NOTE: The first round of the NCAA Tournament is called the second round because of play-in games Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s weird but that's just how things are now.
(No. 1 seed; 34-0, 18-0 SEC)
No. 1 seed vs. winner of Manhattan/Hampton 9:40 p.m. Thursday
Kentucky’s quest to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated and win the National Championship will go through a regional foe early on, as the Wildcats will play the winner of UC-Purdue in the second round (assuming they don’t suffer the biggest upset in the history of the tournament, as a No. 1 seed has never lost to a 16 in the first round). The draw is a bummer for Purdue and Cincinnati — UK has dominated all year, having been ranked No. 1 the entire season and earning the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have mass future pros and are the favorite to win the whole thing.
(24-8, 12-6 ACC)
No. 4 seed vs. No. 13 UC-Irvine 4:10 p.m. Friday
It’s easy to imagine the Cardinals making another deep tournament run — they made the Final Four in 2012 before winning the National Championship in 2013, following that up with a Sweet 16 appearance last year. They’ll be favored in their second- and third-round games whether Wyoming or Northern Iowa await after Friday’s expected dispatching of UC-Irvine. Louisville’s defense and athleticism would go a long way in a Sweet 16 matchup with 1 seed Villanova. Should Rick Pitino’s squad continue on, a rematch with No. 2 seed Virginia could await. Louisville and UVA split their two ACC meetings this season.
(22-10, 12-6 Big East)
No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 Texas 2:45 p.m. Thursday
Butler’s road to the Sweet 16 is not going to be an easy one. The Bulldogs’ second-round opponent, Texas, was a preseason top 10 team that somewhat underachieved in the tough Big 12. Still, an 8-10 conference showing and wins over West Virginia and Baylor were enough to bump the Longhorns out of the first-round play-in games. If Butler can handle Texas it will likely face No. 3 seed Notre Dame, which took down Duke and North Carolina on its way to winning the ACC Tournament last week.
Ohio State Buckeyes
(23-10, 11-7 Big Ten)
A down year for the Buckeyes still finds their talented but young team with a chance to do some damage in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State will have to get past one of the NCAA’s best mid-major coaches, Shaka Smart, who led Virginia Commonwealth to the Final Four as an 11 seed in 2011. The Rams are fresh off winning the A-10 tournament title after spending several weeks in the top 25 this season. Should the Bucks prevail, Thad Matta and his dudes would likely play against another former Xavier coach’s dudes in the third round: Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats are the No. 2 seed in the West.
(20-13, 9-9 Big Ten)
No. 10 seed vs. No. 7 Wichita State 2:45 p.m. Friday
While many saw Indiana as a bubble team on Selection Sunday, the committee valued the Hoosiers’ body of work enough to give them a 10 seed, sending them off to play a talented 7 seed in Wichita State. Indiana struggled down the stretch, losing nine of 14 games after knocking off No. 13 Maryland Jan. 22. But the Hoosiers are another young Big 10 team with plenty of talent and an excellent offense, though their opponent is attempting to follow up a historic run. The Shockers (yea, that’s their real name) made it to the Final Four in 2013 and then earned a No. 1 seed last year after finishing the regular season 31-0.
(25-8, 13-5 A-10)
No. 11 seed vs. No. 11 Boise State 9:10 p.m. Wednesday
Analysts are torn between which is weirder, Dayton’s 11 seed or the fact that the selection committee put the Flyers on their home court for a Wednesday night play-in game. Either way, it appears that UD’s lack of quality wins (only one top-50 RPI win) nearly cost the team a trip to the real tournament despite a respectable 32 RPI ranking. Hopefully the Flyers will get past Boise State so they can beat 6 seed Providence in the second round and make the committee look like a bunch of jerks.