Big East Dominates NCAA Top Seeds

The 65-team NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket was unveiled Sunday. The four number-one seeds are Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and North Carolina. All but North Carolina play in the Big East Conference.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now we know who will play whom in the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament. The top seeds - those are the teams that get the clearest path to the Final Four and our considered favorites - are Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and North Carolina. We're going to talk about those teams and more with commentator John Feinstein, who joins us once again.

John, good morning.

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I just want to mention for people who are uninitiated here how - what kind of an event this is for people across the country. And my family, because there are multiple games being played at once - 65 different teams involved here - in my family, two or three televisions might be on at once. I'm told that you can now get a certain kind of feed where you can watch four games on split screen.

FEINSTEIN: Right.

INSKEEP: And I guess you're one of the unfortunates who'll only be able to watch one game at a time.

FEINSTEIN: Yeah. I will be at one of the regionals in Philadelphia this weekend. But what you do, Steve, is you run back in between games or during halftimes. And there are always TVs on where you can watch the other games. And they stagger the starts so that one game will end, and then you look up on the scoreboard and another game is tied with two minutes to go and you go watch the ending of that. And you can one spectacular finish after another, especially this first week when, as you said, there're often four games going on at once.

INSKEEP: So you're going to be losing your mind, and there will be no line at the concession stands, because people will be busy trying to find out what's going on.

FEINSTEIN: Well, exactly right. And then, of course, when the last game ends for each of the sessions in the afternoon and then in the evening, the lines at the concession stands will be out the door.

INSKEEP: Okay. We mentioned…

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Okay. We mentioned the top seeds. And we should also mention that three of those four - Louisville, Pittsburgh and Connecticut - are all from one conference, one great basketball conference, the Big East.

FEINSTEIN: Yeah, you know, the Big East has 16 teams, so it has a better chance than most conferences to have a lot of good teams. And this year, that was certainly the case. A team like Georgetown, which was ranked as high as in the top 10 nationally during the year, finished 12th in the regular season. That's how deep they were. And these three teams, Louisville, Connecticut and Pittsburgh, all played excellent basketball. And Connecticut retained the number one seed, Steve, in spite of losing a game in six overtimes to Syracuse in the conference tournament last week, one of the most extraordinary games I've ever seen.

INSKEEP: Yeah, amazing, amazing. I also turned on the television over the weekend, and there in a conference tournament was Rick Pitino, coaching yet another team into the tournament. That's more than 20 years he's been taking different college teams there.

FEINSTEIN: Yeah, you're right. Pitino is the only coach in history who's taken three different schools - Providence, Kentucky and now Louisville - to the Final Four previously, and he certainly has a great chance to take this Louisville team to the Final Four.

He's got a, you know, he's in a strong region, the Midwest, but he gets to play if he gets to the Sweet 16 next week in Indianapolis, which as you know, is only about an hour's drive from Louisville. So that'll help him, too.

INSKEEP: Almost a home game. So is there a chance that all four of these top seeds could make the Final Four, as actually happened last year?

FEINSTEIN: Well, there's always a chance. And they're the top-seeded teams because they're the teams that have played the best. But the odds, I think, are against it. I think North Carolina, in particular, got a tough draw if they have to play Oklahoma, which could've been a number one seed if the National Player of the Year Blake Griffin hadn't been hurt. And Carolina could play Oklahoma in the region final.

And throughout, you know, there are teams scattered throughout the draw that can pull upsets. So I would say no, we won't see all four in the Final Four.

INSKEEP: Well, just got a couple seconds here, John. But can you tell me one team that you think might pull off one of those famous first-round upsets in the NCAA tournament?

FEINSTEIN: I've got two for you, real quick, Steve.

INSKEEP: Okay.

FEINSTEIN: Virginia Commonwealth with a great guard named Eric Maynor playing UCLA, which has been to three straight Final Fours. And the other one is Western Kentucky, which pulled an upset last year against Illinois from, I think, the overrated Big 10.

INSKEEP: Okay. We'll come back and see how they did. Thanks, John.

FEINSTEIN: Okay. Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Comments from John Feinstein, author of "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery." You hear him on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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