Despite the tumultuous regular college basketball season, there were not many surprises — and few real favorites — in the brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday. In a year when the top ranking was traded more often than Facebook stock, and the defending champion (Kentucky) did not even get a tournament bid, just surviving to become one of the chosen 68 teams might seem an accomplishment. But if the regular season is any indication, upsets may be more of a rule in this year's brackets.
No. 2 for Miami is first for ACC: No. 2 Miami is the first team to sweep the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles and not receive a No. 1 seed. Instead, Indiana, which is coming off a loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, is the top seed. The Hoosiers are led by the lightning-quick guard Victor Oladipo, a matchup nightmare. No. 3 Marquette and No. 8 North Carolina State are dangerous teams.
A revived Orange: A couple of weeks ago, Syracuse was considered an also-ran. Coach Jim Boeheim said he was ready to go golfing. The Orange were done. Things have changed, after a spirited run to the Big East title game. If point guard Michael Carter-Williams can take care of the ball and James Southerland can maintain his 3-point touch, the Orange could be tough.
Upset special: No. 12 California basically gets a home game against No. 5 Nevada-Las Vegas in San Jose, a huge benefit. The Runnin' Rebels edged Cal, 76-75, in December.
Plenty of roadblocks for No. 1 Louisville: Louisville earned the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, but the selection committee did not do the Cardinals any favors. This is a power-packed region. No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Michigan State loom as potential roadblocks en route to a spot in the Final Four, and do not overlook No. 4 St. Louis or No. 6 Memphis.
Drew's happy return: Valparaiso's coach, Bryce Drew, is part of tournament lore for his buzzer-beater in the first round of the 1998 tourney, which lifted the 13th-seeded Crusaders past Ole Miss. Fifteen years later, Valpo advanced to the Horizon League final thanks to a desperation 3-pointer by Ryan Broekhoff that seemed all-too familiar. Now Drew has them in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.
Upset special: No. 5 Oklahoma State looked sluggish in its loss to Kansas State at the Big 12 tournament, and No. 12 Oregon is riding high after winning the Pac-12 championship.
Marquee matchup could come early: If No. 1 Kansas beats No. 16 Western Kentucky, and No. 8 North Carolina gets past No. 9 Villanova, the teams would meet in a marquee round of 32 matchup. No. 4 Michigan could get all it can handle against No. 13 South Dakota State.
Love, not losses: “Play Like You're Loved" is the slogan of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. “We don't run around like we're in a lovey-dovey commune," coach Scott Nagy said, “but what I want our guys to know is that family, teammates and coaches love them and that you don't have to perform in order to know that you are loved." It seems to work. South Dakota State led the Summit League in scoring (73.9 points per game).
Upset special: No. 6 UCLA lost Jordan Adams, its second-leading scorer, to a broken foot in the Pac-12 Conference tournament. The Bruins would have had trouble coping with No. 11 Minnesota's speed regardless.
Tourney champions will clash quickly: Despite a relatively weak strength of schedule, Gonzaga is the top seed in this region — a mid-major no more. A pair of conference tournament champions in No. 5 Wisconsin (Big Ten) and No. 12 Mississippi (Southeastern Conference) will meet, and Badgers coach Bo Ryan's first order of business will be slowing Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson. No. 3 New Mexico against No. 14 Harvard is an intriguing matchup.
Weber's turnaround: Not a bad turn of events for coach Bruce Weber. Fired by Illinois after seven seasons last March, he went to Kansas State, where he took the Wildcats to a share of the Big 12 regular-season crown for the first time since 1977. Led by the senior guard Rodney McGruder, Kansas State was eighth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.41) this season.
Upset special: No. 11 Belmont attempts 22 3-pointers per game, and No. 6 Arizona's perimeter defense is not its strength.