NCAA Basketball Tournament Report: Kentucky Is No. 1 Overall Seed Despite Loss
Losses by Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina in their conference tournaments didn’t prevent those teams from joining Big Ten champ Michigan State as top regional seeds for the Division I men’s NCAA basketball tournament field of 68 announced on Sunday evening.
The NCAA basketball tournament begins with a total of four first-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a full slate of games scheduled for Thursday. Here are some of the NCAA basketball tournament teams included in this year’s field and what they can be expected to do:
The Odds-On Favorite: Kentucky Wildcats
Even though coach John Calipari’s team dropped the SEC tournament title game to Vanderbilt 71-64 on Sunday, Kentucky (32-2, 16-0 SEC) remains the team to beat as the No. 1 overall seed. Shot-blocking machine Anthony Davis and guard Doron Lamb lead the Wildcats, who saw their 24-game win streak snapped in Sunday’s loss. No team in the South region seems anywhere near as talented as Kentucky.
No. 1 Seed Most Likely To Lose First: Syracuse Orange
Syracuse (31-2, 17-1 Big East) had a very good season, but the Orange have not beaten many great teams in convincing fashion. If Syracuse defeats first-round opponent UNC Asheville, a second-round game with the winner of the Kansas State-Southern Miss. contest could prove to be a difficult win to get for Jim Boeheim and his team in the East region.
Experienced Team That Could Win: Missouri Tigers
After hauling in a school-record 30 wins and a Big 12 tournament title, Missouri (30-4, 14-4 Big 12) was given a No. 2 seed in the West region. While regional top-seed Michigan State could eventually provide a challenge for Missouri, guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English and forward Ricardo Ratliffe are seniors on a mission to take the Tigers to the Final Four.
Ranked Team Most Likely To Be Knocked Out In The First Round: Iowa State Cyclones
As the No. 8 seed in the South region, Iowa State (22-10, 12-6 Big 12) drew a very tough slot. Coach Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones face defending champion Connecticut (20-13, 8-10 Big East) in the first round of the tournament. Iowa State must rebound well and keep UConn’s back court of Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb from controlling the tempo of the game.
Small Conference Team To Watch: Davidson Wildcats
Davidson (25-7, 16-2 Southern) is the champion of the Southern Conference and is seeded No. 13 in the West region. The Wildcats will face fourth-seeded Louisville in the first round. Coach Bob McKillop has been to the tournament five times prior to this year. Davidson defeated Kansas earlier this year and played Duke and Vanderbilt tough. Big East-champ Louisville must bring its best game to advance past the Wildcats.
Unranked Team Most Likely To Make A Run: Texas Longhorns
After being beaten often by Top 10 teams in the Big 12 like Missouri, Kansas and Baylor, Texas (20-13, 9-6 Big 12) is as battle-tested as any unranked team in the field. With J’Covan Brown leading the Longhorns effort, Texas and coach Rick Barnes might be able to win a few games before exiting this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.
Team That Could Be Affected By An Injury: North Carolina Tar Heels
Forward John Henson, who hurt his wrist Friday against Maryland, didn’t play for North Carolina (29-5, 14-2 ACC), as the Tar Heels beat N.C. State on Saturday and lost to Florida State on Sunday in the ACC tournament title game. Coach Roy Williams’ team has depth, but North Carolina was not as complete a unit without Henson. If Henson can’t play, the Tar Heels could go home earlier than expected.
Big-Name Player to Watch: Thomas Robinson, Kansas Jayhawks
After averaging 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds on the season, Thomas Robinson established himself as the best player for talented Kansas (27-6, 16-2 Big 12). There may not be another player in the Midwest region with as much ability as Robinson, which may make Kansas’ path to the Final Four easier than most. Robinson and the Jayhawks first face Detroit, followed by the winner of the Purdue-St.Mary’s game.
Coach To Observe: Tommy Amaker, Harvard Crimson
After leading Harvard to a Top 25 ranking and its first NCAA basketball tournament appearance since 1946, Tommy Amaker wants to make sure that the Crimson play more than just one game. Ivy League-champ Harvard (26-4, 12-2 Ivy) drew a No. 12 seed and will play third-seeded Vanderbilt in the first round of the East region. Given Amaker’s pedigree as a player at Duke and his penchant for leading, it’s difficult to count out the Crimson.