It is one thing to get to the NCAA Tournament; it is another to advance from round to round.
The championship bracket is built to make certain paths to the Final Four easier for teams ranked higher up each respective region. Each No. 1 seed is supposed to have relatively a similar path to the most important weekend of the tournament compared to each other.
Not all seeds though are created equally, even if they read the same.
Not convinced? Which No. 10 seed would everyone want to face? Texas, Butler, Oklahoma, or Providence. No one wants the Friars, and most would want the reeling Sooners.
Even from seed line to seed line there is some discrepancies.
It is common knowledge that it is just as likely a No. 12 seed is going to upset the No. 5 seed as a No. 11 seed is to upset a No. 6. Nearly every season there is one double digit seed that is going to be in the Sweet 16. Rarely do we have a Final Four of exclusively No. 1 seeds.
Some paths to getting to the final four are easier than others. Look at Gonzaga a season ago compared to North Carolina.
Aside from the No. 1 seeds (who are supposed to have the easiest paths) here who is also has a relatively clean route to get to the Final Four. Also notice that none of these teams are from the Midwest.
No. 2 Cincinnati (30-4, 16-2 AAC)
Final Four Path: South; No. 15 Georgia State, No. 7 Nevada, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 1 Virginia
After just winning the American Tournament Championship, there is no better team in a position to make a run to the Final Four. Even though they are a No. 2 seed, and it may be considered cheating, it is hard not penciling these guys going far and being the South’s representative in the Final Four.
Moving past their First Round opponent, the Bearcats will be lined up with either Nevada or Texas for the right to get into the Sweet 16. Now the Wolfpack are really good team and some may pick them to knock off Cincinnati, but the bottom line is Nevada is down a player (Lindsey Drew) and has a question mark on another (Kendall Stephens).
After that it is likely Tennessee, probably the least tested of all of the No. 3 seeds, and then No. 1 Virginia. The Cavaliers may not even make it this far because their style of basketball has not done them any favors in previous tournaments. If Kentucky or Arizona do not knock off Virginia, then Cincinnati definitely has the personnel themselves.
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No. 5 Ohio State (24-8, 15-3 Big Ten)
Final Four Path: West; No. 12 South Dakota State, No. 4 Gonzaga, No. 1 Xavier, No. 2 North Carolina
Ohio State is a wildcard in this tournament. Falling down the ladder at the very end of the Big Ten conference play, the Buckeyes slipped to a No. 5 seed.
Assuming they get past their First Round matchup in South Dakota State, it is a relatively easy path for a five seed. Gonzaga is not nearly what they were a year ago, although you cannot count out a run from a Mark Few team in March. Gonzaga is from the West Coast Conference and is not as battle tested as Ohio State was this year. While many will point to a 27-point loss back on Nov. 11, the Buckeyes are a transformed team since then.
That leaves the bottom No. 1 seed Xavier in their way, followed by North Carolina who has to get past potentially Providence and Michigan. The three of the hottest teams in the country will battle it out in the bottom half of the bracket.
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No. 2 Purdue (28-6, 15-3 Big Ten)
Final Four Path: East; No. 15 Cal State Fullerton, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 1 Villanova
The bottom half of the East region has to be the widest open of all the NCAA Tournament. Purdue and Texas Tech should just float to their destined Sweet 16 contest.
Heck the one team, outside of these two that looks the best from this section of the draw is a team playing in the First Four. St. Bonaventure as a No. 11 seed is the third best team in the bottom half of the East.
If they were to get past Texas Tech, that will leave No. 1 Villanova as the last team left on their path to the Final Four. That is assuming the Wildcats get past a dangerous Alabama/ Virginia Tech opponent in the Second Round.
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No. 5 West Virginia (24-10, 11-7 Big 12)
Final Four Path: East; No. 12 Murray State, No. 4 Wichita State, No. 1 Villanova, No. 2 Purdue
West Virginia is in the same boat as Purdue. They have the chance to take advantage of a real weak section of the bracket; the top half of the East. While they may be caught in a snake hole with their 5-12 matchup with Murray State, the rest of their opponents may be picked away on their way to the Final Four. At the very least, their opponents will be coming off tough outs.
There is no guarantee that the Shockers get past their No. 13 seed opponent Marshall, who will be deadly with the pace of play they have. There is no guarantee that Villanova can get past Virginia Tech or Alabama. Which, the Virginia Tech/ Alabama First Round matchup should have an over-under of 200 points.
West Virginia could just waltz to the Elite Eight with only Texas Tech or Purdue standing in their way.
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