Best round-of-64 matchup

This one is a tie. Virginia coach Tony Bennett and Florida coach Mike White have to be wondering what they did to make the tournament selection committee unhappy. Their teams each drew a first-round matchup against an opponent that has the ingredients to be a big problem. At least the Gators have the benefit (or will it be the pressure?) of playing in Orlando.

Potential upset

If the prospect of the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds facing tough first-round matchups isn’t enough, try this on for size: Villanova has three losses this season, and two of them were to Butler. Who might the Wildcats face in the second round? Another methodical, experienced team that has won its share of big games in recent seasons: Wisconsin. Or, if you’re a believer in karma, with a political twist, how about the prospect of a South Carolina-Duke pairing in the second round in Greenville, S.C.

The sleeper

Someone picked a fifth-seeded Baylor team as The Sleeper last year in a region featuring Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M and Duke. That Baylor team lost to Yale in the first round. In an era of doubling down on controversial statements, here’s another nod to the Bears. Yes, they lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals. But surely they’ve learned from last season. Or from the season before that, when they got knocked out in the first round by Georgia State as a No. 3 seed. And star forward Jonathan Motley can lead a team this season that has beaten Oregon, VCU, Louisville, Michigan State and Xavier.

The winner

Villanova has lost twice to Butler. Butler isn’t in this region, but 2015 NCAA title winner Duke is. Villanova has been calm, cool and efficient all season. The road to Phoenix goes through Madison Square Garden, the Wildcats’ regular postseason home. As a result, the road to Phoenix goes through Villanova.

Steve Berkowitz, USA Today

1. Villanova

Nickname: Wildcats.

Location: Villanova, Pa.

Record: 31-3, 15-3.

Bid: Big East champ.

Coach: Jay Wright.

Overview: The Wildcats make good decisions, execute on the defensive end, have a player-of-year-caliber star in Josh Hart and are, for the most part, excellent free throw shooters.

16. Mt. St. Mary’s

Nickname: Mountaineers.

Location: Emmitsburg, Md.

Record: 19-15, 14-4.

Bid: Northeast champ.

Coach: Jamion Christian.

16. New Orleans

Nickname: Privateers.

Record: 20-11, 13-5.

Bid: Southland champ.

Coach: Mark Slessinger.

8. Wisconsin

Nickname: Badgers.

Location: Madison.

Record: 25-9, 12-6.

Bid: Big Ten at-large.

Coach: Greg Gard.

Overview: Wisconsin lost five games during a six-game stretch in February. But the Badgers appeared to flip the switch during their run to the Big Ten tournament championship game.

9. Virginia Tech

Nickname: Hokies.

Location: Blacksburg.

Record: 22-10, 10-8.

Bid: ACC at-large.

Coach: Buzz Williams.

Overview: The Hokies’ two best players come off the bench: Guard Seth Allen was the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year, and forward Zach LeDay has led them in points and rebounds in five of their past six games.

5. Virginia

Nickname: Cavaliers.

Location: Charlottesville.

Record: 22-10, 11-7.

Bid: ACC at-large.

Coach: Tony Bennett.

Overview: The Cavaliers allow the fewest points per game of any NCAA team and are 11th in field goal percentage defense. But they have trouble scoring when they need to and have great difficulty digging out of deficits.

12. UNC Wilmington

Nickname: Seahawks.

Location: Wilmington, N.C.

Record: 29-5 (15-3).

Bid: Colonial champ.

Coach: Kevin Keatts.

Overview: The Seahawks are one of the best offensive teams in the country, averaging more than 85 points a game and they do so with a tantalizing backcourt.

4. Florida

Nickname: Gators.

Location: Gainesville.

Record: 24-8, 14-4.

Bid: SEC at-large.

Coach: Mike White.

Overview: Defense has been the key to Florida’s climb back into the national conversation. The Gators rank among the nation’s top-40 in field goal defense, blocked shots and turnovers forced.

13. E. Tennessee St.

Nickname: Buccaneers.

Location: Johnson City.

Record: 27-7, 14-4.

Bid: Southern champ.

Coach: Steve Forbes.

Overview: The group has only one freshman or sophomore on the roster that does most
of the scoring. ETSU has had the same starting five all year and its four primary bench options all average between 3.5 and 7.4 ppg.

6. SMU

Nickname: Mustangs.

Location: Dallas.

Record: 30-4, 17-1.

Bid: American Ath. champs.

Coach: Tim Jankovich.

Overview: The Mustangs started slowly with four wins in seven games before winning 23 of their last 24 entering the conference tournament to win the league’s regular-season title.

11. Providence

Nickname: Friars.

Location: Providence, R.I.

Record: 20-12, 10-8.

Bid: Big East at-large.

Coach: Ed Cooley.

11. USC

Nickname: Trojans.

Location: Los Angeles.

Record: 24-9, 10-8.

Bid: Pac-12 at-large.

Coach: Andy Enfield.

3. Baylor

Nickname: Bears.

Location: Waco, Texas.

Record: 25-7, 12-6.

Bid: Big 12 at-large.

Coach: Scott Drew.

Overview: Led by junior forward Johnathan Motley, the Bears tied the school record with 25 regular-season victories and reached No. 1 in the rankings for the first time. The Bears were 6-3 in the regular season against top 25 opponents.

14. New Mexico St.

Nickname: Aggies.

Location: Las Cruces.

Record: 28-5, 11-3.

Bid: WAC champ.

Coach: Paul Weir.

Overview: The Aggies are back in the dance after a year’s absence. They’ll be a long shot to advance, but they have some veteran players who are familiar with the spotlight.

7. South Carolina

Nickname: Gamecocks.

Location: Columbia.

Record: 22-10, 12-6.

Bid: SEC at-large.

Coach: Frank Martin.

Overview: The uglier the game, the more likely it is the Gamecocks will thrive. Despite a lack of size and the team ony shooting 41.6 percent, the Gamecocks have taken on Martin’s hard-nosed personality.

10. Marquette

Nickname: Golden Eagles.

Location: Milwaukee.

Record: 19-12, 10-8.

Bid: Big East at-large.

Coach: Steve Wojciechowski.

Overview: Upset of then-No. 1 Villanova might be the turning point. But the signs of progress were there earlier, like on opening day when Marquette laid a 24-point thumping on Vanderbilt.

2. Duke

Nickname: Blue Devils.

Location: Durham, N.C.

Record: 27-8, 11-7.

Bid: ACC champ.

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski.

Overview: Duke finished fifth in the ACC regular season but looked like a potential Final Four team in its run to the ACC tournament title. Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum push the tempo and seem to make great plays and big shots, regardless of the opposing defense.

15. Troy

Nickname: Trojans.

Location: Troy, Ala.

Record: 22-14, 10-8.

Bid: Sun Belt champ.

Coach: Phil Cunningham.

Overview: The Trojans were showing signs of changing fortunes, snapping a string of six consecutive losing season.

— USA Today