With the brackets set on Sunday, it is now time for me to give some initial thoughts on the bracket setup. You can check out the bracket itself here.
Let me start with a region-by-region breakdown...
The Midwest holds the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, Louisville. This is a no-brainer selection. We're talking about a team that won both the Big East regular season and postseason championships. This happened in a year where the Big East produced THREE No. 1 seeds.
It was an amazing season from Louisville, and the Cardinals were rewarded with, on paper, one of the weaker two seeds and probably the weakest three seed. Michigan State has been up and down toward the end of the season, and Kansas is still in a bit of a rebuilding year.
The sleeper in this region may be the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. They are young, but they have tremendous guard play, and a good set of guards can take you deep in the tourney.
The UConn Huskies are the No. 1 seed in this region, and it can be assumed that they were the lowest one seed based off the fact that Memphis is the two seed.
The West has a lot of sleeper potential in Maryland and California. The five seed Purdue Boilermakers could be a team to keep an eye on. They have some tournament experience and they appear to be peaking at the right time. As much as it pains me to say it, they could easily take this region.
The Pitt Panthers hold the No. 1 seed in the East, and they have Duke sitting at the other end of the bracket. This is an interesting bracket and could be one of the hardest to predict from an upset standpoint.
Keep an eye on the UCLA vs. VCU game in the first round. It is a 6 vs. 11 matchup, and I think the winner of this game could end up putting together a run. UCLA has tournament-tested Darren Collison at the point. VCU is not afraid of the tournament, and could be a Cinderella candidate. Although, I hate trying to pick Cinderellas—it takes some of the surprise out of their run.
This is easily the most competitive bracket on paper. North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Syracuse is probably the best one, two, three lineup in any of the regions. When you add in teams like LSU and Arizona State, you are looking at a very difficult bracket.
There is plenty of star power here. Tyler Hansbrough, Blake Griffin, Jonny Flynn, and James Hardin are all top-flight players. A Sweet 16 matchup between Oklahoma and Syracuse or Arizona State could be one of the most exciting games of the tournament.
I have to give a shout out to three teams: Auburn, Penn State, and St. Mary's. I think all three of these teams should have been in and were probably victims of some of the unexpected conference champions.
Davidson, last year's Cinderella, was also left out. This is surprising to me only because they didn't find a way to fit Stephen Curry into the tournament somehow. The kid can play, and I'll be tuning into some NIT games just for him.
I don't know whether his team truly deserved a spot or not, but I feel that you have to consider that they played without their superstar for one game this season (which they lost). Then had to play Butler with Curry less than 100 percent. That stretch almost certainly cost the Wildcats.