The NCAA tournament selection committee confirmed Sunday what became apparent in early February when Kentucky pounded Southeastern Conference rival Florida by 20 points in Lexington: The Wildcats are favored to win the school’s eighth national title April 2 in New Orleans.
The committee bestowed on Kentucky (32-2) the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed. The Wildcats, leaders of the South Regional, will open in Louisville, about 75 miles west of campus, on Thursday against the winner of a preliminary game between Mississippi Valley State (21-12) and Western Kentucky (15-18). Those teams will play in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday.
Kentucky is beatable, as evidenced by Sunday’s 71-64 loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament championship game. But before that, the Wildcats had won 24 in row with a handful of future NBA first-round picks, including the country’s best defensive player in freshman Anthony Davis, who might also be the nation’s best player overall.
At the tournament’s outset, the next question is: Which other teams have shown promise to win it all? The selection committee gave nods, in the form of No. 1 seeds, to Syracuse in the East Regional, North Carolina in the Midwest and Michigan State in the West.
By the end of the regular season, it was a foregone conclusion that Syracuse would follow Kentucky on the top seed line. There was an air of inevitably for North Carolina, too, the preseason No. 1 that rolled in an 88-70 win at Duke in the regular-season finale March 3.
Michigan State has come a long way, by far the farthest of the No. 1 seeds. The Spartans (27-7) will play in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday against No. 16 seed LIU Brooklyn.
“We came from nothing,” Michigan State senior Draymond Green said on CBS after the Spartans defeated Ohio State 68-64 for the Big Ten tournament title.
After last season, the Spartans lost two starters to graduation and eventually another, current senior Delvon Roe, to recurring knee problems. Unranked to start the season, Michigan State opened with back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Duke.
Such tough games are common for Michigan State under coach Tom Izzo and his “we’ll-play-anyone-any-time-any-place” philosophy. The improvement rooted there.
Source: USA Today | Marlen Garcia