Round 1 of the 2014 NCAA tournament begins Tuesday, and before we know it, the nation's top teams will be taking the court to begin their journeys to obtain a coveted national title and gain eternal glory.
It will not be easy for the four No. 1 seeds to get to the promised land. Each bracket is chock-full of worthy opponents that will be looking to overtake these teams on their way to the final dance.
Let's break down the projected path each region's No. 1 team must take to reach the Final Four and rank them in order of most to least difficult.
4. Midwest Region: Wichita State Shockers
If the Shockers intend to reach the Final Four for the second consecutive year, they have some serious work to do. The Midwest Region may be the most highly contested quadrant of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
With No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Duke and No. 4 Louisville poised to so some damage, the Midwest is highly unpredictable.
The Wolverines were making a strong case for a top seed until their hot streak was derailed by Michigan State in the Big Ten final.
The Cardinals made swift work of each of their AAC opponents, and they took the conference tournament with a decisive 71-61 win over the Connecticut Huskies.
Duke has also looked great lately. The Blue Devils were tearing things up until they ran into the stout defense of Virginia in the ACC finals.
With each of these teams playing inspired basketball, Wichita State will have to muster everything it has to continue to shock the nation.
3. West Region: Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats put on a great show throughout the regular season, but their production has dropped lately. Arizona was ousted early from the Pac-12 tournament after a 75-71 defeat by the UCLA Bruins.
To make matters worse, the Wildcats have to contend with not only the top teams in the West but also a handful of sleepers that could make some noise.
No. 2 Wisconsin faltered a bit in conference tournament action, but it has a stout defense and can do some damage in transition.
No. 3 Creighton was upset in the Big East final by Providence, but Doug McDermott and Co. can light up the scoreboard at any given time.
No. 6 Baylor rode a great streak, making a run to the Big 12 finals. It figures to make a major impact during the NCAA tournament.
Other teams to watch out for here are the No. 7 Oregon Ducks, who have risen from the ashes late in the season to play some great basketball, and the No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys, who have been playing very well since the return of Marcus Smart.
Arizona will have a tough time getting to the Final Four, and if the team can't right the ship, it could find itself on early upset alert.
2. East Region: Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia rode its stout defense all the way to the ACC finals, beating a surging Duke team by a score of 72-63. The Cavaliers enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country.
It won't necessarily be a cakewalk to get to the Final Four, but the team certainly has a better shot than other No. 1 seeds.
No. 2 Villanova is reeling right now. The Wildcats have not looked impressive lately, as they left the Big East tournament early after a buzzer-beater by Seton Hall. This team hasn't played like a No. 2 seed recently and could falter once again in March Madness.
No. 3 Iowa State may be Virginia's stiffest competition in the East. The Cyclones have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NCAA, and they rode that offense all the way to the Big 12 tournament title. Virginia's defense won't give them many good looks, though, which could put Iowa State in panic mode should they meet in the NCAA tournament.
No. 4 Michigan State has also looked good lately, as it won the Big Ten tournament. But the Spartans did struggle against good defensive teams in the regular season and could find more difficulty against Virginia's top-ranked defense.
1. South Region: Florida Gators
The rich just keep getting richer. Florida enters the 2014 NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. It landed the top seed in the South Region—possibly the easiest path to the Final Four.
After the Gators took the SEC tournament title and completed their season sweep of the conference by defeating Kentucky 61-60, Gators senior center Patric Young explained the sloppy game, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "I honestly don't think this was our best in terms of handling a close game."
Head coach Billy Donovan added, "There is a level of luck that comes into a lot of these situations. There just is."
It is likely that the close call Florida experienced against Kentucky will serve as a wake-up call heading into the NCAA tournament. That's not good news for opponents, as this team may become even more dangerous due to that game's outcome.
No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Syracuse have looked very beatable of late. Neither team has been able to regain its early-season success.
No. 4 UCLA and No. 5 Ohio State could be factors, as both have been playing well lately. But they've had roller-coaster seasons and may not be able to keep up with well-rounded Florida.
There really aren't any deep sleepers that could make noise in this conference. As long as Florida keeps playing the way it has been lately, it shouldn't have much difficulty finding its way to the Final Four.
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