The road to the NCAA championship is a long one, but it all got underway on Sunday during the selection show.
Now that the field is set and the matchups are decided, it's time for each team to begin mapping out its journey to the NCAA title game. The road to the title can often be filled with heartbreak, as it goes without saying that not every team will find success in the tourney.
Some teams will be upset, while others do the upsetting. That's just the way college basketball works.
The following will map out a road to the Final Four from both the toughest and easiest region. This will be accompanied by a dream matchup that could turn into the most compelling contest of the tournament.
The South region is filled with teams that have the talent to make a deep run in March. VCU, UCLA, Kansas, Syracuse and Ohio State are all supremely talented.
Once the round of 64 finishes, we'll have a much better picture of which of the teams are still in.
If the seedings suggest anything, then all five will still be involved. It's in the round of 32 where things get interesting because we will have some potentially tantalizing matchups.
Syracuse and Ohio State could make for one of the more exciting games of the tournament, as could UCLA and VCU. After that, though, there's no telling how far any of the aforementioned teams will go.
Why, you ask? Well, that's because the South runs through Florida.
Florida is top overall seed and 1-seed in South. Last time Gators were #1 overall, in 2007, they won National Championship.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 16, 2014
The Gators earned the nation's top seed and have a relatively easy road to at least the Sweet 16. A No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 in the round of 64. Colorado or Pittsburgh shouldn't give them problems and either VCU or UCLA would be a nice test before moving ahead into the Sweet 16.
From there on, it will be a battle for a spot in the Final Four.
Simply put, however, the South is a very deep region that boasts plenty of talent. It will be hard to get by Florida, but there are teams in this region that can do it.
The West is definitely the easiest region on the bracket. It is so wide-open that it's hard to choose who will even get past the round of 32 in some cases.
This will be the region that ruins a ton of brackets.
Arizona is the No. 1 seed, but a team packed with shooters like Gonzaga or Oklahoma State can beat the Wildcats. Oklahoma State is a dark-horse team to watch coming out of the West. If the Cowboys can get past Gonzaga in the round of 64, they'll likely face Arizona.
The No. 8 seed - Gonzaga Bulldogs. They're the outright West Coast Conference Champions. They take on Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State— SI College Hoops (@si_ncaabb) March 16, 2014
According to the Associated Press (h/t USA Today), Travis Ford knows that the game against Gonzaga will be a good one.
"Both teams are very similar to what they had last year, in regards to personnel," he said. "Neither team lost a whole lot, so we're pretty familiar with each other."
Outside of the aforementioned teams, Nebraska, Creighton and San Diego State could easily make the trek through the region. All three are extraordinarily talented.
Some teams will benefit from playing against No. 2 Wisconsin. Against perhaps the weakest No. 2 in the tournament, teams like American (its opponent in the round of 64) and either Oregon or BYU (its opponent in the round of 32) will have a real shot at an upset.
See? This region is wide-open.
Matchup Everyone Wants to See
It won't be an easy road for either Kentucky or Louisville, but if the two teams win each of their first two games, they'll meet in the Sweet 16.
Midwest: 1 Wichita St vs. 16 Cal Poly/Texas So 8 Kentucky vs. 9 Kansas St 4 Louisville vs. 13 Manhattan 5 St Louis vs. 12 NC State/Xavier— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 16, 2014
That would result in potentially the best game of the tournament. Yes, that includes the national title game.
The state of Kentucky is split between UK and Louisville, and the rivalry likely even splits homes and families down the middle. No rivalry in college basketball is greater. Kentucky won 73-66 in the lone matchup between the two this season, but another one isn't completely out of the question.
Of course, Louisville's Kevin Ware doesn't think too much of the rivalry. Last season, he told reporters what he thought of the teams' history:
It gets old; it's boring. It's just another game. Nobody's from here except a couple guys on the team. We really don't get into the whole UK-Louisville rivalry. It's just another game for us. A lot of people take it to that further extent, all the UK and U of L bashing each other. And even with a lot of stuff that they put on us this year, we really don't care that Kentucky exists. We just look at them as another school.
Regardless of what Ware thinks, such a game would really light the fire under the other teams prior to the Elite Eight. Seeing that type of competition in the Sweet 16 will force teams to step their game up to take on the winner of the bout.