THE field is finally set for the NCAA Tournament. Following Selection Sunday it comes as no surprise that Kansas, Villanova, Gonzaga and North Carolina have claimed #1 seeds. There is plenty more to talk about besides from the number one teams so let’s dive in.
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FRESH off another Big East Conference Title the defending champs Villanova emerge as the top seed in the East. They will meet with the winner of Mount St. Mary’s and New Orleans in the first round. One of the more entertaining first round match-ups includes SMU and the winner of USC vs Providence. The winner of that first round game will likely meet with #3 Baylor who plays New Mexico State in the first match. Anyone who plans on emerging successful from the East though will have to get past #2 Duke who won the ACC tournament just a few days ago and are one of the form teams in the bracket. Rounding out the top four is Florida who face East Tennessee in game one. Other notable names include Virginia (#5), Virginia Tech (#9) and Wisconsin (#8).
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THE Midwest is home to some of the contenders for the title, headlined by the Kansas Jayhawks. For much of the year Kansas has been the favourite to claim the National Championship and they will be out for revenge after being bounced from the Big 12 tournament by TCU. With Kansas out of the picture Iowa State (#5) were able to claim the Big 12 crown and could potentially meet the Jayhawks in the Sweet Sixteen. They will have to get past Purdue (#4) if they want that chance though, who are led by potential national player of the year Caleb Swanigan. In the other half of the bracket Louisville (#2) and Oregon (#3) are the big names that will cause headaches for the lower seeds, with both teams capable of making a deep run at the title.
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NORTH Carolina and Kentucky claim the one and two seeds respectively in the South. The Tar Heels and the Wildcats will be the favourite to emerge victorious from this field of 16, but their task won’t be an easy one. Plenty of teams will be looking to cause upsets and dethrone the bigger names as they march towards the promised land. Butler (#4) has the highest seeding in school history and should make the Sweet Sixteen without much issue. The other challenger is a school rich in championship history UCLA, led by freshman phenom Lonzo Ball. Highly likely to declare for the NBA Draft in June, Ball will want to take his Bruins as far as they can. The Pitino led Minnesota Gophers (#5) and the Wichita State Shockers (#10) can also cause headaches for teams if they bring their A game.
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GONZAGA, Arizona, Florida State and West Virginia claimed the seeds one through four, but the headline out of the West is the maiden appearance by Northwestern. No major conference team has waited longer for a NCAA tournament bid then Northwestern and they will want their visit to be long and memorable. They clash with Vanderbilt in an intriguing first round match-up. While the Bulldogs claimed the No.1 seed, the Arizona Wildcats are my pick to make it out of the West after winning the Pac 12 title a few days ago.
REGARDLESS of everyone’s predictions, expert opinions and analysis there is no doubt that this years bracket is wide open. Lower ranked teams will be causing upsets and highly ranked squads are all vulnerable. The big name schools like Kansas, Duke and Kentucky should all feature deep into the tourney, but nothing is certain. Especially in March.
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