Reminder: Because of “first-round” play-in games, what used to be the first-round is now the second round; teams must win a third-round game to get into the Sweet 16.No. 2 Xavier vs. No. 15 Weber State, (9:20 p.m. Friday): Xavier’s outside shot at a No. 1 seed fell through the cracks when the Muskees lost to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament semifinal. They’ll settle for a school-best No. 2 seed and face the 15-seed Weber State Wildcats, with a third-round game against the winner of Wisconsin/Pittsburgh looming. Also on the horizon in the East Regional: Huggy Bear’s No. 3-seed West Virginia Mountaineers as a potential Sweet 16 matchup. No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Stonybrook (9:40 p.m. Thursday): Big Blue Nation was none too pleased with its No. 4 seed after winning the SEC regular season and conference tournament championships, partly because Texas A&M — the team UK beat in the SEC tournament final — received a No. 3 seed and much easier draw. If the Wildcats take care of business against Stonybrook, they could face an intense game against longtime rival Indiana; UK cancelled the schools’ annual series after the 2010-11 season. No. 5 Indiana vs. No. 12 Chattanooga (7:10 p.m. Thursday):
Like Kentucky, Indiana had a legitimate shot at a higher seed after ascending as high as No. 10 in the polls down the stretch, only to be upset by Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Should the Hoosiers get past Chattanooga, they’ll likely face a rematch with UK — although their longtime home-and-home series ended in 2011, the schools faced off in the 2012 Sweet 16, a 102-90 Kentucky win.No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Syracuse (12:15 p.m. Friday):
The Flyers might have hoped for a less dangerous 10 seed to come their way — many prognosticators expected the Syracuse Orange to miss the tournament altogether, but they have talented players who have beaten the likes of Duke, Notre Dame and UConn this year. The Flyers lost by three to UC’s first-round tournament matchup, St. Joe’s, in the Atlantic 10 semifinals after earning a share of the Atlantic 10 conference title. Should they take care of Syracuse, a matchup with NCAA Tournament contender Michigan State likely awaits.No. 9 Cincinnati vs. No. 8 St. Joseph’s (9:57 p.m. Friday):
All things considered, UC received a decent draw after spending the final two months of the season squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. After a crushing, four-overtime loss in the AAC conference tournament involving a three-quarter-court, game-tying shot that shouldn’t have counted, several injured Bearcats will benefit from the extra days off, though it will cost them a trip to Spokane, Wash. They play the No. 8-seed St. Joe’s Hawks on Friday night in the final game of the first round, with surprise No. 1-seed Oregon waiting in the third round if they move on.No. 9 Butler vs. No. 8 Texas Tech (12:40 p.m. Thursday):
Butler was in and out of the top 25 early this season, but a front-heavy Big East schedule left the team fighting its way into NCAA Tournament contention toward the end. The Bulldogs might be a tier below this year’s Big East heavyweights — No. 1-seed Villanova, 2-seed Xavier, 6-seed Seton Hall — but they’re an offensive-minded team, a necessity for tournament survival. They play the Midwest Regional’s 8-seed Texas Tech, with No. 1-seed Virginia on the horizon.
Read more on the NCAA tournament from this week's issue:
- Will Xavier cap a historic regular season with its first Final Four?
- Mick Cronin’s Bearcats look to put a regular season full of tough breaks behind them