NCAA Basketball Tournament Bracket 2014: Schedule, Odds and Top Locks

Sterling XieCorrespondent IIMarch 17, 2014

TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  (L-R) Nick Johnson #13, Aaron Gordon #11 and Kaleb Tarczewski #35 of the Arizona Wildcats react after scoring against the California Golden Bears during the second half of the college basketball game at McKale Center on February 26, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Golden Bears 87-59.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The 2014 NCAA basketball tournament promises to deliver even more madness than usual, given the parity at the top of the college basketball pyramid this year. While there are a handful of Final Four favorites, no squad stands out as a mortal lock to reach Arlington in two weeks, as the complete championship odds illustrate:

2014 NCAA Tournament Odds
SeedTeamOdds
1Florida11-2
1Arizona15-2
1Wichita St.8-1
1Virginia20-1
2Villanova18-1
2Michigan20-1
2Kansas6-2
2Wisconsin18-1
3Duke10-1
3Syracuse16-1
3Creighton28-1
3Iowa St.45-1
4Louisville18-1
4Michigan St.10-1
4UCLA90-1
4San Diego St.40-1
5Cincinnati85-1
5Saint Louis90-1
5VCU90-1
5Oklahoma60-1
6North Carolina40-1
6Ohio St.55-1
6Massachusetts250-1
6Baylor300-1
7Texas75-1
7UConn75-1
7Oregon75-1
7New Mexico75-1
8Kentucky40-1
8Gonzaga125-1
8Memphis125-1
8ColoradoN/A
9Kansas St.300-1
9George WashingtonN/A
9Oklahoma St.45-1
9Pittsburgh90-1
10Stanford250-1
10Saint Joseph’sN/A
10BYUN/A
10Arizona St.N/A
11DaytonN/A
11NebraskaN/A
11ProvidenceN/A
11Tennessee125-1
11Iowa55-1
12Xavier500-1
12North Carolina St.N/A
12North Dakota St.N/A
12Harvard1000-1
12Stephen F. AustinN/A
13ManhattanN/A
13TulsaN/A
13New Mexico St.N/A
13DelawareN/A
14Western Mich.N/A
14MercerN/A
14La.-LafayetteN/A
14N.C. CentralN/A
15Eastern Ky.N/A
15MilwaukeeN/A
15WoffordN/A
15AmericanN/A
16Coastal CarolinaN/A
16Weber St.N/A
16Mt. St. Mary’s100-1
16AlbanyN/A
16Texas SouthernN/A
16Cal PolyN/A
N/AField (Any Other Team)30/1
Source: Vegas Insider

The first two days of March Madness are among the most hectic on the sports calendar. Here is the complete schedule for every game in the opening round and round of 64:

2014 NCAA Tournament 1st/2nd Round Schedule
Date1st RoundTime (ET)TV
Tue, March 18(16) Albany vs. (16) Mt. St. Mary's6:40 p.m.truTV
Tue, March 18(12) NC State vs. (12) Xavier9:10 p.m.truTV
Wed, March 19(16) Cal Poly vs. (16) Texas Southern6:40 p.m.truTV
Wed, March 19(11) Iowa vs. (11) Tennessee9:10 p.m.truTV
Date2nd RoundTime (ET)TV
Thu, March 20(11) Dayton vs. (6) Ohio State12:15 p.m.CBS
Thu, March 20(15) American vs. (2) Wisconsin12:40 p.m.truTV
Thu, March 20(9) Pittsburgh vs. (8) Colorado1:40 p.m.TBS
Thu, March 20(12) Harvard vs. (5) Cincinnati2:10 p.m.TNT
Thu, March 20(14) Western Michigan vs. (3) Syracuse2:45 p.m.CBS
Thu, March 20(10) BYU vs. (7) Oregon3:10 p.m.truTV
Thu, March 20(16) Albany/Mt. St. Mary's vs. (1) Florida4:10 p.m.TBS
Thu, March 20(13) Delaware vs. (4) Michigan State4:40 p.m.TNT
Thu, March 20(10) Saint Joseph's vs. (7) Connecticut6:55 p.m.TBS
Thu, March 20(15) Wofford vs. (2) Michigan7:10 p.m.CBS
Thu, March 20(12) NC State/Xavier vs. (5) Saint Louis7:20 p.m.TNT
Thu, March 20(12) North Dakota St. vs. (5) Oklahoma7:27 p.m.truTV
Thu, March 20(15) Milwaukee vs. (2) Villanova9:25 p.m.TBS
Thu, March 20(10) Arizona State vs. (7) Texas9:40 p.m.CBS
Thu, March 20(13) Manhattan vs. (4) Louisville9:50 p.m.TNT
Thu, March 20(13) New Mexico St. vs. (4) San Diego State9:57 p.m.truTV
Fri, March 21(14) Mercer vs. (3) Duke12:15 p.m.CBS
Fri, March 21(11) Nebraska vs. (6) Baylor12:40 p.m.truTV
Fri, March 21(10) Stanford vs. (7) New Mexico1:40 p.m.TBS
Fri, March 21(16) Weber State vs. (1) Arizona2:10 p.m.TNT
Fri, March 21(11) Iowa/Tennessee vs. (5) Massachusetts2:45 p.m.CBS
Fri, March 21(14) LA-Lafayette vs. (3) Creighton3:10 p.m.truTV
Fri, March 21(15) Eastern Kentucky vs. (2) Kansas4:10 p.m.TBS
Fri, March 21(9) Oklahoma State vs. (8) Gonzaga4:40 p.m.TNT
Fri, March 21(9) George Washington vs. (8) Memphis6:55 p.m.TBS
Fri, March 21(16) Cal Poly/Texas Southern vs. (1) Wichita State7:10 p.m.CBS
Fri, March 21(11) Providence vs. (6) North Carolina7:20 p.m.truTV
Fri, March 21(12) Stephen F. Austin vs. (5) VCU7:27 p.m.TNT
Fri, March 21(16) Coastal Carolina vs. (1) Virginia9:25 p.m.TBS
Fri, March 21(9) Kansas State vs. (8) Kentucky9:40 p.m.CBS
Fri, March 21(14) North Carolina Central vs. (3) Iowa State9:50 p.m.TNT
Fri, March 21(13) Tulsa vs. (4) UCLA9:57 p.m.truTV
SportsMediaWatch.com

Everyone loves a good upset, but the reality is that most of the Davids are squashed by Goliaths by the first weekend. Before you fill out your bracket, let's take a look at the squads most likely to advance through the opening round.

 

All Your Bracket Essentials:

Bleacher Report

 

Every Top-3 Seed

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

No one ever really projects a top-three seed to lose their first game, but recent history suggests the odds are against all 12 teams surviving.

While top seeds are still undefeated in the first round, four other top-three seeds have lost in the opening round over the last two years, per Sports-Reference.com. Indeed, a top-three seed has been toppled by a 14 or 15 seed in three of the past four years.

Given that no one forecasted Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown last year, or Norfolk State over Missouri in 2012, it is dangerous to call this year's crop a true lock. But as Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com notes, the recent opening-round chaos has been unusual:

If there is one team who could buck this prediction, it looks like North Carolina Central. The MEAC champions, who draw third-seeded Iowa State in the first round, are the 78th-ranked team in overall efficiency. The Eagles play excellent defense, allowing just 99.0 points per 100 possessions, and could give the Cyclones a run for their money.

Apart from that, however, it is hard to imagine any other Cinderellas toppling any of the championship contenders. Most of the top-four seeds also look formidable, with Michigan State and Louisville emerging as trendy national championship picks, but UCLA and their poor defense away from Pauley Pavilion could have some trouble against Tulsa.

 

Higher Seeds in the West Region

High-powered offenses characterize the West region, which boasts six of the top-20 teams in offensive efficiency. While the time-tested mantra states that "defense wins championships," shooting an underdog out of the building is a common theme of early-round blowouts.

Looking over the West quarter, it's hard to come up with many likely upsets. No. 12 seed North Dakota State is a popular pick to defeat No. 5 Oklahoma, and No. 11 Nebraska could always exploit an erratic and defensively challenged Baylor squad.

Yet the top four seeds here look safer than in other regions, so chalk should prevail on at least six of the eight first-round matchups. And as Yahoo!'s Kyle Ringo illustrates, top-seeded Arizona is as upset-proof a team as any in the entire bracket:

The Wildcats have the complete package. They’re good offensively and defensively. They’re strong on the perimeter and inside. They have good guard play from Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell and a capable 7-footer in the post in Kaleb Tarczewski. Throw in a stellar talent like Aaron Gordon and you have the makings of a contender for the national title. One of the Wildcats’ four losses came on a last-second shot and another came in double overtime. This is the definition of a tough out.  

Ironically, the West also has the No. 9 seed most observers see as the likeliest ninth seed to win in Oklahoma State. Given the Cowboys early-season pedigree and known NBA talent, there is little sense in designating them as true underdogs against Gonzaga simply because of seeding.

There is certainly the potential for chaos, especially if the typically potent shooting of a high seed slumps unexpectedly. Still, anything beyond one or two double-digit seed upsets would be a stretch.

 

At Least Two No. 12 Seeds

The 12-versus-5 seed matchup is always a popular upset special on brackets. Over the last three years, No. 12 seeds have won six of 12 matchups, per Sports-Reference.com.

This year, every No. 12 seed has emerged as a trendy upset pick. Stephen F. Austin and North Dakota State are popular selections, and the winner of the NC State-Xavier First Four contest faces a reeling Saint Louis squad that has lost four of its past five games.

But the biggest lock as a No. 12 seed might be Harvard. The Crimson are no strangers to busting brackets, upsetting third-seeded New Mexico last year. Facing fifth-seeded Cincinnati this year, simulations are projecting the game as a tight contest:

Though it is unlikely, it is also not inconceivable that every No. 12 seed could emerge victorious from the round of 64. And while it seems possible that one will reach the Sweet Sixteen to take on a top seed, it's also worth noting that No. 12 seeds typically do not advance beyond the round of 32:

Nevertheless, this year's group of No. 5 seeds looks more vulnerable than usual. As such, expect the No. 12 seeds to maintain their 50 percent winning clip from the last three years, with at least half of them advancing to the weekend.

* All stats via KenPom.com.