Louisville earned the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament Sunday, while Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga also received No.1 after a topsy-turvy regular season and another round of weekend upsets.
Then there’s that other team from the Bluegrass State. Kentucky won’t even get a chance to defend its 2012 national title, denied a spot in the 68-team field when the brackets came out thanks to an up-and-down season.
The selection committee had its work cut out after five teams swapped the top ranking in The Associated Press poll, capped by the West Coast Conference champion Zags (30-2) moving to the lead spot for the first time in school history.
The tournament begins Tuesday with a pair of games in Dayton. Everyone is trying to get to Atlanta for the Final Four, which begins April 6 at the Georgia Dome.
On Thursday in the Midwest Regional, Louisville gets to rub salt in Kentucky’s wounds by playing at Rupp Arena against either Liberty or North Carolina A&T, who meet in one of the “First Four” games in Dayton. That same day, Gonzaga takes on Southern in the second round of the West Regional at Salt Lake City.
On Friday, Kansas will stay close to home in Kansas City, Mo., to face Western Kentucky in a South Regional second-round game. Indiana, meanwhile, opens in Dayton, Ohio, at the East Regional against either LIU Brooklyn or James Madison, another of the First Four contests.
One thing is for sure in this most uncertain season: There won’t be a repeat champion.
A year after taking its eighth national title — only UCLA has won more — Kentucky’s success in restocking each year with the best one-and-done prospects hit a roadblock. The Wildcats never meshed as a unit, then lost the best of the freshmen when Nerlems Noel went down with a season-ending knee injury.
An upset over Florida boosted their stock heading to the SEC tournament. But the Wildcats turned in a miserable performance in Nashville, Tenn., losing to Vanderbilt 64-48 in the quarterfinals, and will have to settle for a bid from the second-tier National Invitation Tournament.