Tar Heels earn easy road to the Final Four | AspenTimes.com

Tar Heels earn easy road to the Final Four

Eddie PellsThe Associated PressAspen, CO Colorado
Georgia guard Sundiata Gaines holds a piece of the net he cut down Sunday after the Bulldogs defeated Arkansas, 66- 57, for the Southeastern Conference basketball championship at Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta. (Phil Coale/AP)

North Carolina, Memphis, Kansas and UCLA earned the top seeds in the NCAA tournament Sunday, and the top-ranked Tar Heels got the best deal of all: Their road to the Final Four wont veer more than two hours outside their Chapel Hill campus. The Tar Heels (32-2) are the top seed in the East, with their first- and second-round games scheduled for Raleigh and the next two rounds in Charlotte. Its an advantage if you play well, said Carolina coach Roy Williams, trying to lead the Tar Heels to their second title in four years. Just because the crowds cheering for you, Ive never had a crowd win a game. I know it sounds wacko. Like North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Memphis won their conference tournaments to seal their top spots Memphis in the South, Kansas in the Midwest and UCLA in the West. The Final Four is set for April 5-7 in San Antonio. Absent from the tournament are last years two finalists, Ohio State and two-time defending champion Florida. The Buckeyes were a bubble team that didnt make it, and the rebuilt Gators saw their chances die with a first-round loss in the Southeastern Conference tournament. Theyre the first defending champs to miss the tournament since Kansas in 1989, when the Jayhawks were on probation. March Madness officially begins Tuesday with an opening-round game between Coppin State and Mount St. Marys, then with first-round games Thursday and Friday. The real festivities, however, have already started, with the brackets out, the pencils sharpened and office pools getting in full swing.

In the East region, North Carolina will open against the winner of the Coppin State-Mount St. Marys game, while No. 2 seed Tennessee will open against No. 15 American. Other games in the region are: No. 7 Butler vs. No. 10 South Alabama; No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 14 Boise State; No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 St. Josephs; No. 8 Indiana vs. No. 9 Arkansas; No. 4 Washington State vs. No. 13 Winthrop; and No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 George Mason, which will try to repeat its surprising trip to the Final Four two years ago. By defeating Texas in the Big 12 title game, Kansas earned its top seed in the Midwest, a short trip to Omaha, Neb., and a first-round game against Big Sky champion Portland State. The marquee matchup in that region, however, will be between No. 6 Southern California and No. 11 Kansas State a meeting of top freshmen O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley. Other Midwest games pit No. 8 UNLV against No. 9 Kent State; No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 12 Villanova, a bubble team; No. 4 Vanderbilt against No. 13 Siena; No. 2 Georgetown vs. 15 Maryland-Baltimore County; No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 Davidson; and No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 14 Cal State-Fullerton. In the South region, Memphis opens against No. 16 Texas-Arlington, No. 8 Mississippi State plays No. 9 Oregon, No. 5 Michigan State plays No. 12 Temple and No. 4 Pittsburgh plays No. 13 Oral Roberts. The other side of the bracket includes No. 2 Texas vs. No. 15 Austin Peay, No. 7 Miami vs. No. 10 St. Marys, No. 3 Stanford vs. No. 14 Cornell and No. 6 Marquette against No. 11 Kentucky, with coach Billy Gillespie leading the Wildcats into the tournament in his first year at the school. In the West, UCLA plays No. 16 Mississippi Valley State, No. 8 BYU plays No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 5 Drake plays No. 12 Western Kentucky and No. 4 Connecticut plays No. 13 San Diego. Other games are No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Belmont, No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Arizona off the bubble and making its 24th straight NCAA appearance No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Baylor and No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Georgia, which won the SEC tournament Sunday afternoon to make a surprise trip to the NCAAs with a 17-16 record. Georgias run eliminated one bubble spot for a field of about 10 teams with legitimate claims. Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Mississippi and Ohio State were the big-conference teams that got left out. In all honesty, they were very good teams and we think theyre very good teams, but theyre just not one of the 34 best at-large teams in the country, said Tom OConnor, NCAA selection committee chairman. Among mid-majors, Dayton, Massachusetts and Illinois State were the most significant snubs. Illinois State clearly wasnt helped by a 30-point loss to Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament finals. With eight teams, the Big East placed the most schools in the tournament. The Pac-10, Big 12 and SEC followed with six each, while the Atlantic Coast and Big Ten Conferences had four apiece. The ACC was the highest-rated conference. The RPI is a control point, OConnor explained. Its a data point and its a starting point, but its not an endall. We dont look at conferences at all.


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