The NCAA Tournament bracket is set and there were some surprises. Several fairly clear winners and losers have emerged from the selection committee's decisions.
Here's a look at the biggest winners from Selection Sunday.
Gonzaga was easily the best team in the nation this year and the undefeated Bulldogs were rewarded with the easiest road to the Final Four any of the top-seeded teams will face. How trouble-free is the path? Gonzaga has already beaten the second-, third- and fourth-seeded teams in the West Region. Yes, back in December the Bulldogs beat second seed Iowa 99-88 and fourth seed Virginia 98-75, and also opened the season beating third seed Kansas 102-90 back in November.
It shouldn't be shocking that the best team in college basketball got placed the easiest region, but it is pretty crazy to see that the Bulldogs have already beaten the best teams in their section of the bracket. Mark Few's squad earned this path, I just never expected it to look like this.
UConn landed the seventh-seed in the East Region, which is high given the Huskies' resume. That said, the committee clearly valued the fact that the team struggled without super sophomore James Bouknight when he was out with an elbow injury. Bouknight is back and UConn is 11-3 with him in the lined. Those losses? Two came against Creighton by a total of five points (including an overtime thriller), and the other was an eight-point road loss to Villanova. Without Bouknight, the Huskies were 4-4.
This was the right decision by the committee. With Bouknight, the Huskies are a top 25 team and maybe deserver to be in the top 20. They got a little credit for being fully healthy and winning seven of nine down the stretch. It was a big win for the team to get that seven-seed in a wide-open East Region and avoid a potential eight/nine game.
San Diego State
San Diego State got a bit of a boost despite playing the 109th-ranked schedule in the nation. The Aztecs are a really good team with a ferocious defense and a deep, veteran core. That said, some late projections had them as a seven seed. They ended up as a six seed in the Midwest Region which, like the East, could be wide open. They'll tip things off against Syracuse, who barely made it in the dance. If chalk holds, SDSU would then get a shot at West Virginia, who the analytics don't love and -- with a win -- would potentially face a favorable matchup against Houston in the Sweet 16. That's not a terrible road given how things could have worked out.
SDSU won the Mountain West regular season and conference championships, but it was only a two-bid league and the Aztecs dropped three games (two to Utah State, one to Colorado State) in-conference. A 72-62 loss to BYU also hurt SDSU's resume. But the Aztecs are currently riding a 14-game winning streak and haven't dropped a contest since January 16. That outstanding stretch of basketball probably helped push the committee to give them a six seed.
Speaking of Houston, guess who's strolling back into Indiana with a Cheshire Cat-like grin on his face. Yep, that's Kelvin Sampson's music, Hoosier fans and he's returning with a top 10 squad that's the second seed in the Midwest Region. Hey, how are things going for Indiana basketball these days?
Sampson's Cougars are 24-3 and just cruised to an AAC Tournament championship, waxing Cincinnati by 37 in the title game. They've won seven in a row, nine of 10, and 17 of their last 19. So yeah, they're on a bit of a roll.
Could you imagine if Houston gets placed in Bloomington and opens the tournament on the court at Assembly Hall while the Hoosiers sit at home? Yikes.