Published March 11, 2007
The 65-team tournament begins Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, with a play-in game between Florida A&M and Niagara, the two lowest-ranked teams.
Starting Thursday afternoon, it's wall-to-wall action on the court — and in the nation's biggest office pool.
Joakim Noah and the Gators (29-5) hope to become the first repeat champions since Duke in 1992. Florida, which won the football championship in January, will begin its bid for another basketball title in the Midwest region with a game Friday against 16th-seeded Jackson State in New Orleans.
The Gators, who return all five starters from last season's national championship team, emphatically won the Southeastern Conference tournament, routing Arkansas 77-56, recovering from a late season slump.
Wisconsin got the No. 2 seed in the Midwest and will play No. 15 Texas A&M. Other games in the region are: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 14 Miami of Ohio, No. 4 Maryland vs. Davidson, No. 5 Butler vs. No. 12 Old Dominion and No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 11 Winthrop, which has an 18-game winning streak and No. 7 UNLV vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech, and No. 8 Arizona vs. No. 9 Purdue.
In the West, Big 12 champion Kansas (30-4) opens against the play-in winner Friday in Chicago.
UCLA, with the most NCAA men's basketball titles in history, became a No. 2 seed after losing its first game in the Pac-10 tournament to California. The Bruins, who reached the title game last season, were ranked No. 1 for six weeks this season, more than any other team. UCLA (26-5), coming off consecutive losses to Washington and Cal, will play Weber State.
Also in the West bracket, it will be: No. 3 Pittsburgh vs. No. 14 Wright State, No. 4 Southern Illinois vs. No. 13 Holy Cross and No. 5 Virginia Tech vs. No. 12 Illinois.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke got the No. 6 seed after losing to North Carolina State in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. The Blue Devils will play No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth. No. 7 Indiana plays No. 10 Gonzaga, and No. 8 Kentucky faces No. 9 Villanova.
North Carolina (28-6) drew the top seed in the East by defeating N.C. State for the ACC title. Coach Roy Williams, mask-wearing center Tyler Hansbrough and the Tar Heels, a deep young team that plays at a fast pace, will make the short trip to Winston-Salem to play Eastern Kentucky on Thursday.
Big East champion Georgetown, with John Thompson III as its coach and Patrick Ewing Jr. coming off the bench, is the No. 2 seed and takes on No. 15 Belmont. Also in the East, it's No. 3 Washington State vs. No. 14 Oral Roberts; No. 4 Texas and star Kevin Durant against No. 12 New Mexico State; No. 5 Southern California vs. No. 12 Arkansas; No. 6 Vanderbilt vs. No. 11 George Washington, No. 7 Boston College vs. coach Bobby Knight's 10th-seeded Texas Tech, and No. 8 Marquette vs. No. 9 Michigan State.