The No. 1 seed: Virginia (26-7, 13-5 in the ACC). Despite a loss to fellow top seed North Carolina in the ACC tournament final, the Cavaliers held onto a spot on the 1-line thanks to a dominant defense that allowed them to finish second in the ACC. Virginia was a perfect 15-0 at home—including wins against fellow the No. 1 seed Tar Heels and the South region’s No. 2 seed Villanova. Senior guard Malcolm Brogdon has improved as a 1-on-1 defender and has taken his offensive game to a whole new level this season, averaging 18.7 points per game. Big man Anthony Gill provides athleticism on the inside and is part of an experienced Cavaliers core that includes guard London Perrantes and center Mike Tobey.
The other contenders: The committee certainly did the Cavaliers no favors, placing them in an underrated, but nonetheless deep region from seeds one through five. For the third straight season, No. 2 Michigan State will have a chance to eliminate Virginia from the NCAA tournament. Head coach Tom Izzo and his Big 10 champion Spartans were in the discussion for a top seed, but will have to settle for playing closer to home as a No. 2 seed. Led by player of the year candidate Denzel Valentine and guard Bryn Forbes—one of the best 3-point shooters in all of college basketball—Michigan State will look to advance to its second consecutive Final Four.
No. 3 Utah was thrashed by Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, but the Utes have NBA talent in center Jakob Poetl and knocked off Duke back on Dec. 19 in New York City. No. 4 Iowa State managed to pick up 21 wins despite playing in a loaded Big 12 conference and No. 5 Purdue—led by forward A.J. Hammons—played Michigan State to the wire in a competitive Big 10 title game.
The potential Cinderella: Seton Hall—following a Big East tournament run that saw them upset favorites Xavier and Villanova en route to a title—is seeded sixth in the region. Although the Pirates played against a relatively weak conference slate, they are a trendy sleeper pick and for good reason. Seton Hall is hot—having won 12 of its last 14 games—and is loaded with young talent, particularly sophomore Isaiah Whitehead. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 25.8 points per game during the Pirates’ four conference tournament games in New York City. Throw in three other double-figure scorers, including Angel Delgado—who was key down the stretch against the Wildcats—and Seton Hall is poised to make a run beyond the tournament’s first weekend.
The regional narrative: The chalk. The Midwest regional features a mixture of teams from seeds 3 through 10, but none appear capable of challenging the top two seeds on paper. According to statistician Ken Pomeroy, Virginia has the fourth-best adjusted defense, and Michigan State has the second-best adjusted offense. The Cavaliers have yet to break through against the Spartans, but barring a couple of unexpected upsets, look for Virginia to get a third crack at Izzo and Michigan State in Chicago.
- No. 8 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Butler, 12:40 p.m.
- No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 13 Iona, 2:00 p.m.
- No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Hampton, 3:10 p.m.
- No. 5 Purdue vs. No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock, 4:30 p.m.
- No. 3 Utah vs. No. 14 Fresno State, 7:27 p.m.
- No. 6 Seton Hall vs. No. 11 Gonzaga, 9:57 p.m.
- No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Syracuse, 12:15 p.m.
- No. 2 Michigan State vs. No 15. Middle Tennessee, 2:45 p.m.
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."