(left) is one of four senior starters for the top-ranked Gators
. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
As expected, Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. The top-ranked Gators lead the South Region and will face the winner of Albany and Mount St. Mary's in the second round in Orlando. Virginia was awarded the much-debated No. 1 seed in the East region while Arizona, which was ranked No. 1 for eight weeks, is the top seed in the West region and undefeated Wichita State is the top seed in the Midwest.
Florida enters the tournament having won 26 consecutive games. It became the first team ever to go 18-0 in the SEC and then won the conference tournament title, beating Kentucky 61-60 on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. The Gators have not lost since Dec. 2, and their only two losses this season came at Wisconsin by six points on Nov. 12 and at Connecticut by one point on Dec. 2. They have held the No. 1 ranking in the AP poll since late February. Florida starts four seniors and is trying to reach the Final Four after losing in the Elite 8 each of the past three seasons.
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Kansas is the No. 2 seed in the South, while Syracuse got the three and UCLA, the Pac-12 tournament champion, the four. VCU received the five-seed and is matched up with No. 12 Stephen F. Austin, which hasn't lost since late November. Arizona lost the Pac-12 title game to UCLA but still grabbed a No. 1 seed thanks to its 30-4 record and regular season conference title. The Wildcats were the top-ranked team in the country and started the year 21-0 until losing at California on Feb. 1. They also lost starting center Brandon Ashley to a season-ending foot injury that night but recovered to secure their first No. 1 seed in 11 years. The Wildcats will start play in San Diego on Friday and the regionals will be in Anaheim.
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Wichita State got to the Final Four last year and its loss to Louisville in the national semifinal represents its most recent defeat. The Shockers' worthiness as a 1-seed was a topic of much discussion during the regular season, but they put those doubts to rest by becoming the first team since UNLV in 1990-91 to enter the NCAA tournament without a loss. Wichita State will open the tournament against the winner of Cal-Poly and Texas Southern in St. Louis, where the Shockers won the Missouri Valley conference title last weekend. The regionals are in Indianapolis.
Michigan, which was thought to be a strong candidate for a No. 1 seed but lost Sunday's Big Ten title game to Michigan State, will be the No. 2 in the Midwest. Duke is the No. 3 and defending national champion Louisville is the four-seed. Kentucky, which entered the season ranked No. 1 in the preseason but finished outside the top 25, is the eight-seed and looms as a potential opponent for Wichita State if both win their first games of the tournament.
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The Midwest had the biggest bubble surprise, as North Carolina State got into the field. The Wolfpack finished 9-9 in the ACC but boast the league's player of the year in T.J. Warren. N.C. State will be in the First Four against Xavier in a battle of 12-seeds. Two other First Four matchups are also in the Midwest: Cal-Poly against Texas Southern as 16-seeds and Iowa and Tennessee as 11-seeds.
Virginia won the ACC regular season and tournament title, and every ACC team that has ever pulled off that double except one (Miami, last season) has been rewarded with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers didn't even make the tournament last year, having to settle for the NIT after fading down the stretch. This year's team started slowly, losing non-conference games to VCU (at home), Green Bay (on the road) and, by 35 points, at Tennessee. Virginia then cruised to the ACC regular season title, going 16-2, losing only at Duke by four and at Maryland by six in overtime. The Cavs avenged that first league loss by upending the Blue Devils in Sunday's ACC tournament title game.
Villanova, the No. 2 seed, was one of several candidates for the East's No. 1 seed in recent weeks, along with Wisconsin, Syracuse, Duke, Michigan and Kansas. This region also includes five major conference tournament champions: Virginia (ACC), Iowa State (Big 12; No. 3), Michigan State (Big Ten; No. 4), St. Joseph's (Atlantic 10; No. 5) and Providence (Big East; No. 11).
Among the bubble teams left out are SMU, Georgetown, Florida State and UW-Green Bay. The last four in were N.C. State, Xavier, Iowa and Tennessee.