Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

March Madness is here. UConn, Purdue, Houston and North Carolina get top seeding in NCAA Tournament

Defending champion Connecticut, along with Houston, Purdue and North Carolina, are the top seeds in a March Madness bracket that started going haywire even before the pairings came out Sunday.

Of the four top seeds, only UConn heads into the tournament coming off a win. That played into the Huskies receiving the No. 1 overall seed. The other three top seeds lost in their conference tournaments.

MARCH MADNESS: Printable bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament

Those were hardly the only surprises over the final weekend of hoops before the sport’s main event hits center stage.

Unexpected titles placed teams like Oregon, North Carolina State and even Duquesne, none of whom were projected to make the field, into the field of 68 via the automatic bid that goes to conference champions. The teams they beat gobbled up a handful of the 34 at-large bids, thus shrinking the number of spots available to teams on the so-called bubble.

“It was one of the most difficult that I’ve been involved in,” said Charles McClelland, the chairman of the selection committee. “And I talked to some of the staff that’s been in that room for the last 20 years, and they said this is probably the most difficult selection process that they’ve been a part of.”

The last teams in included Colorado, Virginia and, surprisingly, Boise State, which wasn’t widely considered a bubble team. Those missing out included Oklahoma, St. John’s, Pittsburgh and Indiana State, all of whom were projected by many to make it as recently as Friday.

“Under normal circumstances, with those additional bids, they would’ve been in,” McClelland said of Indiana State.

The tournament starts Tuesday with two First Four games, including a matchup between Virginia and a Colorado State team that few thought was on the bubble. The 32 first-round games take place Thursday and Friday. The Final Four is set for April 6-8 in Glendale, Arizona.

UConn, which opens Friday against Stetson, is the favorite according to FanDuel Sportsbook and is trying to become the first repeat champion since Florida in 2006-07. The Huskies (31-3) are on a seven-game win streak and are tied with James Madison for most wins in the nation.

“We’ve been the best team in college basketball,” coach Dan Hurley said. “Obviously, March Madness next week, who knows what goes on there, but we’ve clearly been the best program in the country this year.”

Both the SEC and Big 12 placed eight teams in the field, while the Big Ten and Mountain West each had six.

Speaking of pride: Michigan State extended its nation-leading streak to 26 straight years in the tournament. The ninth-seeded Spartans will play Mississippi State on Thursday, the same day No. 5 seed Gonzaga plays No. 12 McNeese. In February, the Zags were considered a bubble team, but a stretch of nine wins in 10 games changed that, and coach Mark Few’s team made the field for the 25th consecutive year.

Injury-riddled Kansas comes in as a 4 seed, set to play Samford, after two of its best players, Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr., sat out the Jayhawks’ 20-point loss in the Big 12 Tournament opener.

Florida is a 7 seed, and will play the winner of the Boise State-Colorado play-in game, but the Gators suffered a big blow when big man Micah Handlogten broke his leg early in the SEC title game.

While Rick Pitino just missed the tourney with St. John’s, his son, Richard, led New Mexico to the Mountain West Conference title and an 11 seed. The Lobos open Friday against Clemson. McClelland said New Mexico “stole” a bid and wouldn’t have been in the field without the conference title.

Another so-called “bid stealer” is UAB, which took advantage when Temple knocked out Florida Atlantic, the team that made the Final Four last year, early in the American Athletic Conference tourney. UAB then beat Temple for the conference’s automatic bid and is now a 12 seed in the East that will play last year’s runner-up, San Diego State. FAU still made it as an at-large – an 8 seed set to face No. 9 Northwestern, also in the East region, which includes three of last year’s Final Four teams.

The Ivy League is sending Yale, a 13 seed that needed a furious late comeback and a buzzer-beating basket against Brown to win the title and set up a game Friday against No. 4 Auburn. And Saint Peter’s back in the tournament, two years after making an unlikely run to the Elite Eight as a No. 15. This year, the Peacocks are 15 seeds again, opening against Tennessee in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, Duquesne, the surprise winner of the Atlantic-10, is back in the tournament for the first time since 1977. A game against No. 6 BYU awaits.

Back in 1999, head coach Dan Monson and assistant Mark Few led Gonzaga on a surprise run all the way to the Elite Eight. Monson now coaches Long Beach State and, just last week, was relieved of his duties pending the end of the season. Funny enough, Monson’s team went on a run and won the Big West to get a ticket to the tournament. The 15th-seeded Beach open Thursday against No. 2 Arizona.

“As Mark Few said in a text, why don’t we have a run in the first year and one in the last,” Monson said after his job-extending win.

Want more sports news? Sign up for the Sports Omelette to get all our analysis on Denver’s teams.

Popular Articles