Selection Sunday 2014: Biggest Winners and Losers
Let the madness begin.
After months of anticipation and millions of mock brackets, the field of 68 for the NCAA tournament has been officially set.
Tournament play will tip off on Tuesday with Albany vs. Mt. St. Mary's in Dayton and will conclude with the National Championship game on Monday, April 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In between, expect the usual upsets, nail-biters and heroics.
Here's a look at who the selection committee was good to and who got the short end of the seeding stick.
Sunday was a great day for the Florida Gators.
After winning the SEC title over Kentucky to remain undefeated on the year in their tough conference, the Gators were named the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Florida and its 26-game winning streak will face either Albany or Mt. St. Mary's in the first round. It enjoys a favorable draw in the South Region as well—the other top seeds are No. 2 Kansas, No. 3 Syracuse and No. 4 UCLA.
Loser: American Athletic Conference
This is the first year that the American Athletic Conference exists, and the selection committee didn't show it much respect.
Conference champions Louisville, who are ranked No. 5 and many thought where in the conversation for a No. 1 seed, were set as the No. 4 seed in the loaded Midwest Region.
Other disappointments were Cincinnati as a No. 5 seed and Connecticut as a No. 7 seed. But nobody was as shafted as Southern Methodist University, who was left completely out of field.
Winner: Big 12
The Big 12 conference has been considered one of the best in the game all season, and, as expected, the selection committee awarded them the most bids of any conference into the Big Dance.
There will be seven Big 12 teams competing in the NCAA tournament: Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
The highest seed from the conference is Kansas, which is the No. 2 seed in South Region.
Loser: Midwestern Bracket
If you like regions of death in the NCAA tournament, then welcome to the Midwest.
Wichita State did get awarded the No. 1 seed, but it might want to give it back after finding out its draw. The Shockers have pretty lofty company, with Michigan as the No. 2 seed, Duke as the No. 3 seed and Louisville as the No. 4 seed.
Three out of those four teams were in the Final Four last year, and the other is Duke, which is certainly no stranger to success in March. It's going to be a brutal road back to the final weekend for all of them.
Luckily, Wichita State is feeling up to the challenge. Dave Skretta of AP Sports reports that Wichita State senior Cleanthony Early is ready for his team to make a statement this month.
'I feel like I have something to prove, and my teammates have something to prove,' Shockers star Early said. 'And when you will be facing programs that people think you can't beat, those are the types of challenges you need to prove yourself.'
Winner: North Carolina State
In what might be the most shocking move this year by the selection committee, N.C. State has made it to the Big Dance.
Most experts had the Wolfpack on the outside looking in after their up-and-down season, but on Tuesday, N.C. State will take on Xavier for a chance to nab a No. 12 seed and a date with No. 5 Saint Louis on Thursday.
The Wolfpack's win over Syracuse in the ACC tournament certainly helped their case.
Most bracketologists had Southern Methodist University comfortably into the field of 68, but after the teams were announced on Sunday, the Mustangs were left to lament the weak end of the season and missed chances.
SMU is ranked No. 25 in the AP Top 25 poll and have a 23-9 record this year, but it still wasn't enough to make it to the Dance. The head of the selection committee said it was because of their weak non-conference schedule.
Florida State, Green Bay and Georgetown were the other three teams with the dubious distinction of "first four out."
On Sunday afternoon, Virginia beat Duke to win its first ACC tournament title since 1976. On Sunday evening, the Cavaliers named a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Not bad.
One of the biggest questions before the bracket was announced was who the fourth No. 1 seed would be. Virginia's run in the ACC tournament certainly gave them the edge. This is the first time that the Virginia team is a No. 1 seed since 1983.
It's safe to say that the Cavaliers will remember this Sunday for quite some time.
Loser: Michigan State
Michigan State won the Big Ten tournament on Sunday by upsetting Michigan, but the Spartans weren't quite rewarded for their showing by the selection committee.
Michigan State is a No. 4 seed in the East Region and will have to travel three timezones to play No. 13 Delaware on Thursday. If the Spartans win that game, they could face No. 5 Cincinnati in the second round—not an easy weekend.
Of course, if anyone can navigate a team through some hurdles, it's Tom Izzo.
Winner: Power Conferences
It was another good Sunday to be from a power conference.
After the non-power conferences had 11 bids to the NCAA tournament the last two years, this year that number shrunk all the way to seven. Ouch. The Atlantic 10 conference was responsible for five of those seven teams.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 has seven teams in the tournament, and the ACC, Big 10 and Pac-12 all have six teams dancing this March.
Loser: Selection Committee
There's no way to make everyone happy on Selection Sunday, but this year, there seems to be more head-scratching seeding decisions than usual.
The entire bracket is imbalanced. The Midwest Region is ridiculously stacked with talented teams, and the South Region isn't that far behind them. Meanwhile, the East and the West look like (relatively) easy paths for top seeds Virginia and Arizona.
Louisville and Michigan State both got the short end of the stick with No. 4 seeds, and New Mexico as a too-low No. 7 seed is also confounding. Leaving SMU out is also hard to justify.
Once again, there seems to be a big need for more transparency in the entire process.
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