The wait is over, the 2019 NCAA Tournament bracket has finally been revealed. Here are our immediate reactions and region breakdowns for the tournament bracket.
The ACC makes history with three No. 1 Seeds
The four No. 1 seeds in the 2019 NCAA Tournament are Duke, Virginia, North Carolina and Gonzaga.
That’s a historic accomplishment for the ACC as it earned three No. 1 seeds, something that only the Big East in 2009 has accomplished.
Duke earned the No. 1 overall seed after winning the ACC Championship. The healthy return of Duke freshman phenom Zion Williamson in the ACC Tournament surely gave the Blue Devils a significant boost and removed any concern about their three losses in their final six regular season games.
They entered Selection Sunday with a 29-5 record but they were only at full strength for one of those losses – an 89-87 neutral-court defeat against Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational Championship.
Williamson scored 81 points on 33-of-43 shooting in Duke’s three ACC Tournament wins and he looked as healthy as ever, as the Blue Devils defeated Syracuse, North Carolina and Florida State in succession.
Virginia had a case to be the No. 1 overall seed with its 29-3 record this season, two of those losses coming against No. 1 overall seed Duke.
North Carolina finished the season strong after starting 10-3 in non-conference play. It lost just three times the rest of the season after going 9-0 on the road in ACC play.
The Bulldogs earned a No. 1 seed for the third time in program history and the second time in the last three seasons. They lost in the 2017 national championship to North Carolina as a No. 1 seed.
The Last Four In
The First Four will see Belmont versus Temple and Arizona State versus St. John’s, as one mid-major will go to Dayton with three teams from top seven conferences.
Belmont had a NET ranking of No. 47 – better than Nebraska (No. 48), Lipscomb (No. 49), TCU (No. 52), Creighton (No. 53) and Indiana (No. 54).
The Bruins finished 26-5, with a 2-2 Quadrant 1 record, 3-1 Quadrant 2 record, 3-2 Quadrant 3 record and 17-0 Quadrant 4 record, so they had a winning record against opponents in the top two quadrants, which likely offset their two bad losses.
Temple made the NCAA Tournament in the final season of Fran Dunphy’s tenure with the Owls. They went 23-9 with a No. 56 NET ranking. The Owls only had one bad loss – a 77-70 home loss to Penn – and they had two Quadrant 1 wins – home victories over Houston and UCF.
Arizona State and St. John’s – the last two teams in the field – had much higher NET rankings than Belmont and Temple. The Sun Devils’ NET ranking is No. 63 and the Red Storm’s NET ranking is No. 73.
The Johnnies were the final team in the field, which could set a precedent for how low a team’s NET ranking can be and still earn an at-large bid. For perspective, Syracuse held the record for the lowest RPI of an at-large team with an RPI of No. 72 in 2016.
Sorry, TCU, NC State, Indiana, Clemson, Texas, UNC Greensboro, Creighton and Alabama. The selection committee said there’s no room for you.
The First Four Out were UNC Greensboro, Alabama, TCU and Indiana.
Their NET rankings were No. 60, No. 59, No. 52 and No. 54, respectively.
UNC Greensboro, TCU and Indiana didn’t have any Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 4 losses but they were all multiple games below .500 in Quadrants 1/2.
UNC Greensboro was just 2-6 in Quadrant 1 and it only had four total wins in Quadrants 1/2. TCU was 3-9 in Quadrant 1 and just 9-13 in the top two quadrants. Indiana was 6-9 in Quadrant 1 and 8-15 in Quadrants 1/2.
Alabama had two Quadrant 3 losses and it was just 3-10 in Quadrant 1. The Crimson Tide was 10-13 in Quadrants 1/2.
Virginia is the No. 1 seed in the South, where the Cavaliers will be joined by No. 2 seed Tennessee, No. 3 seed Purdue and No. 4 seed Kansas State. The South Region has some higher-seeded conference tournament champions in No. 6 seed Villanova and No. 7 seed Cincinnati, if you’re a believer in picking a team that enters the NCAA Tournament on a hot streak.
Wisconsin-Oregon is the 5/12 matchup.
North Carolina is the top seed in the Midwest after Duke and Virginia claimed the East and South regions, respectively. The other protected seeds are No. 2 seed Kentucky, No. 3 seed Houston and No. 4 seed Kansas.
Kentucky defeated North Carolina 80-72 in December in the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago and the Wildcats knocked off the Jayhawks 71-63 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge in January, so Kentucky has already beaten two of the other top seeds in its region.
The Midwest also has some dangerous lower-seeded teams like No. 5 seed Auburn, which won the SEC Tournament, No. 6 seed Iowa State, which won the Big 12 Tournament, and No. 7 Wofford, which won the Southern Conference Tournament and is ranked in the top 20 on kenpom.com.
Houston, the No. 3 seed in the region, suffered just three losses all season, one of which came against Cincinnati in the AAC Championship.
Duke is the No. 1 overall seed and claimed the East Region. Big Ten Champion Michigan State, which is fresh off a third victory against Michigan, is the No. 2 seed in the region.
LSU, which is full of off-court controversy, is the No. 3 seed in the East. The Tigers are ranked No. 18 on kenpom.com – the lowest of the No. 3 seeds. Virginia Tech, which will get Justin Robinson back for the NCAA Tournament is the No. 4 seed.
Gonzaga will get to stay out West as the fourth No. 1 seed. However, the ‘Zags and their No. 1-ranked offense have a tough path to the Final Four with No. 2 seed Michigan (No. 2 in defensive efficiency), No. 3 seed Texas Tech (No. 1 in defensive efficiency) and No. 4 seed Florida State (No. 9 in defensive efficiency), plus No. 8 seed Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in the mix.
No. 5 seed Marquette and No. 6 seed Buffalo could be sleeper picks to make a deep run if you like the 3-point shooting of the Golden Eagles or the experienced Bulls, which knocked off Arizona last season.