Breaking down the NCAA Tournament


Brackets for the 2017 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. TNS 2017

Brandon Sans and Noah Thomas

The road to the Final Four has begun.

There were few surprises regarding the 68-team field when the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee revealed the 68-team field that will compete for college basketball’s national championship, but some questions concerning where teams were seeded lingered.

The number one seeds seemed guaranteed beforehand – defending national champion Villanova earned the top overall seed and was joined by Kansas, North Carolina, and Gonzaga. Villanova is the first program to be named the top overall seed as defending national champion since Florida in 2007.

The most difficult bracket entering play appears to be the South region. It will be the first time in tournament history that North Carolina, Kentucky, and UCLA will be in the same tournament region. Not making the path to the Final Four any easier is the mid-major teams who are known to play spoilers this time of year like Butler, Dayton, Middle Tennessee State, and Wichita State.

Appearing in the East region behind Villanova, way down the line, is UNC Wilmington. Proven to be one of the top mid-major programs in the country, 12-seeded UNCW is looking for its first NCAA tournament victory since 2002.

The Seahawks fell to Duke in the 2016 tournament – it’s ironic they will have to go through Virginia, another ACC program.

The Cavaliers are one of the top defensive teams in the country. They rank No. 1 in efficiency while running a halfcourt-style offense similar to College of Charleston, a team UNCW has become familiar with in recent years.

The first-round game in Orlando will already have taken place by the time this article releases. If the Seahawks do survive, they will likely face No. 4 Florida in the Round of 32. It’s a matchup that would favor UNCW, giving it a good shot at reaching its first Sweet 16 in school history.

“It’ll be a matchup of contrasting styles,” said UNCW coach Kevin Keatts. “Virginia can really make it tough on you. They’re one of if not the best defensive team in the country and we’re a very good offensive team.”

Staff picks: Sports Editor Noah Thomas chose the Oregon Ducks as a dark horse team to make the Final Four and ultimately capture the national title. He’s partial toward Puddles the Duck, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that the Ducks finished tied for first in an underrated Pac-12 conference this season.

Oregon was consistently ranked in the AP top-10 throughout the season after reaching the Elite 8 a year ago and has wins over UCLA and Arizona, the latter of which narrowly edged-out the Ducks in the Pac-12 Tournament final. Pre-tournament, the Ducks ranked No. 9 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

The only thing holding them back is being without third-leading scorer Chris Boucher. The senior’s career ended prematurely after tearing his ACL in the Pac-12 semifinal vs. Cal.

Staff writer Brandon Sans opted with the North Carolina Tar Heels as his national champions. UNC returns much of a team that came within one basket of winning it all a year ago and has no glaring weakness apart from inconsistent play. Sophomore guard Joel Berry II’s athleticism allows the Tar Heels to run in transition, similar to Roy William’s previous national title teams.

UNC does most of its damage is on the glass. It leads the nation with 43.8 rebounds per game and grabs 42 percent of its own missed shots. With Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, and Luke Maye the Tar Heels do not lack depth or talent in the frontcourt. Throw in ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson and the firepower is enough to give Williams his third title as UNC’s head coach.