The battle for who was going to be the fourth number-one seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament was as up-in-the-air as it has ever been. Villanova, Kansas, Virginia, and Louisville were all in the mix to grab that last spot atop the bracket. Ultimately, it was the Cavs who were granted the top seed by virtue of their regular season ACC title as well as their ACC tournament title (so don’t tell me they didn’t earn it). Here, we’re going to break down each top seed’s road to the Final Four. Who is going to make it through to Arlington and who is going to be sent home early?
Florida: Easiest Path
The Gators got a very favorable draw in the South Region. Kansas, the number-two seed in the region, can very well be sent home early to by the hand of either Stanford or New Mexico in the Round of 32, assuming that Joel Embiid continues to be sidelined. With Kansas theoretically out of the way, the only worries that Florida should have are VCU and Ohio State. VCU can run in transition with the speed of the Gators but don’t have the size to match up with them in the paint. If they are going to have a chance to win, they will need their three-pointers to drop. Ohio State can pull it off because Aaron Craft is a winner and he being a senior will give him extra motivation to carry the Buckeyes deep. Bottom line, though, the Florida Gators are too good to be ousted by any of the teams in the South and should make it to the Final Four.
Arizona: Second Hardest Path
The Wildcats got an exceptionally tough draw in the West Region. Looking at the other teams in the region, Arizona can lose to just about any of them. The winner of the Gonzaga/Oklahoma State game can give them a lot of troubles in the Round of 32. If they can best the winner of that game, they should be able to make it to the Elite Eight, except for a tough potential game against UCLA, who beat them in the Pac-12 tournament. But their real worries should be who comes out of the bottom half of the bracket. Wisconsin, Oregon, Baylor, Nebraska and Creighton all have what it takes to beat the Wildcats. If I were Arizona, I would be dreading going against any of those teams. The Wildcats will not make it any further than the Elite Eight.
Wichita State: Hardest Path
When Louisville is a No. 4 seed, you know it’s going to be a tough region. The Shockers will have to prove that they are capable of beating good teams and back up that undefeated record if they want to advance to the Final Four. Unfortunately for Wichita State, there is no way they make it to North Texas. Each round after their first game presents a significant challenge for the Shockers. The under-seeded Kentucky Wildcats will have a chip on their shoulder and can very well beat Wichita State in the Round of 32. After that, Saint Louis, Louisville, Duke and Michigan present a substantial hurdle for the Shockers to get over, especially since they haven’t faced a hurdle as high as these all season. The Shockers are going to need a lot of help if they want to reach AT&T Stadium.
Virginia: Second Easiest
Many were shocked to see the Cavs get the No. 1 seed, despite all they’ve done this season to earn it. Any team that dominates the ACC such as they did should be in line for a top seed. However, Virginia will be facing talent levels they haven’t been used to seeing this year. Sean Kilpatrick, if they end up playing each other, will be the best player the Cavaliers have faced all year — and they will have a hard time locking him down. Michigan State will also be an extremely tough game for the Cavaliers to win. Michigan State, in a lot of the brackets that have already been made, is the favorite to come out of the region. The bottom half of the bracket is not as tough as the top, though. Villanova is not as good as some people think and can easily be bumped in either the Round of 32 or the Sweet 16. So if Virginia can get into the Elite Eight, they have a great shot to make it to North Texas.
So what have we learned? Florida will make the Final Four, Wichita State is in a lot of trouble, and Virginia and Arizona are toss-ups. This year’s college basketball has been as widespread as ever. So many teams can win the tournament this year, which does not help many of us with our brackets. My advice: Do not get caught up in the number next to a team’s name. Just because a team is a number-one seed doesn’t mean they are a lock for the Final Four. Choose carefully and may the bracket Gods ever be in your favor.