Villanova gets top seed in tourney; Syracuse, Illinois State out

For pure drama, best wait ‘til the shots start flying.

For sheer excitement, Selection Sunday belonged to Northwestern.

Though it was no surprise when that school’s name popped into the NCAA Tournament bracket, it was a reminder that, yes, this is March Madness — that time of year where anything can happen. The Wildcats, longtime losers in the Big Ten, were officially invited to the tournament for the first time in school history, and the group-hugging, selfie-taking reaction from the players (and others) when their name came up showed how much the accomplishment really meant.

“When I came here four years ago, it was a belief in a day like today,” said coach Chris Collins, whose team won 23 games on its way to the tournament.

Villanova's Kris Jenkins celebrates after the Wildcats won the Big East tournament, beating Creighton on Saturday in New York. | Frank Franklin II/AP

Another set of Wildcats — the ones from Villanova — were given the tournament’s top overall seed. The defending champions were joined by Kansas, North Carolina and Gonzaga on the “1” line — a quartet that produced very little in the way of head scratching.

With the brackets set, the action begins Tuesday and Wednesday with opening-round games that will include matchups between the last at-large teams invited into the draw: No. 11 seeds Providence vs. Southern California and Kansas State vs. Wake Forest.

The tournament gets into full swing Thursday, with the Final Four set for April 1 and 3 in Phoenix. Villanova, which won the title last year on a buzzer-beating jump shot by Kris Jenkins, will open its quest for back-to-back titles against the winner of an opening-round game between New Orleans and Mount Saint Mary’s.

“I want the guys to enjoy it tonight, and then tomorrow, we’re just one of 68 teams,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

Though Kansas was the overall second seed, it opened as the favorite in Las Vegas, at 8-1. North Carolina and Villanova were next at 9-1, followed by Gonzaga, Duke and Kentucky at 10-1.

Overall, the bracket produced more small quibbles than true blockbusters.

If there was any debate about the top, it was about whether Duke (27-8) really belonged as a No. 1 instead of a No. 2, which is where it ended up. The Blue Devils won four games in four nights at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and have beaten the rival Tar Heels (27-7) twice. But Mark Hollis, the chair of the selection committee, beat back that debate quickly, telling the commentators on CBS (who dragged out the bracket reveal for more than a half hour) that Duke entered the week as a No. 4 seed.

And though the Blue Devils kept winning over the weekend, “they got stopped on the way by teams that won both their regular-season and conference tournaments (Kentucky and Arizona) and they were never compared to teams on the No. 1 line,” Hollis said.

Teams that didn’t make it off the bubble included Syracuse and Illinois State.

Syracuse was vulnerable because of its 84th ranking in the RPI and 2-11 record on the road. Still, the Orange ouster was notable because of the outcry when Jim Boeheim’s team made the field with a similarly mediocre resume last year — then made it all the way to the Final Four.

“Last year, we had the same number of losses (14) and the committee chose to go with teams that had wins,” said Boeheim, whose team’s losses this season included blowouts against lower-division St. Johns and Boston College. “This year, it was virtually the same committee but they were emphasizing the losses you had.”

Illinois State’s chances took a blow when it lost to Wichita State by 20 in the final of the Missouri Valley Conference. Also, it turns out Wichita State wasn’t as highly regarded as many suspected — the 20th-ranked team in the latest Associated Press poll only got a No. 10 seed.

Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose Wildcats could face Wichita State in the second round, re-emphasized a point he made last year.

“When you mis-seed somebody, it hurts the seeds above them,” he said. “You put a team at ’8’ that shouldn’t be there, and the ’1’ looks at it like, ‘Why are we playing this team?’”

With never-ending realignment turning more mid-major programs into true majors, the number of so-called little guys making the tournament continues to decline — even if you do count Gonzaga of the West Coast Conference as one of those.

Led by the ACC with nine teams, then the Big East and Big Ten with seven each, the six biggest conferences took 32 of the 36 at-large spots this year.

NCAA tournament glance

FIRST FOUR

At UD Arena

Dayton, Ohio

Tuesday, March 14

Mount St. Mary’s (19-15) vs. New Orleans (20-11)

Kansas State (20-13) vs. Wake Forest (19-13)

Wednesday, March 15

N.C. Central (25-8) vs. UC Davis (22-12)

Providence (20-12) vs. Southern Cal (24-9)

EAST REGIONAL

First Round

Thursday, March 16

At KeyBank Center

Buffalo, N.Y.

Villanova (31-3) vs. Mount St. Mary’s-New Orleans winner

Wisconsin (25-9) vs. Virginia Tech (22-10)

At Amway Center

Orlando, Fla.

Florida (24-8) vs. ETSU (27-7)

Virginia (22-10) vs. UNC Wilmington (29-5)

Friday, March 17

At Bon Secours Wellness Arena

Greenville, S.C.

Duke (27-8) vs. Troy (22-14)

South Carolina (22-10) vs. Marquette (19-12)

At BOK Center

Tulsa, Okla.

Baylor (25-7) vs. New Mexico State (28-5)

SMU (29-4) vs. Providence-Southern Cal winner

Second Round

Saturday, March 18

At KeyBank Center

Buffalo, N.Y.

Villanova—Mount St. Mary’s-New Orleans winner vs. Wisconsin-Virginia Tech winner

At Amway Center

Orlando, Fla.

Florida-ETSU winner vs. Virginia-UNC Wilmington winner

Sunday, March 19

At Bon Secours Wellness Arena

Greenville, S.C.

Duke-Troy winner vs. South Carolina-Marquette winner

At BOK Center

Tulsa, Okla.

Baylor-New Mexico State winner vs. SMU—Providence-Southern Cal winner

At Madison Square Garden

New York

Regional Semifinals

Friday, March 24

Villanova-Mount St. Mary’s-New Orleans—Wisconsin-Virginia Tech winner vs. Florida-ETSU—Virginia-UNC Wilmington winner

Duke-Troy—South Carolina-Marquette winner vs. Baylor-New Mexico State—SMU-Providence-Southern Cal winner

Regional Championship

Sunday, March 26

Semifinal winners

SOUTH REGIONAL

First Round

Thursday, March 16

At BMO Harris Bradley Center

Milwaukee

Butler (23-8) vs. Winthrop (26-6)

Minnesota (24-9) vs. Middle Tennessee (30-4)

Friday, March 17

At Bon Secours Wellness Arena

Greenville, S.C.

North Carolina (27-7) vs. Texas Southern (23-11)

Arkansas (25-9) vs. Seton Hall (21-11)

At Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Indianapolis

Kentucky (29-5) vs. Northern Kentucky (24-10)

Dayton (24-7) vs. Wichita State (30-4)

At Golden 1 Center

Sacramento, Calif.

UCLA (29-4) vs. Kent State (22-13)

Cincinnati (29-5) vs. Kansas State-Wake Forest winner

Second Round

Saturday, March 18

At BMO Harris Bradley Center

Milwaukee

Butler-Winthrop winner vs. Minnesota-Middle Tennessee winner

Sunday, March 19

At Bon Secours Wellness Arena

Greenville, S.C.

North Carolina-Texas Southern winner vs. Arkansas-Seton Hall winner

At Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Indianapolis

Kentucky-Northern Kentucky winner vs. Dayton-Wichita State winner

At Golden 1 Center

Sacramento, Calif.

UCLA-Kent State winner vs. Cincinnati—Kansas State-Wake Forest winner

At FedEx Forum

Memphis, Tenn.

Regional Semifinals

Friday, March 24

Butler-Winthrop—Minnesota-Middle Tennessee winner vs. North Carolina-Texas Southern—Arkansas-Seton Hall winner

Kentucky-Northern Kentucky—Dayton-Wichita State winner vs. UCLA-Kent State—Cincinnati-Kansas State-Wake Forest winner

Regional Championship

Sunday, March 26

Semifinal winners

MIDWEST REGIONAL

First Round

Thursday, March 16

At BMO Harris Bradley Center

Milwaukee

Purdue (25-7) vs. Vermont (29-5)

Iowa State (23-10) vs. Nevada (28-6)

Friday, March 17

At Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Indianapolis

Louisville (24-8) vs. Jacksonville State (20-14)

Michigan (24-11) vs. Oklahoma State (20-12)

At BOK Center

Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas (28-4) vs. N.C. Central-UC Davis winner

Miami (21-11) vs. Michigan State (19-14)

At Golden 1 Center

Sacramento, Calif.

Oregon (29-5) vs. Iona (22-12)

Creighton (25-9) vs. Rhode Island (24-9)

Second Round

Saturday, March 18

At BMO Harris Bradley Center

Milwaukee

Purdue-Vermont winner vs. Iowa State-Nevada winner

Sunday, March 19

At Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Indianapolis

Louisville-Jacksonville State winner vs. Michigan-Oklahoma State winner

At BOK Center

Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas—N.C. Central-UC Davis winner vs. Miami-Michigan State winner

At Golden 1 Center

Sacramento, Calif.

Oregon-Iona winner vs. Creighton-Rhode Island winner

At The Sprint Center

Kansas City, Mo.

Regional Semifinals

Thursday, March 23

Purdue-Vermont—Iowa State-Nevada winner vs. Kansas-N.C. Central-UC Davis—Miami-Michigan State winner

Louisville-Jacksonville State—Michigan-Oklahoma State winner vs. Oregon-Iona—Creighton-Rhode Island winner

Regional Championship

Saturday, March 25

Semifinal winners

WEST REGIONAL

First Round

Thursday, March 16

At KeyBank Center

Buffalo, N.Y.

West Virginia (26-8) vs. Bucknell (26-8)

Notre Dame (25-9) vs. Princeton (23-6)

At Amway Center

Orlando, Fla.

Florida State (25-8) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (26-7)

Maryland (24-8) vs. Xavier (21-13)

At Vivint Smart Home Arena

Salt Lake City

Gonzaga (32-1) vs. South Dakota (18-16)

Northwestern (23-11) vs. Vanderbilt (19-15)

Arizona (30-4) vs. North Dakota (22-9)

Saint Mary’s (28-4) vs. VCU (26-8)

Second Round

Saturday, March 18

At KeyBank Center

Buffalo, N.Y.

West Virginia-Bucknell winner vs. Notre Dame-Princeton winner

At Amway Center

Orlando, Fla.

Florida State-Florida Gulf Coast winner vs. Maryland-Xavier winner

At Vivint Smart Home Arena

Salt Lake City

Gonzaga-South Dakota winner vs. Northwestern-Vanderbilt winner

Arizona-North Dakota winner vs. Saint Mary’s-VCU winner

At SAP Center

San Jose, Calif.

Regional Semifinals

Thursday, March 23

Gonzaga-South Dakota—Northwestern-Vanderbilt winner vs. West Virginia-Bucknell—Notre Dame-Princeton winner

Florida State-Florida Gulf Coast—Maryland-Xavier winner vs. Arizona-North Dakota—Saint Mary’s-VCU winner

Regional Championship

Saturday, March 25

Semifinal winners

FINAL FOUR

At University of Phoenix Stadium

Glendale, Ariz.

National Semifinals

Saturday, April 1

East champion vs. West champion

South champion vs. Midwest champion

National Championship

Monday, April 3

Semifinal winners


Stories from around the web you may like