By Matt Citak
Selection Sunday has come and gone. The field is officially set, and 68 teams are ready to give it their all to become the 2018 NCAA Champions. The play-in games begin tomorrow, so let’s get right into it.
Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas are tournament’s 1 seeds
After an impressive 31-2 season that ended with an ACC Tournament championship, the Virginia Cavaliers secured the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Virginia headlines the South Region, and will be attempting to make their third Final Four appearance in school history, and first since 1984.
Villanova, fresh off their Big East Tournament championship, received the No. 1 seed in the East Region and the No. 2 overall seed in the bracket. Xavier was named the 1 seed in the West, despite being upset by Providence in the Big East Tournament semifinals. Rounding out the 1 seeds is Kansas, who’s Big 12 Tournament championship helped the Jayhawks secure the top seed in the Midwest Region.
Arizona State, Syracuse, UCLA, Saint Bonaventure receive final at-large bids
Saint Bonaventure will make its first NCAA Tournament since 2012 after earning its first at-large bid since 2000. The Bonnies will face off against UCLA Tuesday night, with the winner taking the No. 11 seed in the East Region and battling No. 6 seed Florida on Thursday. St. Bonaventure enjoyed an 11-game winning streak to finish their regular season, but saw their roll come to an end against Davidson in the A-10 Tournament semifinals. UCLA won eight of its last 12 games to finish its season 21-11. The Bruins made a run in the Pac-12 Tournament, but fell to Arizona in overtime in the semifinals. This is UCLA’s 11th trip to the Big Dance in the last 14 years.
The final two at-large bids went to Arizona State and Syracuse, who will battle it out Wednesday night for the chance to go up against No. 6 seed TCU on Friday. The Sun Devils survived last week’s early exit from the Pac-12 tournament, thanks in part to non-conference victories over teams such as Kansas and Xavier. The Orange were the last team to make the tournament, despite going 20-13 and being eliminated in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Syracuse returns to the tournament after missing the cut last season.
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Notre Dame, USC, Saint Mary’s among first teams out
With Davidson’s upset win over Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship, Notre Dame saw its chance to go dancing disappear. The Fighting Irish finished the year 20-14, and almost managed to make the tournament, even with its best player, Bonzie Colson, missing 15 games with a broken foot. This is the first time Notre Dame has not made the tournament since the 2013-14 season.
Possibly the biggest head-scratcher of Selection Sunday was the USC snub. The Trojans fell to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament championship, and finished the year with a 34 RPI. USC had the second-best conference record in the Pac-12, but were skipped over in favor of Arizona State and UCLA.
Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee were two mid-major schools that arguably should have made the tournament, but weak strength of schedules likely led the selection committee to pass on them.
Trae Young, Oklahoma make tournament despite late-season struggles
One of the biggest stories throughout this college basketball season was the up-and-down play of the Oklahoma Sooners. Led by Trae Young, the Sooners were one of the hottest teams in the country back in December. But since February 1, Oklahoma has won only two games, dropping its season record to 18-13. Whether or not the Sooners deserved to make the tournament is a topic worthy of debate. But at the end of the day, the selection committee decided they wanted Young, one of the nation’s most talented and entertaining players, in the Big Dance. The committee simply could not leave Steph Curry 2.0 out of March Madness after he averaged 27.4 points for the Sooners this season.
SEC Tournament Championship only gets Kentucky No. 5 seed
The Wildcats endured one of their toughest seasons under head coach John Calipari. Despite the struggles, Kentucky wound up defeating Tennessee in the SEC Tournament Championship, giving the Wildcats a 24-10 overall record and their fourth consecutive SEC Championship. The selection committee must not have been too impressed with their late run however, as Kentucky was awarded the No. 5 seed in the South Region. While a matchup against No. 12 seed Davidson on Thursday is not too daunting, the Wildcats are looking at potential match-ups against No. 4 seed Arizona in the Round of 32 and a Sweet 16 contest against top overall seed Virginia. Calipari was not happy with his team’s seeding in the tournament, and made sure to voice his displeasure to the media Sunday night.
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Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.