Even though the selection committee insists it doesn't assemble the bracket with an eye on creating must-see matchups, there has been plenty of evidence to the contrary over the years.
How many times has a coach faced his former school soon after leaving? And how many times have two programs met in a rematch of a previous epic NCAA tournament game?
If the selection committee has an eye on making some compelling matchups this season, there are plenty of realistic options. A look at five I'd love to see when the pairings are unveiled Sunday evening:
1. Wichita State (34-0) vs. Kansas (24-8): Kansas fans have snickered all season at Wichita State's high ranking and low strength of schedule. Wichita State fans have complained all season about Bill Self's unwillingness to consider scheduling the Shockers. What better way to settle things than a grudge match in the regional finals with a Final Four berth on the line? An intriguing sidebar also would be the brother-versus-brother element. Heralded freshman Andrew Wiggins of course stars for Kansas and older brother Nick Wiggins is a key rotation player off the bench for Wichita State. The best part is this is a pretty realistic possibility. Wichita State is a near-lock to be a No. 1 seed in the Indianapolis Region and Kansas will likely be a No. 2 seed unless it wins the Big 12 tournament and grabs the final No. 1. Most likely to meet in: Regional Final.
2. UCLA (24-8) vs. New Mexico (25-6): After leading New Mexico to a sweep of the Mountain West regular season and tournament titles last season, Steve Alford agreed to a 10-year contract extension with the Lobos. Days later, the New Mexico coach bolted for UCLA, explaining that the lure of coaching one of college basketball's most storied programs was too great. A matchup between the team Alford coaches and the program he helped build would be compelling, especially since the Lobos hired his longtime assistant and best friend Craig Neal. The Bruins and Lobos are probably trending toward No. 5 or 6 seeds at the moment, but another win or two in their respective conference tournaments could make a 4-5 round of 32 game a possibility. Most likely to meet in: Round of 32.
3. Wichita State (34-0) vs. Creighton (25-6): Had the Bluejays remained in the Missouri Valley Conference one more season, we'd have been treated to one of the better title races in league history. Instead the Bluejays rode Doug McDermott's national player of the year heroics to a second-place finish in the Big East and the Shockers followed up a surprise Final Four appearance last season by becoming the first team in 23 years to enter the NCAA tournament unbeaten. Would Wichita State still be unbeaten had it needed to sweep a pair of games against Creighton? We'll never know, but an NCAA tournament meeting between these longtime league rivals would be a fitting climax to dream seasons for both. Most likely to meet in: Sweet 16.
4. Kansas (24-8) vs. Duke (24-7): One of the most anticipated matchups of the regular season came way back in November when the nation got its first glimpse at Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker. It would be a great measure of how far both have come since then if the Jayhawks and Blue Devils met again on an even bigger stage with a Final Four berth on the line. Wiggins and Parker were both excellent in the first meeting, scoring 22 and 27 points respectively. Wiggins helped Kansas get a 94-83 win by switching onto Parker defensively and limiting him down the stretch. Most likely to meet in: Regional Finals.
5. San Diego State (28-3) vs. Michigan (24-7): Twenty-five years ago, Steve Fisher took over Michigan as an interim coach and led the Wolverines to a national title. He then recruited the Fab Five and led those teams to back-to-back title game appearances before getting fired in 1997 as a result of an off-court scandal. Fisher has since rejuvenated his career by resuscitating San Diego State's once-moribund program, leading the Aztecs to eight straight postseason appearances and four straight NCAA bids. With all Fisher's history with Michigan, it would be exciting if the team standing in San Diego State's way in its quest for its first-ever Elite Eight appearance was the Wolverines. Most likely to meet in: Sweet 16.
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