The madness in March Madness began before the brackets even came out. Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina all earned top seeding for the NCAA tournament Sunday despite weekend losses that brought even more intrigue to the three-week, 67-game tournament.
Michigan State earned the other No. 1 seed and was the only one of the four top-billed teams to win its conference tournament. The Spartans defeated Ohio State 68-64 in the Big Ten title game — a contest widely viewed as the game for the last No. 1 seed.
Next up, the NCAA tournament — March Madness — a 68-team free-for-all that starts with first-round games Tuesday. That's the first step en route to the Final Four, which begins March 31 in New Orleans.
Kentucky and Syracuse each enter the tournament with only two losses. Both were shoo-ins for top seeds — selection committee chair Jeff Hathaway all but said so last week — though their recent losses certainly will add more guesswork to those millions of brackets being filled out at spring training sites, corporate board rooms and everywhere else across America.
Syracuse fell to Cincinnati in the Big East semifinals on Friday; Kentucky lost to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference title game, and the Tar Heels lost to Florida State in the ACC finals Sunday. Combined with Kansas' loss to Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals, this marked only the second time since 2003 that the top four teams in The Associated Press poll all lost in the same week.
Kentucky, placed in the South region, earned the overall No. 1 seed and will open the tournament against the winner of a first-round game between Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky. No. 8 seed Iowa State will play defending champion Connecticut. Elsewhere in the South, No. 5 Wichita State plays No. 12 VCU, a Final Four team last year, while No. 4 Indiana plays No. 13 New Mexico State.
On the bottom of that bracket, No. 2 Duke plays No. 15 Lehigh, and No. 7 Notre Dame plays No. 10 Xavier, while No. 3 Baylor plays No. 14 South Dakota State and sixth-seeded UNLV plays 11th-seeded Colorado, which won its way into the bracket by winning the Pac-12 tournament.