With the First Four over, the Madness can really begin with the Round of 64 starting today and going through this weekend with non-stop action across the country. Everyone knows the top seeds have a good shot—and seeds 1-4 in each region in particular—of making the Final Four. Since 1985, 110 of the 132 Final Four teams have been either a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, or No. 4 seed. The breakdown goes like this:
No. 1 seed: 54 appearances
No. 2 seed: 28 appearances
No. 3 seed: 15 appearances
No. 4 seed: 13 appearances
No. 5 seeds fittingly come in fifth at six appearances, and this year there are some strong ones with Kentucky, Clemson, Ohio State, and West Virginia (though a No. 5 seed has never won the national championship). No one would be surprised if a No. 1 seed like Villanova or a No. 4 seed like Arizona made it to San Antonio for the Final Four, and we can throw the strong No. 5 seeds in there too, but these lower seeds could become this year’s surprises and Cinderellas (two from each region).
No. 7 Nevada (South)
They’ll have to get past Shaka Smart and Texas tomorrow, which won’t be easy to do in March, but Nevada has an RPI of 19. The Wolf Pack put up 83.1 points per game this season, which was 18th in the nation, and they’ll need to be on their game if they advance to the second round to—in all likelihood—face No. 2 seed Cincinnati and their number two defense in the nation. If Nevada is able to get past the first weekend, they could be off and running to a deep run to the Final Four.
No. 8 Missouri (West)
Second-leading scorer Jordan Barnett has been suspended for Mizzou’s opening game because of a DWI, which already puts them at a disadvantage. But if they get by Florida State, Barnett returning to the starting lineup could give them a shot-in-the-arm for a matchup with No. 1 Xavier. The talented Michael Porter Jr. will be playing in just his third game, but he might want to really show what he can do for the NBA scouts after he missed the entire regular season with a back issue.
No. 10 Providence (West)
It’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for Providence, but they’ve beaten No. 1 seed Villanova once and No. 1 seed Xavier twice (including in the Big East tournament), so they can beat anyone on any given night. They might have been mis-seeded as a ten and have a potentially difficult matchup with UNC in the Round of 32, and their scoring margin of just +1.0 is nothing to get excited about, but the Friars should come into the tournament with a lot of confidence after their tournament run in the Big East.
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (South)
Loyola-Chicago didn’t have any games versus the top 25 this season, but they deserve credit for their 28-5 record and win in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. They have a top-five defense in terms of points per game (62.2), they have an RPI of 28, and they’ve won ten straight games heading into the tourney. Their success could come down to how they respond to facing the most talented teams they’ve faced all seasons, but if the defense remains strong, watch out for the Ramblers.
No. 11 St. Bonaventure (East)
We just saw St. Bonaventure show why they were given a No. 11 seed when they took out UCLA in the First Four matchup on Tuesday night—this team is good. Led by Jaylen Adams, Courtney Stockard, Matt Mobley, and Idris Taqqee (who all have at least 1.0 steal per game), the Bonnies are not going to back down from other teams. They may benefit from the First Four game to carry more momentum for an already-hot team entering the tournament.
No. 11 Syracuse (Midwest)
‘Cuse is only 2-7 versus top 25 teams this season, and they had to play in a First Four game, but they just went to the Final Four a couple years ago as a No. 10 seed, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they did it again as an 11. If teams struggle against Syracuse’s long zone defense and the Orange are able to hit shots, some big-time upsets might occur. It is quite the gauntlet to potentially go through Michigan State, Duke, and Kansas, but Jim Boeheim is obviously a coach that could get his team through it.
No. 12 Murray State (East)
Murray State is a really intriguing team. They have won 13 straight games, they only lost to Auburn by four in their only top-25 matchup, and they can shoot the ball. The Racers have a “big three” of conference player of the year Jonathan Stark, versatile freshman guard Ja Morant, and sweet-shooting big man Terrell Miller Jr. We all know about the 12/5 upset, which happens almost every year, and Murray State might be the team to pull it off and make a deep run.
No. 12 New Mexico State (Midwest)
The No. 12 seed best setup to make a run might be New Mexico State, who faces a No. 5 seed Clemson that is unfortunately without one of its best player (senior Donte Grantham sadly tore his ACL a couple months ago). If the Aggies get by the short-handed Tigers, they’ll have either No. 13 seed Charleston or No. 4 seed Auburn, both of which are winnable games. Then, they might need to face No. 1 seed Kansas, but if they get by the Jayhawks, they’ll potentially face a Duke or Michigan State team that could be winded after coming out of what might be the most difficult Elite Eight path.