NCAA Tournament 2018: Instant reactions to March Madness bracket reveal
Bubble teams, potential upsets and easiest region in the tournament
The 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket was announced on Sunday night to much fanfare. It was a new format with all of the automatic bids and at-large teams being announced in alphabetical order first, with a bracket reveal to follow. The curveball made for a fascinating evening of reactions from college basketball fans across the country, but now we're all quickly moving on to the bracket and the 68 teams that will compete for the national championship over the next three weekends.
There were some decisions that didn't come as much of a surprise, like Virginia, Villanova, Kansas and Xavier all getting No. 1 seeds. Some of the bubble debates will continue well into the week (more on that below), but the pleasant surprises came from the matchups we get following the seeding process.
With the ink on the bracket barely dry, a few instant takeaways:
1. The new format really stresses teams at the back end of the alphabet.
Alabama and Arizona State got to find out their futures early. (They're in.) Syracuse had to wait a little bit longer and sweat through seeing a pair of its ACC bubble brethren Louisville and Notre Dame get left out. Things were particularly painful for USC, a team that finished as the runner-up in the Pac-12 but saw arch rival UCLA -- not followed by USC -- get announced as an at-large team.
2. The Selection Committee doesn't care about how a team finishes the season.
We've heard all year that "results in November and December mean as much as results in February and March." Recency bias may impact our view of college basketball teams heading into the tournament, but the committee stayed true to its values with the inclusion of Oklahoma and Arizona State, a team that finished ninth in the Pac-12 and was one-and-done in the league tournament. USC, on the other hand, had the second-best Pac-12 record and lost to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game but got left out.
3. Villanova, not Virginia, has the most favorable path to the Final Four.
Virginia was named the No. 1 overall seed, but I think it received the toughest draw of any top seed. The South Region has four conference tournament champions (Virginia, Cincinnati, Arizona, Kentucky) and if the Wahoos are going to make it to the potential rock fight of the century against the Cincinnati in the Elite Eight they'll potentially have to earn it by getting past some explosive offenses.
Villanova gets Purdue and Texas Tech in the East, two teams that arguably were playing better basketball earlier in the year, but it will have to bring its A-game to get into the Sweet 16 given the potential second round matchup against Alabama or Virginia Tech.
4. Best 8-9 game: Alabama-Virginia Tech.
Collin Sexton showed in St. Louis why he has the potential to be the most exciting player in March. These two teams could combine for 170 points, and the winner is going to make life very difficult for Villanova.
5. Upset everyone (including me) is going to pick: South Dakota State over Ohio State.
It's a 5-12 matchup, Ohio State has looked limited at times over the last several weeks and the Jackrabbits have one of the top scorers in the country with Mike Daum.
6. Trae Young vs. Marvin Bagley is a possibility.
All of the eyeball emojis at Oklahoma drawing a 10-seed opposite Duke and the potential of getting all that NBA talent on the court together with a Sweet 16 bid on the line. The Sooners have to find new life between now the weekend, though, to get past a veteran Rhode Island group hungry for redemption after losing to Davidson on Sunday.
7. Best first weekend site: Boise.
If I had all of the dollars and no work responsibilities, I'd be booking tickets to Boise, Idaho, to sit through some of the most exciting basketball we'll see all year. Boise is going to have four of college basketball's biggest brands with Kentucky, Arizona, Gonzaga and Ohio State and two of the most exciting potential Cinderellas with Davidson and South Dakota State.
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