Let The Madness Begin

11 Mar, 2018

The ACC leads the way with nine teams in the field, including overall No. 1 seed Virginia. Other top seeds are Villanova, Kansas and Xavier.

“I just think it reflects the whole season, the regular season … [then] just to go through that three-game gauntlet, the ACC tournament … it’s a reward for the whole body of work,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told ESPN when asked about his Cavaliers earning the No. 1 overall seed.

The NCAA Selection Show started with a list of all 68 teams who had made this year’s tournament, putting an end to the annual tradition of teams nervously waiting to see if they would be dancing while the bracket was unveiled.

Among those feeling left out were Baylor, Saint Mary’s, USC and Notre Dame. Those four teams were identified as the final schools eliminated from tournament consideration.

The Fighting Irish lost their spot when Davidson upset Rhode Island to win the Atlantic 10 tournament Sunday and steal an NCAA bid.

For the First Four, UCLA will face Saint Bonaventure on Tuesday, while on Wednesday, Arizona State will square off against Syracuse, which committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen said was the final team chosen by the selection committee. For the 16-seeds, LIU Brooklyn will face Radford (Tuesday) and North Carolina Central will play Texas Southern (Wednesday).

Among the intriguing first-round matchups is No. 8 seed Creighton and star Marcus Foster against ninth-seeded Kansas State. Foster began his career with the Wildcats.

Oklahoma and star Trae Young drew a No. 10 seed and will face Rhode Island in the first round before a potential matchup with No. 2 seed Duke in the second round.

The Midwest looks like it could be the “bracket of death” with No. 1 seed Kansas opening up in Wichita. The No. 2 seed is Duke, with Michigan State at No. 3. Those three have combined for 39 Final Four appearances.

Fourth-seeded Auburn will open against No. 13 seed Charleston in San Diego. Auburn players tried to play it cool when the Tigers’ first NCAA tournament invite in 15 years became official. Even as an auditorium full of athletic department staffers and fans cheered the program’s first berth since 2003, players remained seated.

North Carolina’s résumé earned the reigning national champion Tar Heels a No. 2 seed in the West and a home-state opener despite having 10 losses. They will face Lipscomb, which is making its first tournament appearance, on Friday in Charlotte.

North Carolina is 33-1 in NCAA tournament games in its home state, with the only loss coming in 1979.

Xavier earned the No. 1 seed — its first in program history — in the West despite being upset by Providence in the Big East tournament semifinals. The West Region, which concludes in Los Angeles, also includes Michigan, Gonzaga and Houston.

The SEC landed a league-record eight teams in the tournament, easily topping the six teams the conference has put into the tournament nine times, most recently in 2008. The Big 12 wound up with seven teams dancing.

Despite the annual hoopla of the bracket reveal, college basketball’s biggest event also comes against the backdrop of an investigation-riddled season.

No fewer than a dozen of the 68 teams in the tournament have been named either in an FBI investigation or in media reports that allege coaches and others have directed payments and improper benefits to recruits and players, thus breaking rules that go to the core of the amateur-sports code that defines and regulates both the NCAA and the student-athletes who make this billion-dollar business run.

Shortly after the title game on April 2, a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to deliver recommendations from an investigation triggered by the FBI inquiry that led to charges last fall against assistant coaches, agents, employees of apparel companies and others.

Rasumussen has said the investigations played no part in the bracket-filling process.


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