Villanova honored by No. 1 seed, but knows it has to earn it
A top seed was one thing for Villanova. Living up to it is next on the agenda.
The Wildcats got the East’s No. 1 seed and a date with Lafayette on Thursday in Pittsburgh when the NCAA Tournament brackets were announced on Sunday.
“We’re thrilled to be the second No. 1 seed,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of being considered better than every team in the tournament with the notable exception of unbeaten Kentucky. “That’s a great honor. The 1 seed is more prestigious than it is advantageous.”
The Wildcats (32-2) have won 15 games in a row and are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the program’s stunning upset of Georgetown in the national championship game. Lafayette’s Leopards (20-12), winners of the Patriot League’s automatic berth, will be making their fourth trip to the tournament — and first since 2000.
No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 15 Belmont
Virginia will be facing a familiar foe.
Taylor Barnette, who left the Cavaliers (29-3) to go to Belmont (22-10), will play his former school on Friday in Charlotte.
Barnette’s desperation 3-pointer in the Ohio Valley Conference final against Murray State gave the Bruins their seventh automatic NCAA berth in the last 10 years.
No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 Albany
Oklahoma reached the big tournament for the third year in a row and will face Albany on Friday night in Columbus, Ohio.
The Sooners (22-10) haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2009, when they fell to North Carolina in a regional final.
Albany (24-8) is making its third straight appearance in the tournament after winning the America East’s berth on Peter Hooley’s 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left.
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 UC Irvine
Louisville will have to deal with some Anteaters.
Tournament newcomer UC Irvine will take on the Cardinals (24-8) on Friday night in Seattle. The Anteaters (21-12) won the Big West Tournament title for their first NCAA Tournament berth in 38 years as a Division I program.
The Cardinals are in the NCAA Tournament for the ninth straight year.
No. 5 Northern Iowa vs. No. 12 Wyoming
Coming off one of its best seasons, Northern Iowa tests itself against Wyoming in Seattle.
The Panthers (30-3) tied their school record for victories by beating Illinois State for the Missouri Valley Tournament title. They overcame an 18-point deficit to pull it off.
Northern Iowa is 3-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to a regional semifinal before losing to Michigan State in 2010 for its best showing.
Wyoming (25-9) is in the tournament for the first time since 2002 after upsetting San Diego State in the Mountain West title game.
No. 6 Providence vs. No. 11 Boise State/Dayton
Sixth-seeded Providence has the advantage of facing a First Four team in its opening game — oddly, one that may be coming off an NCAA Tournament game on its home court.
The Friars (22-11) will face the winner of Boise State-Dayton (both of which are 25-8) on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. Dayton will be heavily favored since the selection committee assigned it to play on its home floor on Wednesday night — where the Flyers went 16-0 this season and have won 21 in a row overall.
Providence, one of six Big East teams in the tournament, is seeking its first win in the NCAA Tournament since 1997.
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Georgia
Michigan State, at its best when spring gets close, is headed for a warmer climate.
The Spartans (23-11), who led Wisconsin most of the way Sunday before falling in the Big Ten title game in overtime, take on Georgia (21-11) on Friday in Charlotte.
Coach Tom Izzo’s team qualified for the tournament for the 18th year in a row, tying a Big Ten record (Indiana, 1986-2003). Only Kansas (26) and Duke (20) have longer active streaks.
The Bulldogs lost to Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference semifinals.
The winner advances to meet the survivor of Belmont-Virginia. The Spartans knocked out the Cavaliers in last year’s Sweet 16.
No. 8 North Carolina State vs. No. 9 LSU
Like Belmont and Barnette, North Carolina State may get some help with its scouting report.
The Wolfpack’s 3-point marksman, Ralston Turner, played his first two seasons for ninth-seeded LSU before transferring. The teams square off Thursday in Pittsburgh.
Coach Mark Gottfried will be leading the Wolfpack (20-13) to the big tournament for the fourth year in a row while the Tigers are back for their 21st trip to the big dance after a five-year respite.
The winner will most likely end up with Villanova.