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NCAA tournament surprises start at the top

By Shannon Ryan Chicago Tribune (MCT) • Updated Mar 17, 2014 at 1:03 PM

The annual groans of disappointment, gripes over rejection and all-out jubilation took place Sunday as the NCAA tournament bracket was revealed.

The No. 1 seeds even produced a bit of a surprise.

As expected, Florida earned the No. 1 overall seed, while Arizona and Wichita State also took seats on the top line. The fourth No. 1 seed went to Virginia, which wrapped up an ACC tournament title Sunday.

That last seed was expected to go to Michigan before the Wolverines lost in Sunday’s Big Ten tournament title game to Michigan State. Selection committee chair Ron Wellman told CBS that the committee “considered very strongly” Michigan and Villanova for the final No. 1 seed, while Wisconsin did not factor much into the conversation.

As usual, the bracket left many confused.

Louisville (29-5), the defending national champion which won the American Athletic Conference and 12 of its last 13 games, earned a No. 4 seed. Some had speculated the Cardinals could earn a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed.

Michigan State, the Big Ten tournament champion, also was seeded lower than expected at No. 4.

“We look at the total body of work,” Wellman said.

Michigan, Villanova, Kansas and Wisconsin took No. 2 seeds.

Some bubble teams got good news with North Carolina State, Nebraska, BYU, Dayton, Iowa and Tennessee making the field.

The play-in games in Dayton, Ohio, will include Iowa vs. Tennessee, the former being on the decline and the latter being on a hot streak. Albany vs. Mount St. Mary’s, Cal Poly vs. Texas Southern and North Carolina State vs. Xavier are the other play-in games.

Despite some strong arguments for at-large bids, SMU and Green Bay were left out. Ultimately, a weak nonconference schedule doomed the Mustangs.

“It was a very difficult decision,” Wellman said. “We went back and forth a number of times.”

Florida (32-2) enters the South Region, along with No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Syracuse, with a program-record 26-game winning streak, facing what appears to be a favorable path.

Arizona (30-4) heads into the West Region as the top seed despite losing to UCLA in the Pac-12 title game Saturday. Their potential round-of-32 game comes against either No. 8 Gonzaga or No. 9 Oklahoma State. No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 3 Creighton are also in the region.

The No. 1 seed with the most doubters might be Wichita State (34-0), which enters the Midwest Region as the first undefeated team since 1991. The Shockers will prove critics wrong if they advance in a tough field that includes a potential round-of-32 game against either No. 8 Kentucky or No. 9 Kansas State. Louisville, No. 3 Duke, No. 2 Michigan and a tough No. 7 Texas are also in the region.

Virginia (28-6) tops the East Region after ending the ACC season on a high note, beating Duke for the tournament title Sunday. The region also includes No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Iowa State.

The Final Four begins in Arlington, Texas, on April 5 with the championship game on April 7.

Get ready for upsets, buzzer-beaters and Cinderellas. Welcome to the 2014 NCAA tournament.

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