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March Madness 2015

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This college basketball season has been one of mixed emotions.

One week away from Selection Sunday, it’s only going to heat up.

The regular season concludes for major conferences and league tournaments tip off this week — providing elite teams a chance to boost their NCAA tournament seeding, fringe teams a chance to secure at-large tickets and out-of-the-running teams to stage improbable runs that are only fitting to the billing of March Madness.

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In some ways, it’s the eye of the storm leading into one of the biggest spectacles in sports.Here’s a look at the biggest areas to focus on heading into the NCAA tournament.

The race for a No. 1 seed. 

There are six legitimate No. 1 seeds. Undefeated Kentucky is the only true lock. Villanova, Duke and Virginia currently hold the top seeds in the latest USA TODAY Sports’ bracketology projection. Virginia’s 59-57 upset loss to Louisville on Saturday moved the Cavaliers to the border of the No. 1 seed line, but keep it mind we’re discussing the full body of work over the course of the season. Virginia has lost to Duke and Louisville. That’s it. It would take a bad loss in the Cavaliers’ opener of the ACC tournament to pave way for the Wisconsin or Arizona to leapfrog them.

Kentucky. 

The Wildcats are kind of like the movie where you know exactly what’s going to happen but you still need to see it. The SEC tournament tips off in Nashville on Wednesday and based on momentum, and, well, dominance, there’s very little belief the Wildcats will lose. It is March, though, and the biggest story line of the season gets bigger this week. Ole Miss, Texas A&M and LSU have played the Wildcats close. Kentucky could face A&M or LSU in the semis.

The Big 12.

This is one of the deepest conferences we’ve seen in quite some time. Kansas once again won the regular-season title, but Oklahoma’s victory against Kansas team playing without Perry Ellis is just a small dose of how exciting and revealing the Big 12 tournament (tipping of Wednesday in Kansas City) can be. Iowa State and Oklahoma are virtual locks for No. 3 seeds and winning the league tournament title would boost their credentials, although Kansas is the only team positioned to be passed since the other projected No. 2s are so solid. Perhaps most intriguing are projected No. 4 seeds Baylor and West Virginia, two dark horses to stage deep runs in the NCAAs. Even Texas and Oklahoma State have the potential to make runs despite lacking momentum. There likely never has been a more dangerous candidate to steal a bid than Kansas State, which recently knocked off Kansas and Iowa State but will need to win the Big 12 tournament to reach the NCAA tournament.

The mid-majors. 

A good portion of the smaller conference tournaments end sooner than the big dogs. And while there are favorites to win, well, it’s March and anything can happen. Whether it be an expected or unexpected league tourney run, this is often where March Madness stars are born

The bubble. 

There are still plenty of teams in play for at-large bids. Here’s a look at the last four in/first four out picture:

  • Comfortable: Purdue, Boise State, Temple, Davidson, Dayton, Georgia, LSU, Colorado State.
  • Last four in: Texas, Ole Miss, Indiana, Texas A&M
  • First four out: BYU, Tulsa, Old Dominion, UCLA
  • Others considered: Illinois, Miami (Fla.), Richmond

 

Here are the dates and locations for the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament:

Selection Sunday
March 15

First Round
March 17-18
UD Arena (Dayton, Ohio)

Second-Third Rounds
March 19, 21
Veterans Memorial Arena (Jacksonville, Fla.)
KFC Yum! Center (Louisville)
Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh)
Rose Garden (Portland, Ore.)

March 20, 22
Time Warner Cable Arena (Charlotte, N.C.)
Nationwide Arena (Columbus, Ohio)
CenturyLink Center (Omaha, Neb.)
KeyArena (Seattle)

Midwest Regional
March 26, 28
Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland)

West Regional
March 26, 28
Staples Center (Los Angeles)

South Regional
March 27, 29
NRG Stadium (Houston)

East Regional
March 27, 29
Carrier Dome (Syracuse)

National Semifinals
April 4
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

Championship Game
April 6
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

 

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