An injury hurts as much as a loss in the days before the brackets are drawn up for March Madness. Syracuse endured both and will have to rack up some major frequent flier miles to make a run to the Final Four.
Kansas, Kentucky and Duke won their conference tournaments and the top seeding that goes with it when the selection committee rolled out its 65-team bracket Sunday.
The Orangemen, meanwhile, were ranked fourth of the four No. 1 seeds and sent West after losing early in the Big East tournament after center Arinze Onuaku injured his right quadriceps.
Their road to the Final Four, set for April 3-5 in Indianapolis, will have to go through Salt Lake City. No team has lost its first game in a conference tournament and gone on to win the national title.
“We’re proud to be a No. 1 seed,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “This team has worked extremely hard, been consistent all year. Obviously, the tournament is always going to be challenging. It’ll be challenging right off the bat.”
America’s largest, three-week office pool starts getting sorted out Tuesday with an opening-round game between Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop. The tournament goes into full swing Thursday, with Kansas the No. 1 seed.
The Big East led the field with eight teams, which tied its own record and is the third time the conference has put that many teams in the tournament.
But winning the toughest conference’s regular-season title wasn’t the accomplishment it might have been for Syracuse. The Orangemen (28-4) lost to Georgetown in the Big East tournament quarterfinals. That pushed them down, below Duke, which was expected to vie with West Virginia for the final No. 1 spot.
In other news, the SDSU Aztecs, ranked 11th, are in the this years Tournament, after making it to the NIT Final Four last year. They play 6th ranked Tennessee in the Midwestern Regional.
Late edit from the Count: ESPN has a guy they pulled out of their marketing department named Joe Lunardi who pretends he has some magic gift of predicting the brackets and who is in and who isn't. Now I believe what he has is connections inside the NCAA war room who leak to him who's in and who's out up until the last hour. Occasionally there is a last second switch which is why Lunardi get's one or two teams wrong most every year. But there is also another answer which shows what kind of fraud Lunardi is. The brackets he touts his prediction rate on is released an hour before the actual brackets are made official. By that point a chimp who has watched a little Basketball all year could get at least 60 of the 65 right. 34 are automatic. At least 25 and usually 27 or 28 of the remaining 31 are "locks". But his "amazing" skills at predicting the brackets before they come out have lead to the nickname "Joey Brackets" Joey Brackets didn't get one matchup correct this year.