The Florida Gators are the top seed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) men's basketball tournament in 2014. Joining them among the cream of the crop as No. 1 seeds in their respective regions—and as usual, with big targets on their backs—are the Arizona Wildcats, Virginia Cavaliers and Wichita State Shockers.
The selection for the top seeds was not surprising although it drew, as expected, flak from different quarters. All four favourites topped their respective conferences--- the Gators went 32-2 in the Southeastern Conference (SEC); the Wildcats were 30-4 in the Pac 12 Conference; the Shockers went a 34-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC); and the Cavaliers 28-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
The criticisms followed NCAA Selection Sunday— from top to bottom as teams’ perceived weaknesses hogged the headlines as well as why each school deserve to dance all the way to the national title.
The disagreements with the seeds, and/or the eventual bubble teams, are good omens to what was inevitable anyway: the start of the madness.
Here are the profiles of each top seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, their Big Dance history, recent trends and why they may fall to the dreaded upset ax:
Florida Gators Total of NCAA Tournament appearances: 18 Final Four appearances: 4 NCAA National Titles: 2 (defeated UCLA in 2006 and Ohio State in 2007)
Florida Upset Alert: The Gators are undefeated since December 2 and has racked up 26 straight wins entering the NCAA Tournament. However, the last one was a down-the-wire 61-60 win over Kentucky in the SEC Championship. Could Florida be vulnerable when games are oh-so-close? Their losses came against Wisconsin and Connecticut in the early part of the regular season.
Arizona Wildcats Total of NCAA Tournament appearances: 30 Final Four appearances: 4 NCAA National Titles: 1 (defeated Kentucky in 1997)
Arizona Upset Alert: The Wildcats romped off to 21 consecutive victories to start the season then went 10-4 to end the year. The glaring losses came this month-- a 64-57 loss to Oregon and 75-71 defeat to UCLA in the PAC-12 Championship.
Virginia Cavaliers Total of NCAA Tournament appearances: 17 Final Four appearances: 2 NCAA National Titles: 0
Virginia Upset Alert: The Cavaliers are the least decorated in the top four (along with Wichita State) with zero NCAA titles in their resume. They also have the worst record among the four squads.
Wichita State Shockers Total of NCAA Tournament appearances: 10 Final Four appearances: 2 NCAA National Titles: 0
Wichita State Upset Alert: Same with the Cavaliers there’s not much to talk about with regards to the Wichita State’s resume in the Big Dance though both have been very successful the past few years. However, they are the only undefeated squad entering the NCAA Tournament.
The Shockers last nine wins have been by double-digits and, according to the doubters, against so-so teams. Can Wichita State prove they are for real against quality squads in the tournament? How will the team react when they are finally involved in a close game?
The NCAA tournament officially starts on Tuesday with the First Four play-in games and then the main draw begins play on Thursday. The Final Four is scheduled on April 5 and the National Championship on April 7 in Arlington Texas.