UConn got screwed in March Madness draw, and 9 other reactions from men’s NCAA bracket release

We have a bracket, and now we have three days to talk about it. Let’s start immediately.

Here are 10 immediate thoughts on this year’s field of 68:

1. It … kind seems like UConn got a raw deal?

Widely pegged as the best team in the country for the better part of this season, Connecticut is looking to become college basketball’s first back-to-back national champion since Florida pulled off the feat in 2006 and 2007. After rolling to the Big East tournament championship this week in New York, the Huskies were rewarded with the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.

But how much were they really rewarded?

The No. 2 seed in UConn’s East Region is Iowa State, a team that many actually believed had a chance to be a No. 1 seed. If that didn’t happen, then surely they would be regarded as the best or second-best No. 2 seed. Not according to the selection committee, which made the Cyclones the tournament’s No. 8 overall seed.

UConn also finds itself in a region that features two of the other three teams from last year’s Final Four, and the Huskies could face both of them before the regional final.

Florida Atlantic made a run to the national semifinals last year as a 9-seed. Now they’re back with virtually the exact same team a year later, and will start their run directly below UConn as an 8-seed. San Diego State, the team that knocked the Owls off at the buzzer, is also in the same starting spot they were as year ago after once again being assigned a 5-seed.

Tossing No. 3 seed Illinois and No. 4 seed Auburn into the mix means that the top four seeds in the East Region are all power conference tournament winner.

Without question, this is the region with the most momentum.

2. The South Region feels like the chaos region

Friendly reminder: Every single Final Four but one since 2012 has featured at least one team seeded No. 7 or worse. Since 2011, a total of 12 teams seeded seventh or worse have crashed the season’s final weekend.

If there’s another one this year, don’t be surprised if it comes out of this region.

Top-seeded Houston has been rock solid for most of this season, but is coming off of an eye-opening (in all the wrong ways) 69-41 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament title game. Second-seeded Marquette played the entire Big East tournament without star point guard Tyler Kolek, who also missed the final three games of the regular season with an oblique injury. Third-seeded Kentucky epitomizes the old cliche of “can beat anyone in the tournament and lose to anyone in the tournament. And fourth-seeded Duke has been so disappointed by its play in its last two games, that Blue Devil players reportedly went the infamous “players only meeting” route after their quick return home from the NCAA tournament.

You may hate the teams in the lower half of this bracket, but don’t be surprised if one plays its way to Phoenix.

3. Virginia? Gross.

The committee had an opportunity to give us appetizers on Tuesday and Wednesday featuring both America’s darling Robbie Avila and Indiana State as well as St. John’s and Rick Pitino. Instead, we’re getting Boise State vs. Colorado and Colorado State vs. … Virginia.

The Cavaliers finished 54th in the NET Rankings, lower than three of the first four teams left out of the field of 68.


But the NET is just a grouping tool, you say. What matters is how you fared against teams with high NET rankings, not necessarily what your own NET ranking is.

Virginia went 2-7 in Quadrant I opportunities.

But you can’t worry about numbers like that when a league like the ACC is so down, you say. Momentum and the eye test have to come into play at some point.

Virginia 4-5 over its last nine games and hasn’t beaten another team that’s in the NCAA tournament field since Feb. 3.

But the NET is just one metric, you say.

Virginia is currently No. 69 on Ken Pom. That’s 44 spots lower than St. John’s, 26 spots lower than Oklahoma, and 24 spots lower than Indiana State. Hell it’s three spots lower than Princeton.

They may do damage coming out of Dayton (someone always does), but the Cavaliers don’t belong in this year’s field.

4. Don’t be surprised if the 15/2 trend dies this year

A 15-seed has upset a 2-seed in each of the last three NCAA tournaments, but there’s reason to believe the trend will hit a brick wall this week.

Only 10 No. 1 seeds won their conference tournaments this season, making the strength at the bottom of this year’s bracket less than it has been in recent seasons. A team like 19-3 Saint Peter’s, who won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference as the league’s No. 5 seed, would almost certainly be a 16-seed in most seasons. This year, however, they’ll look to duplicate their 15-seed magic from the 2022 dance, when they became the first 15-seed ever to play in a regional final .

5. Intentionally or not, the committee gave us a lot of “old friend” matchup potential

Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger will face his old school, South Dakota State, in the first round.

Oregon head coach Dana Altman could face his old school, Creighton, in the second round.

Top-seeded North Carolina could be on an Elite Eight collision course with No. 2 seed Arizona, a team headlined by former Tar Heel star guard Caleb Love.

6. Purdue and Tennessee on a “believe it when I see it” collision course?

There might not be two programs in college basketball that America loves to doubt more in March right now than Purdue and Tennessee.

Purdue hasn’t been to a Final Four since 1980. In the past three years, highly-touted Boilermaker teams have seen their season end at the hands of a 13-seed, a 15-seed, and, of course, a 16-seed.

Tennessee is widely regarded as the best college basketball program to have never made a Final Four. The Volunteers are led by Rick Barnes, who is just 1-12 all-time in NCAA tournament games against better-seeded teams.

Maybe the committee is desperate for one of the two to flip their March narrative on its head, because they’ve both been assigned to the Midwest Region.

If they meet in the regional final, the winning fan base gets the cathartic moment of a lifetime, while the loser is resigned to “it’s just never going to happen” status for another 12 months.

7. The Committee did not care for the Mountain West

Heading into last year’s NCAA tournament, the Mountain West had been a woeful 3-15 in the NCAA tournament since 2015, and had sent just one team to the tournament’s second weekend over that same time span. Since 2016, the conference had been 1-11 in first round games, and was coming off a 2022 tournament where it became just the third conference in NCAA tournament history to finish 0-4 or worse in a single March Madness.

While Nevada, Boise State and Utah State all once again went one-and-done in the Big Dance, San Diego State almost single-handedly saved the league’s rep by making a run all the way to the national title game.

It would seem as thought the committee wasn’t overly swayed by the Aztecs’ heroics 12 months ago.

As expected, the Mountain West did place six teams in the field of 68, but where they were placed raised more than a few eyebrows.

Boise State and Colorado State, two teams nearly every Bracketoloigist had safely in the field, were two of the last four teams to earn at-large bids and will start their tournament runs in Dayton. Mountain West tournament champion New Mexico was dealt an 11-seed, confirming that the Lobos would not have been in the field if they hadn’t earned an auto-bid. SDSU earned the same No. 5 seed they were given a year ago, while regular season champion Utah State and its sparkling 27-6 record was resigned to the 8-line, two rungs lower than most had projected. Widely projected to be a 7-seed, Nevada was given a 10-seed.

If the Mountain West makes noise in the weeks ahead, it’s going to come from some teams likely winning multiple games as the worse-seeded squad.

8. Nor did it care for the Big East, outside of the league’s top three

The Big East is the second-best conference in America according to virtually every metric in existence.

It produced the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed in UConn, a No. 2 seed in Marquette, and a No. 3 seed in Creighton.

And that’s it. Seriously. No other teams from the second-best conference in the country were deemed worthy of inclusion in the NCAA tournament.

Seton Hall was the second team left out of the field (behind Oklahoma), while neither Rick Pitino’s St. John’s Red Storm or the Providence Friars were highlighted as one of the first four teams excluded.

I imagine Val Ackerman will have things to say shortly.

9. The 12/5 upset trend should return with a vengeance

In 32 of the last 38 years, at least one 12 seed has advanced out of the first round of the tournament. Over the last 15 years, 12 seeds actually own a highly respectable overall record of 25-35 against five seeds.

This wasn’t the case a year ago, as all four No. 5 seeds escaped the trendiest of all trendy first round upset picks, and two of them (San Diego State and Miami) actually advanced all the way to the Final Four.

This year’s 12-seed line is stacked.

UAB is loaded with experienced talent and can score with just about anyone. James Madison (31 wins) and McNeese (30 wins) are two of just four teams in the country to have hit the 30-win mark already. And Grand Canyon is right behind them with 29 wins, has been to the tournament in three of the last four years, and has a star guard in Tyon Grant-Foster.

At least one of these teams is winning this week.

10. Gonzaga extending its Sweet 16 streak is very much on the table

Gonzaga has been to eight consecutive Sweet 16s, the longest active streak in the sport and the third-longest streak ever behind only Duke (1998-2006) and North Carolina (1981-1993).

While the Zags drawing McNeese in the first round is certainly no cakewalk, they do potentially get a fourth-seeded Kansas team in the second round that is dealing with injuries to both of its All-Americans (Kevin McCullar and Hunter Dickinson).

Mark Few’s team is a couple of lines higher than most Bracketologists thought they’d be, and they seem to have gotten a pretty friendly draw to boot.

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