.