Louisville, Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga were awarded the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday as the 68-team field was set for the path to the Final Four in Atlanta.
Louisville took the overall No. 1 seed with its strong finish. The Cardinals defeated Syracuse on Saturday night for the Big East tournament championship and closed the season with 10 straight wins. Louisville opens Thursday in Lexington, Ky., against the winner of the First Four matchup between North Carolina A&T and Liberty.
Miami was in consideration for a top seed as well. The Hurricanes defeated North Carolina on Sunday for the ACC tournament title. However, Gonzaga got the final No. 1 seed, just ahead of Miami.
"Miami had a tremendous year. In the final analysis, we put Gonzaga just ahead of them," said NCAA Tournament committee chair Mike Bobinski, Georgia Tech's athletic director.
Indiana is the No. 1 seed in the East Region. The Hoosiers will open against LIU Brooklyn or James Madison on Friday in Dayton.
Indiana was expected to have a good chance at the No. 1 overall seed and the top seed in the Midwest Region, a slot that would have sent the Hoosiers through nearby Indianapolis for the regional semifinals and finals. Instead, Indiana closed the season by losing three of its final six games, including a defeat against Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Marquette earned the No. 3 seed in the East, despite having eight losses. Coach Buzz Williams said the team's solid non-conference schedule, which included games against Florida, Butler and Wisconsin, paid off.
"I think the committee is much more aware, and probably paying more attention to out-of-conference scheduling," Williams said. "In our tenure here, each year we've become more accountable to that. The problem is, when you go on the road, you're probably at times going to get smacked like we did at Florida. But in the end, I think it comes back and helps you because it shows to the committee that you were willing to try."
Kansas, the No. 1 seed in the South Region and the No. 2 overall seed, will open with Sun Belt champion Western Kentucky on Friday in Kansas City, Mo. The Jayhawks are making their 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the longest active streak. The record of 27 straight appearances was set by North Carolina from 1975-2001.
Gonzaga received the top seed in the West Region. The West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champion will play Southern on Thursday in Salt Lake City.
Ohio State was awarded the No. 2 seed in the West after defeating Wisconsin on Sunday for the Big Ten tournament title. The Buckeyes will play Iona in Dayton on Friday.
"Playing in Dayton, you can't have anything better," Ohio State guard Aaron Craft said. "Buckeye Nation travels very well, especially when it's an hour down the road."
Craft doesn't know much about Iona, but he knows the Buckeyes need to be ready.
"They're a great basketball team," he said. "There are no bad basketball teams left. If you make the tournament, you know you have to be ready to go. We know they like to get up-and-down a little bit, obviously they like to score the ball a lot. Transition and things like that are going to be very important."
Wisconsin is the No. 5 seed in the West. The Badgers will open play on Friday against Mississippi. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan believes his team's success in the tough Big Ten will be beneficial in the NCAA Tournament. His Badgers defeated Michigan and Indiana to get to the final.
"We proved in this tournament that we can make some shots against some pretty good teams," Ryan said. "Last time I looked, Michigan and Indiana were pretty good. So we're going into the tournament, different opponents, different area probably, whatever. Our guys earned a trip. Let's see what we can do with it."
Ryan said he hopes the Big Ten does well.
"Every team that goes into it has a chance to advance to the second, to the third, to the fourth, to the fifth, to the sixth game," he said. "So we just root for each other until we play each other."
Ole Miss got in by winning its conference tournament. The Rebels defeated Florida on Sunday to win the Southeastern Conference tournament. The goal heading into the season was to reach the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Rebels want more.
"We'd like to survive and advance," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "That is the mantra now, survive and advance. We're in the dance. So much is made about the NCAA Tournament. I was just glad to get the albatross that is the NCAA Tournament off the neck of our program so people now can exhale and get a new focal point."
The Big East had the most teams reach the field with eight, while the Big Ten had seven. Marquette's Williams is just glad to see some new competition.
"I'm glad that we don't have to play any more Big East teams," Williams said. "I think that it gives your team and your staff new life. It's exciting because it's the tournament, but it's also exciting because it's new blood. You have to figure it out."
Duke, also considered a contender for a No. 1 seed, was awarded the No. 2 seed in the Midwest. The Blue Devils will play Albany on Friday in Philadelphia.
Defending national champion Kentucky failed to get into the field.
"They were in the last group of teams that we considered," Bobinski said, noting that the team was judged harshly for its performance without injured center Nerlens Noel.