On Sunday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship bracket was released. So whether you’re filling out a bracket or just looking forward to watching the madness, here is the breakdown of “the bracket.”
Notice: All stats and information were gathered using ESPN’s college basketball database.
The East Region:
Villanova Wildcats (31-3) 1 seed: Villanova was last year’s National Champions, and now are this years’ top overall seed. It seems the Wildcats are ready to make a run at a second straight national championship. Villanova is led by National Player of the Year candidate, Josh Hart, who averages 18.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Villanova’s mixture of talent, toughness and experience will make them a tough team to beat.
Duke Blue Devils (27-8) 2 seed: Despite being the fifth seed in the ACC tournament this past week, Duke managed to rattle off four wins in four nights to win the tournament. Prior to the tournament, many questioned if Duke’s talent could translate into winning games in March. It seems after an injury-riddled season, Duke’s talent is coming together. If the ACC tournament is any indication of the NCAA tournament, Duke is a team that can win it all.
Southern Methodist University Mustangs (30-4) 6 seed: SMU won both the Conference USA regular season title and the conference tournament. Although they are not from a “Power Five” conference, SMU is a talented team that could make a run. The Mustangs best player is a Duke transfer, Semi Ojeleye, who was Conference USA player of the year. If SMU can play up to its potential, they will be a dangerous team to face in the tournament.
The Midwest Region:
Kansas Jayhawks (28-4) 1 seed: Kansas finds itself back in a familiar spot, a number one seed. The Jayhawks have had another fantastic season and have plenty of talent. Kansas is highlighted by National Player of the Year candidate, Guard Frank Mason III. Mason is an electric scorer who can get to the rim in a flash, averaging 20.8 points per game. The Jayhawks are a threat to win it all, as they are every year.
Louisville Cardinals (24-8) 2 seed: Louisville finished fourth in a great ACC and will be a tough team to beat in the tournament. The Cardinals trademark is their incredible length and depth. But, the key cog to Louisville’s machine is Guard Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell can light up the scoreboard and his defense is also a game-changer, as he averages 2.1 steals a game. Therefore if the Cardinals offense can follow suit, they could make it out of the Midwest region.
Iowa State Cyclones (23-10) 5 seed: It is hard to call a team that just won the Big 12 tournament a sleeper, but their seeding warrants the mention. This Iowa State team is very similar to those of years past in that they can really score. The Cyclones are 27th in the country in points per game. If this team can get to the sweet sixteen and face Kansas, it could be interesting as they defeated the Jayhawks on the road February 4.
Michigan Wolverines (24-11) 7 seed: Michigan is another team coming off a conference tournament championship. Michigan won four games in four days to win the Big 10 tournament, just one day after being in a plane crash. But, the team came together to play their best basketball of the season, playing up to the potential many saw in them all year. While the road will be tough, this team seems like they still have some March magic left in them.
The West Region:
Gonzaga Bulldogs (32-1) 1 seed: Gonzaga is coming off one of the best seasons in school history, in which they only lost to BYU in their final regular season game. The “Zags”, as many call them, tore through a weak West Coast Conference that only had one other team make the tournament. However, the Bulldogs have big time non-conference wins over Iowa State, Arizona and Florida. It will be interesting to see how they respond to playing elite level teams.
Arizona Wildcats (30-4) 2 seed: Arizona is coming off a PAC 12 tournament title in which they defeated both UCLA and Oregon. Arizona has been a fixture in the top ten rankings all season. Arizona has been an elite defensive team, with great athletes throughout their roster. However, Arizona is ranked 108th in points per game, therefore they must be able to score more consistently if they want to break into the Final Four.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-9) 5 seed: Notre Dame is fresh off a trip to the ACC tournament championship game in which they took an incredibly hot Duke team down to the wire. Notre Dame has been to the Elite Eight the past two seasons and has a veteran coach in Mike Brey. The Irish are a battle tested team that is versatile offensively. If they can get a shot at Gonzaga, there is a real chance they pull an upset.
Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-7) 14 seed: More commonly known as “Dunk City,” for their Sweet Sixteen run as a 15 seed in 2013, the Eagles could be a team to watch as a potential upset pick. FGCU is matched up with Florida State in the first round, a team that has been struggling as of late. The Eagles have won 12 of their last 13 games. Along with this, they travelled to Michigan State early in the season and only lost by one. Anything can happen in March and FGCU could be a team to consider as a first round upset.
The South Region:
North Carolina Tar Heels (27-7) 1 seed: The Tar Heels were the ACC regular season champions and were consistently a top team throughout the season. The Tar Heels are a team that when at their best, could beat any team in the country. They are 12th in the country in points per game, 1st in the country in rebounds per game and 2nd in the country in assists per game. This team is one of the favorites to win it all and for good reason. The Heels could very well be cutting down the nets come early April.
Kentucky Wildcats (29-5) 2 seed: Kentucky had another successful year under Coach Calipari. Kentucky constantly has top recruiting classes with multiple “one and done” players. This years’ Freshman phenoms have led the Wildcats all season. Freshman Malik Monk is one of the best scorers in all of college basketball and is expected to be a lottery pick in this years’ upcoming NBA draft. While as talented as anyone, Kentucky’s success will rely on how Freshman respond to tough situations against hungry tournament teams.
UCLA Bruins (29-4) 3 seed: UCLA basketball seems to be back and for good reason. They are led by the most talked about player in the country, Lonzo Ball. Ball could be the top pick in the upcoming draft. Ball is a National Player of the Year Candidate and is known for his supreme passing ability, averaging 7.7 assists. While the Bruins can score with anyone, their defense will decide just how far they can go.
Butler Bulldogs (23-8) 4 seed: Butler is known for their 2010 and 2011 Cinderella runs to the National Championship in which they lost both times. Since these runs, Butler has built a perennial tournament team, and this years’ team has the ability to beat any team in the country. Butler beat Villanova both times they faced in Big East play and defeated Arizona early in the season. While they may not have the same talent as the favorites in the region, they have proven they can play with any team in the country.
Witchita State Wheat Shockers (30-4) 10 seed: Witchita State is another team that is no stranger to success. With back to back tournament runs in 2013 and 2014, the Shockers know how to be successful in March. The Shockers rank in the top 20 in the country in scoring, rebounding, assists and defense. The Shockers go nine deep and will give whoever they play more than they will be in for.