As usual, the first surprises of the NCAA Tournament start with Selection Sunday. The brackets you’ve just printed may still be warm, and a few teams are still in shock.
NC State is in. SMU is out. Virginia is No. 1. And Louisville is not happy.
Those aren't the only teams taking a long look at the next three weeks. Here's what stood out from the Selection Show and what we learned about the NCAA selection committee this time around.
No one will doubt Wichita State if the Shockers advance
The Shockers maybe hoped to get Kansas as the No. 2 seed in their region. They won’t get the Jayhawks, but they’ll get darn near everyone else. Provided Wichita State advanced to the round of 32, the Shockers will draw Kansas State ... or an eighth-seeded Kentucky team filled with McDonald’s All-Americans. Also in Wichita State’s region: Big Ten regular season champion Michigan, Duke and defending national champion Louisville. The Midwest is arguably the toughest region.
Virginia got the last No. 1 seed
Florida, Arizona and Wichita State had been sure things for No. 1 seeds for at least two weeks. The wild card was the last one that went to ACC regular season and tournament champion Virginia over Michigan, Villanova or Wisconsin. Anyone who started following the season in January would think this makes perfect sense since Cavaliers went 16-2 in the league and defeated Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina. Anyone who paid attention back in November and December might be perplexed. The earlier version of Virginia lost to VCU, Wisconsin, Green Bay and by 35 to Tennessee.
The most controversial seeding belonged to Louisville
Louisville is the defending national champion, the American Tournament champion, fifth in the polls and second in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Yet the selection committee slapped the Cardinals with a No. 4 seed. The seeding is more in line with Louisville’s rank of No. 18 in the RPI. Rather than Louisville’s recent results, the Cardinals’ overall body of work, which includes the 149th-ranked non-conference schedule, played a role here. The committee also hammered American Athletic Conference co-champion Cincinnati with a No. 5 seed.
NC State was the most shocking name in the field
And this is funny because the argument against ACC leading scorer T.J. Warren winning league player of the year was that he played for a team going to the NIT. The Wolfpack benefitted from a late push that included a win over Pittsburgh on the road and against Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. NC State will face Xavier in the First Four.
SMU was the biggest snub
Congratulations, NIT, you’ll have a ranked team in your event. SMU is 25th in the Associated Press poll but won’t be in the NCAA Tournament field. SMU only two RPI top 100 teams out of conference, losing to Virginia and defeating Arkansas. The flimsy non-conference schedule and weak bottom half of the American Athletic Conference contributed to 22 games against teams outside the RPI top 100. Losses to three of those (Houston, Temple and USF) certainly didn’t help.
Florida’s region will be interesting, but we’re not sure if it will be competitive
The Gators benefited from being the No. 1 overall seed by drawing a region with a No. 2 seed in Kansas with an ailing Joel Embiid and a No. 3 seed in Syracuse that has lost five of its last seven since starting 25-0. The first two weekends also have their share of flawed teams: The 8-9 winner will be either a Colorado team without point guard Spencer Dinwiddie or a Pittsburgh team with one top-50 win all year.
Arizona got the 8-9 game no one wanted
Oklahoma State seemed destined for an 8-9 game since Marcus Smart returned from suspension and proved the Cowboys were a solid NCAA team. The Pokes will face Gonzaga in the round of 64 before a likely matchup against Arizona.
Dayton will not play at home ... but Xavier kind of will
A major question for a Dayton team on the bubble was if the selection committee would allow the Flyers to play on their home court in the first four. Sending Dayton to Buffalo to face Ohio State to prevent a First Four game. Instead, the committee pegged No. 11 seed Xavier in the First Four, playing NC State 46 miles away from campus.
Best round of 64 games
VCU vs. Stephen F. Austin:
The Lumberjacks are a threat to be a Cinderella ... against a VCU team that knows about surprises.
Ohio State vs. Dayton:
Flyers coach Archie Miller faces his old boss in Thad Matta.
Kansas State vs. Kentucky:
Bruce Weber’s Wildcats are the kind of tough defensive team that will give Kentucky trouble.
Cincinnati vs. Harvard:
Much of the same cast that upset New Mexico last season returns.
North Carolina vs. Providence:
Big East tourney champs have a superstar guard in Bryce Cotton.
Best potential round of 32 games
Wichita State vs. Kentucky:
The team that hoped to go 40-0 vs. the team that can actually do it.
Cincinnati vs. Michigan State:
Provided the Bearcats can get past Harvard
Creighton vs. Nebraska:
A state title game pitting Doug McDermott against coach Tim Miles.
Villanova vs. UConn or St. Joseph’s:
Nova draws either a former Big East foe or a Big 5 rival.
VCU vs. UCLA:
UCLA couldn’t pry Shaka Smart from the Rams before hiring Steve Alford.
Arizona vs. Oklahoma State:
Marcus Smart faces Aaron Gordon and a tough Wildcats defense.