INDIANAPOLIS — Florida earned the NCAA Tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, while Michigan’s bid for one of three remaining top seeds slipped away Sunday afternoon.
The top-ranked Gators (32-2) secured the No. 1 seed in the South after holding off Kentucky for a 61-60 victory in the Southeastern Conference championship game Sunday.
Also earning a top seed in the 68-team NCAA Division I men’s tournament is Wichita State (34-0). The nation’s lone unbeaten team, the Shockers received their first-ever No. 1 seed. They top the Midwest Region.
Arizona (30-4) is seeded No. 1 in the West despite being upset by UCLA in Saturday’s Pacific 12 Conference final.
Virginia, which won its first Atlantic Coast Conference title since 1976, took the No. 1 seed in the East with a 28-6 record.
“Virginia’s total resume was very impressive,” said the tournament committee chairman, Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman. “They continued to impress us throughout the year.”
Michigan appeared in line for the fourth and final top seed but slipped to No. 2 in the Midwest after dropping a 69-55 decision to Michigan State in Sunday’s Big Ten tournament final. The Spartans earned a No. 4 seed in the East.
“I think Michigan would have been a top seed had they won,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Florida awaits the winner of a first-round game between Albany and Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio. Albany beat Stony Brook 69-60 in the America East final on Saturday while Mount St. Mary’s defeated Robert Morris 88-71 on Tuesday.
CBS Sports reported that three No. 1 seeds were already set even as the SEC and Big Ten tournament finals were under way. Wellman said that Michigan and Villanova both received consideration for No. 1 seeds. The Wildcats wound up as the No. 2 seed in the East.
The Big 12 has seven entries while the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 and Atlantic 10 each earned six tournament berths. Seven at-large bids went to non-power conferences compared to 11 each of the past two NCAA Tournaments.
Defending champion Louisville, which won the American Athletic Conference tournament, is a No. 4 seed.
“They did not fall at all,” Wellman said. “You look at the No. 4 and we have some great teams — UCLA, Michigan State. San Diego State. Louisville is playing as well as anyone. The committee certainly agrees with that. However, we look at the total body of work — everything they did November through March — and every time we scrubbed that No. 4 line, Louisville ended up in the same place.”
Teams left out of the tournament included SMU, which finished the regular season in the AP Top 25 and had an RPI of 53 but missed the cut. Florida State, Green Bay and Georgetown were also near-misses.
“It was a very difficult decision, and as the committee deliberated about the decision, we went back and forth several times,” Wellman said. “(SMU’s) non-conference strength of schedule was in the 300s. The next-lowest strength of schedule in the field is 91.”
SMU coach Larry Brown addressed a disappointed gathering at what was expected to be the team’s selection celebration. The Mustangs went 23-9, but they lost their last two regular-season games (to NCAA teams Louisville and Memphis), and they dropped their opening AAC tournament game to Houston.
“We appreciate you all coming out here and supporting our team. I feel like I let you down,” Brown told the crowd in Dallas, which responded by shouting, “No.” Brown continued, “I learned a long time ago when things don’t go exactly your way, you can either pack it in or use it as a learning experience to get better. We can use this as motivation.”
The tournament opens Tuesday and Wednesday with doubleheaders each night in Dayton, Ohio. Those winners feed into four 16-team regional brackets. The rest of the field gets under way with second-round games at eight sites on Thursday and Friday.
The regional semifinals and finals will be held March 27-30 at Memphis, Tenn. (South); Anaheim, Calif. (West); Indianapolis (Midwest) and New York (East).
The Final Four will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with the semifinals on April 5 and the national championship game on April 7.
The Midwest Region is arguably the toughest with not only unbeaten Wichita State but Louisville, the defending national champion and AAC winner, as well as Duke, Michigan and preseason No. 1 Kentucky. The Shockers, Wolverines and Cardinals were all in last year’s Final Four.
“I don’t care where we’re seeded,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I don’t care where we play. I’m just really happy to be in the NCAA Tournament, and I trust those guys over in that hotel room (the selection committee). They work at this time and I trust them.
Izzo expressed surprise that the Big Ten didn’t receive more respect.
“I can’t think of a conference that prepares you more than this one,” he said. “We didn’t get a No. 1 seed, and I’m sure people will wonder about that. We had two teams that deserved it, and so did the teams that got it. I’m not politicking here, it’s over and I’m not upset about it.”
TOURNEY NOTES: Although Albany has only one regular-season title in its 15-year Division I history, the Great Danes have turned into a regular visitor to the NCAA tournament. They will attempt to secure their first ever NCAA tournament victory against fellow No.16 seed Mount St. Mary’s. Albany earned its fourth automatic bid in the last nine seasons by winning six of their final seven, knocking off the two 20-win teams in the America. East tourney in the process. The Great Danes held their opponents to an average of 55.5 points in those six late-season victories, something that figures to be a difficult challenge against the Mountaineers. Mount St. Mary’s, which led the Northeast Conference in scoring offense (76.3) as well as 3-point makes (284) and attempts (797), became the 24th team with a non-winning record to make the Big Dance with a surprising win over Robert Morris in the NEC title game. The postseason stay for the winner of this contest figures to be a short one, however, as the winner will face No. 1 overall seed Florida on Thursday.