Louisville gets top overall seed in NCAA Tournament
Louisville is the top seed in the NCAA Tournament after a topsy-turvy season in college basketball capped by another round of upsets over the weekend.
That other team from the Bluegrass State won't even get a chance to defend its national title.
While the Big East champion Cardinals surged to the top of the 68-team bracket released Sunday — joined by fellow No. 1 seeds Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga — the team that won it all a year ago was left out of the field. Kentucky was hoping the committee would overlook a dismal performance in the Southeastern Conference tournament, but the Wildcats will have to settle for a spot in the second-tier National Invitation Tournament.
As if that's not bad enough for Kentucky fans, Louisville (29-5) gets to rub a little more salt in its rival's wounds by opening the tournament about 75 miles from home on Kentucky's home court, Rupp Arena in Lexington. The Cardinals will face either Liberty or North Carolina State in a second-round game Thursday.
The selection committee had its work cut out after five teams swapped the top ranking in The Associated Press poll, capped by West Coast Conference champion Gonzaga (30-2) moving to the lead spot for the first time in school history. Committee chairman Mike Bobinski said last week he thought as many as seven teams could be in the running for No. 1 seeds.
No. 7 Kansas (29-5) moved up to take the second overall seed after an impressive run through the Big 12 tournament, capped by a 70-54 victory over rival Kansas State in the title game. No. 3 Indiana (28-6) is third overall despite falling to Wisconsin in the Big Ten semifinals. The Zags claimed the last of the coveted No. 1 seeds, edging Atlantic Coast Conference champion Miami.
The top spots are significant in at least one respect: A No. 1 has never lost to a 16th-seeded team.
“It's going to happen. A 16 is going to beat a 1 eventually,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Certainly we don't hope that happens. I'll pull for all the 1 seeds to make sure that doesn't happen, but it will (eventually). There's more parity this year than years past. There will be a lot of mild upsets in this tournament.”
Miami became the first ACC team to be denied a top seed after winning both the regular season and the conference tournament. The Hurricanes were among the No. 2 seeds with conference rival Duke, Georgetown from the Big East, and Big Ten tournament champion Ohio State.
“Miami had a tremendous year. They are a great basketball team,” Bobinski said. “If we had five spots, Miami would be there with us. We have great appreciation for the year Miami has had. In the final analysis, we put Gonzaga just ahead of them. But it was very, very close.”
Duke cost itself a shot at a No. 1 seed with an upset loss to Maryland in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. Georgetown lost in the Big East semifinals and settled for a No. 2 as well, but Indiana was in no danger of dropping off the top line despite its loss to the Badgers.
Gonzaga comes into the tournament on a 14-game winning streak. The Zags are no longer the plucky upstarts; they're one of the favorites.
“In our judgment that's a very complete and very strong basketball team,” Bobinski said.
The Big East, in its final year before the basketball-only schools break away to form their own league, led the way with eight teams in the NCAA field. The Big Ten was next with seven.
But the less-glamorous leagues also did well. Middle Tennessee, for instance, was the last of the at-large teams to make the field, beating out power-conference teams such as Tennessee, Iowa, Alabama and Virginia. Not to mention Kentucky.