With the selection committee setting the field and the bracket for the NCAA tournament, it is time to dive into madness.
I'll offer up a few takeaways from the bracket a little further below, but first, take a look at how it all sets up.
- Download the Printable Bracket
- Follow the Latest Bracket Updates Live
- Play the Free Bracket Challenge
Top Bracket Takeaways
Midwest is Stacked
The Midwest is wide open. When it's all said and done, No. 4 seed Louisville may wind up as the most highly predicted champion of this bracket.
I expect all top-four seeds to get a fair amount of love, however.
No. 1 seed Wichita State is coming off an undefeated season. Sure, the Shockers didn't play the toughest schedule, but they have been supremely impressive and made a run to the Final Four just last year.
Still, the Shockers have a tough road. Their likely second-round opponent is Kentucky. The Wildcats are young, inexperienced and inconsistent, but they are also capable of beating any team in the nation on the right night.
After that is a possible matchup with Louisville. The defending champions are the No. 2 team in the Pomeroy rankings and are on a tear heading into the NCAA tournament.
The lower half of the region isn't any more kind. Offensive powers Michigan and Duke sit as the No. 2 and No. 3 seed, respectively.
Both the Wolverines and Blue Devils can score with anyone, and both have two of the best offensive options in the country.
The Wolverines feature sophomore guard Nik Stauskas, who averages 17.5 points per game. Duke features potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft, freshman Jabari Parker.
This is going to be an entertaining bracket.
Arizona was Gifted
The Wildcats are the No. 1 seed in West after losing two of their last four games. The gift they received, however, does not involve being a No. 1 seed.
Arizona is worthy. They still lost just four games all season and are No. 1 in the Pomeroy rankings.
Where the Wildcats were gifted was in their surrounding competition. I'll let The Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer explain:
Arizona's toughest matchup might be against Oklahoma State in the round of 32. West Region not that strong.— Jerry Brewer (@JerryBrewer) March 16, 2014
Wisconsin is the No. 2 seed, but they aren't going to scare anyone. The Badgers picked up six losses in the Big Ten. Creighton is the No. 3 seed. The Bluejays played in a weak Big East and lost three of six to close out the season. Not too mention they are far too reliant on Doug McDermott.
Meanwhile, there are the Wildcats sitting atop the region. Arizona is talented, battle tested and more than capable of running through this region.
Florida's Tough Road
For being the No. 1 overall seed, the Florida Gators are in a tough South region.
The second-seeded Kansas Jayhawks need freshman Joel Embiid back strong from his recent back issues, but the Jayhawks are as scary as any team in the nation when healthy.
Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star gives us an update on Embiid:
Spoke briefly with Joel Embiid's father, Thomas. On Joel's back: "It's improving. Hopefully he can be back soon."— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) March 13, 2014
No. 3 seed Syracuse limps into the tournament, but the Orange didn't pick up a loss until Feb. 7. With the inside presence of senior forward C.J. Fair, the Orange can quickly bounce back to top form.
On top of all that, the No. 4 seed is the Pac-12 champion UCLA Bruins. The Bruins were as impressive as any team while romping through their conference tournament and then beating Arizona by four for the championship.
The Gators have the experience and depth of talent to survive this, but it won't be easy.