This weekend is Selection Sunday, and over the next week millions of brackets will be made. Most, if not all, will be broken, most in the first two days.
And since The Spectrum will also be on vacation next week when all the craziness begins, here is an early look at the March Madness field before the brackets come out.
The fall of the No. 1 seeds
Without any major upsets, the top seeds in the bracket will be filled by Virginia, Xavier, Villanova and Kansas.
Virginia, the top overall seed, is an interesting squad. In an era where high-powered offense is usually a winning characteristic, the Cavaliers get it done with defense. And they don’t just do it against weak opposition.
Virginia has 11 wins against the RPI Top 50. In four of those games, they held opponents to 50 or less points. The list includes North Carolina, Clemson, Miami on the road and Syracuse on the road.
A high scoring eight or nine seed may spell trouble in the opening weekend, but there may be no stopping Virginia getting to the Final Four.
Recent form suggests that Villanova may be the weakest No. 1 in the field. The Wildcats took three losses in February, to St. John’s, Providence and Creighton. Then came a single-point win over Seton Hall.
‘Nova gets props for beating Xavier not once, but twice in the regular season. The Musketeers have just one win over a top 25 RPI team in Cincinnati, so tough competition could cause issues. Especially if it comes in the form of a high-scoring team (Oklahoma), as Xavier ranks 243rd in the nation in scoring defense.
As for Kansas, it has been a mixed bag of performances. The Jayhawks have seven losses, including four at home. Avoiding Oklahoma State may be the biggest thing, as the Cowboys took two wins in the regular season.
The trendy upset picks
The round of 64 always has a handful of shocking upsets. The early front-runner for favorite upset is Loyola-Chicago.
If the Ramblers get a 12 seed, many brackets will feature them as the upset. With a win over Florida earlier in the season, there is good reason for that. The team, winners of 10 straight and handled Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Tournament final, has not lost since Jan. 31.
Fans of the Virginia-style of play should look toward UNC Greensboro in the early rounds. The Spartans make the dance for the first time since 2001 and hold the sixth best scoring defense in the nation.
They smothered Eastern Tennessee State in the Southern Conference finals to punch their ticket. A 13 or 14 seed awaits, a good spot for a solid upset.
And don’t overlook the Summit League champions, South Dakota State. The conference tournament saw steady improvement, from trailing Western Illinois at halftime in the quarters, to dominating NDSU in the semis, to handling South Dakota in the final.
Mike Daum is one of the elite scorers in the nation, and this year he has some help on the offensive side. David Jenkins Jr. dropped 24 points against the Bison, and Reed Tellinghuisen is another threat. A No. 13 seed is likely for the Jacks.
The double-digit seed that makes it to the Elite Eight
The last two years, there has been one double-digit seed make it to the Elite Eight (No. 10 Syracuse in 2016; No. 11 Xavier in 2017).
If Oklahoma stumbles into the tournament as a No. 10 seed, they might be the team to get there. Trae Young is a special talent and might be the next March Madness star. But the Sooners have struggled as of late.
UCLA, with all of their distractions this year, could also contend for this spot. It is the Bruins after all, and sometimes big-time programs can make a run when no one is expecting.