March Madness returns

Rebekah Waldron, North Campus Editor

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The 68-team single-elimination tournament holds 67 games over a period of 19 days, a jam-packed end to the season that aptly earned the nickname March Madness. The NCAA tournament begins with Selection Sunday, when the selection committee announces all 68 tournament teams, and ends with the Final Four and championship game three weeks later.

March Madness kicks off this year on Mar. 17. With current statistics, the top seeds are Duke, Tennessee, Virginia, and Gonzaga, according to the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee.
Falling into the number 2 seeds are Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, and possibly Michigan State. Number 3 seeds are lined up as Purdue, Kansas, Houston, and Marquette.

According to committee chair Bernard Muir, there was a strong consensus among the top seven teams on the seed list, while some of the lengthier deliberations centered on the back end of the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 lines.

Muir, who also serves as Director of Athletics at Stanford, said there was much discussion especially about the order of the top seven schools. “Duke and Tennessee were essentially 1 and 1a; it was that close,” he said. “A slight edge in some of the metrics was the difference in Duke getting the overall top seed. Virginia was a solid No. 3 team on the top line, and Gonzaga got the fourth No. 1 seed based largely on the teams they’ve beaten and the quality of the opponents they’ve lost to.”

Kentucky, with three wins away from home in the upper half of Quadrant 1, had an advantage as the best of the No. 2 seeds, while Michigan’s head-to-head win over North Carolina slotted the Wolverines at No. 6 on the seed list followed by the Tar Heels seventh.

“The final spot on the 2 line came down to Michigan State’s eight Quadrant 1 wins, five of which have come away from home,” said Muir. “While Kansas has a similar number of Quadrant 1 wins as the Spartans, we thought Kansas’s performance on the road, along with the unfortunate season-ending injury to Udoka Azubuike, kept the Jayhawks behind Purdue. At the same time, the abundance of quality wins kept Kansas in front of Houston.”

Marquette, Iowa State and Nevada were discussed for third seed, Muir said. “The tipping point for the committee was Marquette’s victories in the upper half of Quadrant 1, particularly against teams that made our top 16 list.” Iowa State, which included significant road wins, gave them an edge on Nevada.

Louisville was placed on the four line for similar reasons.

The final spot, Muir said was a race bettween Wisconsin and Villanova, ultimately falling to the latter.
The committee assigned Duke to the East regional in Washington, D.C. Tennessee was sent to the South regional in Louisville, while Virginia was assigned to the Midwest regional in Kansas City, Mo., and Gonzaga was sent to the West regional in Anaheim, Calif.

Because teams from the same conference seeded on the top four lines can’t be placed in the same region, and because the top No. 2 seed can’t go to the same region as the overall No. 1 seed, Kentucky was assigned to Kansas City.