Brackets Set: Villanova and Duke both in East, Gonzaga, Carolina, Kansas other 1’s

On Sunday night, the Field of 68 was revealed for the upcoming NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. Let the madness begin. The four 1 seeds weren’t a surprise. Defending champion Villanova is the number one overall seed in the East. Unfortunately, they got a raw deal with ACC champion Duke sent to their region as a 2 seed.

While that’s unfair, the crack committee gave Gonzaga the 1 seed out West. Pac 12 champ Arizona is the 2 seed. Notre Dame could play spoiler as a dangerous 5 seed. They’ll likely have to get by Jekyll & Hyde 4 seed West Virginia. If they do, a Sweet 16 match-up against Gonzaga is possible.

If there is a region that’s loaded, it’s the South. Led by top seed North Carolina, it also features the always talented Kentucky as a 2 seed and high scoring UCLA as a 3 seed. What a power bracket that is. Carolina has an easier road with potential second round opponent Seton Hall and Sweet 16 match-up Butler. Kentucky and UCLA look like they’ll lock up in a dream NCAA Sweet 16 showdown for a shot at the Elite 8. Only dangerous floater Wichita State can prevent it. Somehow, they are the 10 seed. Good luck to Dayton.

The Midwest features the top seeded Jayhawks of Kansas. A very talented team led by Player of The Year candidate Frank Mason III, they shouldn’t have a problem the first two rounds. If Iowa State makes the Sweet 16, they can challenge them. They have to deal with 12 seed Nevada. On the bottom half, Louisville is the 2 seed and Oregon is the 3 seed. Both are superb teams capable of making deep runs. That section features a good 6/11 match-up between Creighton and Rhode Island. Rhode Island is a team to watch. Featuring Staten Island’s own Hassan Martin from Curtis High School, they could push Oregon in the second round. But the Ducks should prevail and advance to the Sweet 16. Michigan enters red hot having won the Big Ten. They could be a sleeper who busts some brackets.

I can’t get past the fact that they stuck Duke in Villanova’s bracket. It seems cruel. Why put those two in the same region? If the Wildcats are the number one overall seed, shouldn’t they have gotten a weaker 2 seed? It makes no sense. A Duke vs Villanova Elite 8 match-up at MSG is great theatre. But it’s a shame that only one can come out of the East and make the Final 4. They underseeded Wisconsin sticking them in the 8/9 game against Virginia Tech. Expect the proven Badgers to test the Wildcats in the second round. There’s always at least one 12 over a 5 upset special. I don’t know where it will come from. But N.C. Wilmington should give Virginia a game. Baylor is the 3 seed. They’re good but could be knocked out in the second round by underrated 6 seed SMU. A team that doesn’t get enough credit.

So, whose bubble burst? For starters, Syracuse. Their RPI of 84 with bad losses to St. John’s, Georgetown and Connecticut was too much to overcome. Even though they posted three wins against top 10 opponents and won 10 games in the ACC, they were left out in the cold. Had they won one game in the ACC Tournament, it would’ve been enough to get in over USC, who’ll be in one of four play-in games when they take on Providence.

California also was left out along with Illinois State. Illinois State lost in the championship game in the Missouri Valley Conference to Wichita State. The Shockers beat them by 20. California posted two wins in the Pac 12 Tournament against Oregon State and Utah. But they fell short against Oregon in the semifinals losing by eight.

One of the best stories is Northwestern making the Big Dance for the first time in school history. They are coached by former Duke player and assistant coach Chris Collins. Northwestern will make history when they play Vanderbilt in a tough 8/9 game out West. It won’t be easy. But you know they’ll have fun and give it everything.

I would love to pick Seton Hall over North Carolina if the second round match-up comes down. The Pirates play strong defense and have the low post interior presence of Angel Delgado. They also boast budding junior Desi Rodriguez and explosive guards Khadeen Carrington and Myles Powell. But Ralph Willard’s team will be hard pressed to stop Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks inside. Combine that with floor general Joel Berry II and it could prove too difficult. Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson round it out.

There’s so much to like about this tournament. The play-ins are Tuesday and Wednesday. Kansas State will battle Wake Forest with the winner advancing to a 6/11 game against Cincinnati down South. The other play-ins are North Carolina Central against UC Davis for the chance to be the first 16 to beat a 1 in the Midwest against Kansas. Basically, there’s a better chance of me landing in Mars. NEC winner Mount St. Mary’s battles the University of New Orleans for a chance at Villanova. Good luck.

It should be a great weekend coming up. The first weekend is the best part of the tournament. The action starts on Thursday with second round games wall to wall followed by more games Friday. Then comes Saturday and Sunday when we learn which teams are going to the Sweet 16. It’s fun filled and usually has your share of upsets, buzzer beaters and unsung heroes. Let’s go!

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