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Selection Sunday Reveals NCAA Tournament Seeds


The NCAA Division One Basketball Tournament field is set, with Kentucky considered the top team in the field of 68.

NPR's Mike Pesca is here. He sent us a note saying he's here to break down the brackets, which sounds a little threatening, Mike.


MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: This is what they pay me to do. So break, I must.

INSKEEP: OK. Good morning. In addition to Kentucky, the No. 1 seeds are Syracuse, North Carolina, Michigan State. Any surprises for you?

PESCA: Yeah. No, those are our great teams. You may have noticed they've all won the NCAA tournament in the past 14 or so years. They're all excellent schools. And I have no complaints with the No. 1 seeds. The last of the number ones, Michigan State, they won their conference tournaments. They beat Ohio State to win the Big 10 - well, the 10 teams doesn't really describe how many teams are actually in that conference...

INSKEEP: Give or take the - a couple. Anyway.

PESCA: Yeah, I know. So but the thing is all of three other teams - Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina - did in their regular season, or at least their conference tournaments with the loss. So that might tell you two things. That might tell you either they're vulnerable, or that might tell you that those teams are so good, they could lose their conference tournament and still get a number one seed. I think they are in fact very quality schools.

INSKEEP: Of course, the NCAA tournament, a lot of the excitement is further down; some are some of the lower seeds and then looking to see whether they do well. But there are, of course, there's some teams that get disappointed, got left out here.

PESCA: Yes, although since the tournament expanded to 68 teams, those ones whose bubble burst so to speak, I mean most of them are teams with a dozen losses or 11 losses. Teams like Northwestern, who had a fine season and you root for the perennial underdog, but they really only had one quality win over a good team. Washington is in a similar situation.

If there is one team that can complain, I think it's maybe Drexel because Drexel has only lost two games since December. Their problem is they didn't play a very tough schedule. But the wrinkle there is for a smaller school like Drexel, it's hard to schedule some of these big guys to get the good teams on the schedule. It's a little bit of a conundrum. I would've liked to have seen the selection committee maybe taken flyer on the Dragons.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm crushed at Morehead State, my alma mater not there. I'm glad that the Indiana teams did pretty well. But is there a team that you think could really come from nowhere and win a few games?

PESCA: Well, people know about Wichita State because they had such a good regular season. But they aren't in a power conference and their mascot is a piece of wheat, which is...


PESCA: ...criticized. WuShock is an anthropomorphized piece of wheat. And Jay Bilas on ESPN says that's a reason to pick against them in the first round. But I totally disagree. I think a piece of wheat, you know, is something to strike fear into the hearts of VCU, the Rams. I think a living anthropomorphized piece of wheat is good for two or three points, so I like the Shockers.

Other teams from relative obscurity - and some of these teams I really liked but they got bad draws. Belmont is to play Georgetown and first round. I think Belmont is a great team. And Memphis is a number eight seed. If they win their first game they'll play Michigan State, but Memphis has a lot of good things to recommend them.

INSKEEP: I think people will be frozen, them trying to play basketball and they're trying to remember how to pronounce anthropomorphized. I mean they'll be frozen in place. They won't get anywhere.


PESCA: Well, the people rooting on Harvard and Vanderbilt, in that game, they'll at least know it. That's the highest SAT scorers in the first round of this tournament.

INSKEEP: OK. So who's going to win this thing, Mike Pesca?

PESCA: Ah, if I had to guess I'd say Kentucky. But if I really want to be a lot of fun, let's take Wichita to win it all. What the heck?


INSKEEP: That sounds very anthropomorphological. Mike, thanks very much.

PESCA: Fear the wheat.

INSKEEP: NPR's Mike Pesca. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.