The home front
With higher-seeded teams tending to be placed in regions close to home in the early rounds, it will be interesting to see who can capitalize on having neutral courts feel like home. The advantage of a close fan base is well documented. In the last 10 years teams that are playing within 50 miles of campus are 24-2 in the NCAA tournament.
Kansas and Kansas State are both playing in Kansas City, and with both schools on spring break this week, the Sprint Center is guaranteed to be cheering in their favor. The No. 1 overall seed Louisville is playing 90 minutes away from campus, Michigan and Michigan State are both playing in their home state, and No. 2 seeded Ohio State is just an hour away from Dayton.
Ducks get snubbed
The most noticeable theme of Selection Sunday was CBS and ESPN analysts lambasting the NCAA committee for handing Oregon, the Pac 12 champions, a No.12 seed. The Ducks beat UNLV, a No. 5 seed, a No. 6 seed in Arizona (who was ranked No. 4 nationally when they played) and No. 6-seeded UCLA twice. On the upside, a No. 12 seed has pulled off an upset 38 times in tournament history, and at least once in every tournament since 2008. So if nothing else, the Ducks have history on their side to get past No. 5 Oklahoma State on Thursday
The defending champions are absent
Remember how last year was supposed to the beginning of the end for smaller programs? Remember how it was going to be impossible for other teams to recruit against Kentucky now that they had won a championship with the “one and done” system? Well a lot can happen in a year. The “one and done” rule has been given the blunt end of the blame for a lower quality season, and the Wildcats play Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT Championship tonight.
Meanwhile the rest of the Southeastern Conference is spread pretty thin over the tournament. Ole Miss has been gaining momentum with the SEC Tournament championship in tow but is only a No. 12 seed. Missouri could beat Colorado State, but nobody thinks they’ll get past Louisville. Which means No. 3 seed Florida will have to carry the league over in the South region
Louisville getting no favors
Louisville may get a break playing in Lexington for the first weekend, but the on paper they’ll have the toughest road to Atlanta. No.2 seeded Duke has the highest RPI in the tournament and would’ve earned a No. 1 seed had they not lost to Maryland in the ACC Tournament. And the Cardinals will potentially have to deal with Missouri, Oregon, St. Louis — the Atlantic 10 champions — and Michigan State, who has made it to the Sweet 16 in four of its last five years. If the Big East champions make it to the Final Four, they’ll be riding a wave of momentum few teams could stop.