The 2017 NCAA Tournament brackets are out, the excitement is set to begin and there’s a lot to take in. Who’s the next Cinderella? Where are some of these schools from? What’s going to happen? Who will win?
To get a bit of extra knowledge heading into the madness, let’s take a trip around the tournament, A to Z.
Glendale, Arizona, will host the first Final Four in the state and the first Final Four held in a western state since 1995 (Seattle). University of Phoenix Stadium did hold the West Regionals in 2009, while Phoenix, Tempe and Tuscon have each held NCAA Tournament games over the years.
About 70 million brackets will be filled out, whether online or good ol’ pen to paper, and over $10 billion will be spent on those picks. Mixed with St. Patrick’s Day on a Friday, TV veriwership goes up and consuming adult beverages skyrockets.
The Vermont Catamounts enter the NCAA Tournament on a 21-game winning streak — the longest in the nation. This is Vermont’s sixth tournament appearance in 15 seasons, and the Catamounts have won two games in that span, including upsetting Syracuse in 2005.
Yes, North Dakota and South Dakota State have made the tournament. North Dakota is making its first NCAA Tournament while South Dakota State gave Maryland all it could handle in last year’s tournament. Look out for SDSU’s Mike Daum, who is averaging over 25 points and grabbing eight boards a game.
Mar 11, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack head coach Eric Musselman holds the Mountain West Championship trophy after defeating the Colorado State Rams 79-71 at Thomas and Mack Center. Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
Remember him? The former head coach of the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors is now the head man in charge at Nevada. Other names of note: Mike Davis (Texas Southern), who took over Indiana after Bob Knight was fired, and NBA All-Star Three-Point Shootout runner-up Jim Les (UC Davis).
Since the First Four came about in 2011, one team from each tournament has won at least one game after that opening round: VCU (2011), South Florida (2012), LaSalle (2013), Tennessee (2014), Dayton (2015) and Wichita State (2016). LaSalle and Tennessee ended up in the Sweet 16 while VCU got all the way to the Final Four.
South Carolina’s sixth largest city will host a first-round pod this year. This is due both to the NCAA’s lift of its ban of placing postseason events in the state where the Confederate flag was flown at the state capital (it isn’t anymore) and North Carolina’s controversial HB2 bill that forced the NCAA to abandon Greensboro as a tournament site.
Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame coaches John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino and Roy Williams are all chasing their next ring. Calipari and Izzo want to enter that exclusive club of coaches with multiple titles, Williams and Pitino want their third rings, while Coach K wants to get his sixth.
Regular-season champ Princeton won the first Ivy League Conference Tournament, albeit an abbreviated one that featured only the top four teams, and will make a conference-record 25th NCAA Tournament appearance.The Ivy League representative has won an NCAA Tournament game in three of the last four years.
Jacksonville State won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament to earn a 15 seed. Mark Zaleski/Getty Images
Believe it or not, this university is not in Jacksonville, Florida. No, the school is located in Jacksonville, Alabama, which is snuggled in the Appalachian Mountains. Oddly, Jacksonville State is one of two schools with the nickname Gamecocks in this field.
Kansas Is Back
Kansas is appearing in its 27th consecutive NCAA Tournament, breaking a tie with North Carolina (1975-2001) for the longest of all time. The last time Kansas missed the tournament was in 1989 when the school was under a postseason ban due to recruiting violations.
There are a lot of losses in this tournament. In fact, Vanderbilt’s 15 losses are the most for a team that received an at-large bid in tournament history, and the Commodores received a No. 9 seed. Michigan State also received a No. 9 seed despite losing 14 games this season.
Is there any school that has America’s more attention right now? After their plane skidded off the runway when the team was trying to get to Washington, D.C., the Wolverines had to play a game in warm-ups and then win the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship. Oh, and the Wolverine movie “Logan” is the No. 1 movie at the box office.
Northwestern is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in the school’s history. The Wildcats were the only school from a major conference to have never made the big dance. Northern Kentucky, UC Davis, Jacksonville State and North Dakota are also making their first tournament appearances.
‘One Shining Moment’
The song was originally supposed to be used after Super Bowl XXI, but CBS’s coverage went long and it was scrapped. However, it was used after Indiana beat Syracuse in the 1987 National Championship and has been a staple of the tournament ever since.
The University of New Orleans suffered financially after Hurricane Katrina and planned to drop its athletic programs to the Division III level. However, after years of planning, the school decided to stay Division I and now qualified for its first NCAA Tournament since 1996.
There were 21 conference tournament champions that won at least a share of the regular-season championship. That means those leagues are sending their truly best teams into the tournament.
The former Kansas and current North Carolina head coach is a perfect 26-0 in first-round games in the NCAA Tournament.
This region has North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA and Cincinnati in it. Those four schools are among the 15 that have won multiple NCAA Tournaments. In fact, those four have combined for 26 National Championships and 59 Final Fours.
Roy Williams and the Tar Heels hope to return to the Final Four and end their season as victors. Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports
North Carolina is trying to become the first school to lose in the National Championship game one year and return to the game the next since Butler in 2011. The Heels are a No. 1 seed for the 16th time, extending their NCAA Tournament record.
There have been four No. 15 seeds to upset No. 2 seeds in the last five years. In each of the past four seasons, a No. 14 seed has upset a No. 3 seed. In the last 32 years, 23 times we saw a No. 13 seed upset a No. 4 seed, and in 28 years, a No. 12 has beaten a No. 5.
The Wildcats are the defending National Champions and vying to be the first repeat champion since Florida did so in 2007. Only Oklahoma State (formerly Oklahoma A&M), Kentucky, San Francisco, Cincinnati, UCLA, Duke and Florida have won consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Arizona, Kentucky, Northwestern, Villanova and Kansas State are all wildcats. Arizona, Kentucky and Villanova are serious contenders for the National Championship; Northwestern is the media darling by reaching its first tournament; and Kansas State plays in the First Four.
After an up and down season, Chris Mack and his Xavier Musketeers earned an 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports
No school in this field has been to more NCAA Tournaments without reaching the Final Four than Xavier. The Musketeers are making their 27th tournament and still haven’t played on the final weekend. BYU, who isn’t in this year, has been to 29 tournaments without a Final Four.
Virginia’s “pack-line defense” can turn games ugly quickly. Remember that the Cavaliers held high-octane North Carolina to just 43 points in a UVA win just two weeks ago. Plus if you think free throws are boring, you’ll love Princeton, who shot less free throws than anyone in the country (Virginia is near the bottom in that category as well).
That’s how many wins No. 16 seeds have had against No. 1 seeds in 128 games since the tournament expanded in 1985. In last year’s tournament, the No. 1 seed beat the No. 16 seed by an average of 29.25 points.