Unbeaten Wichita State earned a No. 1 seed but was done no favors by the NCAA Tournament selection committee in its quest to become the first unbeaten national championship since Indiana in 1976.
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Placed in the Midwest region, the Shockers could potentially have to go through preseason No. 1 Kentucky just to reach the Sweet 16, then face red-hot Louisville, which earned a surprisingly low No. 4 seed despite breezing through the American Athletic Conference tournament.
Wichita State joined Florida (South), Arizona (West) and Virginia (East) on the top line, three of which were set in stone long before Selection Sunday. The question was whether Michigan, which won the Big Ten regular season title, would need to beat Michigan State for a third time this season to stay on the top line.
It turned out that Michigan's 69-55 loss in the Big Ten tournament championship opened the door for Virginia, which won both the ACC regular season and tournament titles, to get a No. 1 seed in the East.
Florida earned the No. 1 overall seed after a 32-2 season in which it swept through the SEC schedule, edging Kentucky 61-60 Sunday in the tournament championship. For the Gators to get to the Final Four, however, they could very well have to get by No. 2 seed Kansas in the South Regional final.
Kansas was in play for a No. 1 seed until its loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament, and there was some question whether the selection committee might move the Jayhawks down to a No. 3 based on the injury status of star center Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks struggled a bit late in the season without Embiid, projected by many as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, and Kansas has said it's unlikely he'll play in the first two rounds due to a stress fracture in his back.
It's unclear whether Embiid will be able to return if the Jayhawks advance to the Sweet 16.
Kansas' seed was indicactive, how
ever, of the amount of respect the committee gave the Big 12, the top-ranked conference in the Ratings Percentage Index. Seven Big 12 teams made the field, with Iowa State earning a No. 3 seed, Oklahoma getting a No. 5 seed and Baylor – which appeared well out of the tournament in early February – getting up to a No. 6 after winning 10 of its last 12.
The Atlantic 10 was also shown a significant amount of respect, with six bids and several teams seeded higher than projected including Virginia Commonwealth (No. 5), Saint Louis (No. 5), UMass (No. 6) and Dayton, which avoided the play-in game as a No. 11 in the main bracket.
On the flip side, both the American Athletic Conference and the SEC were disappointed in the results. The AAC hoped to place five teams in the tournament, but SMU was snubbed after losing to Houston in the conference tournament quarterfinals. The SEC got just three teams into the field including Tennessee, which was placed in a play-in game opposite Iowa.
The only true bubble surprise was North Carolina State, which went just 3-9 against the RPI top-50 and had two bad losses. The Wolfpack will face Xavier on Tuesday in a play-in game.