Let the madness begin: Tourney field set

Let’s be honest. I’m sure we are all just thrilled this year’s selection show didn’t take a painful two hours to complete.

Speaking of painful, even if you are an Indiana Hoosiers fan, there are still plenty of in-state teams to follow after the field of 68 was released Sunday for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

Butler earned its highest seed ever — No. 4 in the South Region — while Purdue (No. 4 Midwest) and Notre Dame (No. 5 West) had little trouble earning their spots, as well. The Bulldogs will face No. 13 seed Winthrop, while the Boilermakers and Fighting Irish will play No. 13 Vermont and No. 12 Princeton, respectively.

Between our three local teams, I have a hard time not picking Butler to advance the farthest. I mean, the Bulldogs did beat Villanova — the No. 1 overall seed — twice. And Purdue’s lack of guard play in a win-or-go-home scenario is terrifying. Take the Big Ten Tournament for example. As for Notre Dame? The matchup with the Tigers won’t be easy. Princeton hasn’t lost a game since Dec. 20.

Regardless, all three Indiana teams would presumably, barring an upset, need to beat the No. 1 seed in their bracket to reach the Elite Eight. As for the rest of the field, here is a region-by-region breakdown.

Midwest

This appears to be one of the more competitive sides of the bracket. Kansas, Louisville, Oregon, Purdue and Michigan all have the talent to reach the Final Four, while Michigan State and legendary coach Tom Izzo will surely be no pushover.

Michigan, which topped Purdue and Wisconsin to win the Big Ten Tournament, is red hot and could eventually be the best story of the tournament. The Wolverines can win games with their strong outside shooting guards or with their skilled big men inside.

When filling out your own bracket, though, here are a few statistics to keep in mind: According to predictem.com, 111 of the 128 teams to be seeded first have made it to the Sweet Sixteen. On the contrary, only nine of 128 teams seeded 13th through 16th have made it that far. Furthermore, 18 of the last 19 national title winners have been seeded first, second or third.

The Pick: Louisville

West

Although Gonzaga again gets a No. 1 seed, No. 2 Arizona usually seems to be playing late in March under head coach Sean Miller. The Wildcats were bounced in the first round last year but made two Elite Eights and one Sweet Sixteen the previous three seasons.

Also of note, No. 11 seed Xavier beat Butler this season and No. 6 Maryland finished second in the Big Ten.

A few local names appear in this chunk of the bracket, too. Northwestern, the No. 8 seed, is making its first tournament appearance in school history with Hoosier point guard Bryan McIntosh (Greensburg), while No. 2 seed Florida State has seen productive minutes from Indiana native CJ Walker, a freshman, who went to Indianapolis Tech.

The Pick: Arizona

South

The top four teams here are as good as they come. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see North Carolina, Kentucky or UCLA reach the Final Four. And Butler, as we’ve learned, will always be a tough out.

Looking elsewhere, how did Minnesota earn the No. 5 seed? Maryland and Wisconsin both had better records in league play. Nonetheless, the lower seed may not have done the Gophers any good as Middle Tennessee State has lost just four times this season. The Blue Raiders also won their conference tournament and feature three players scoring between 14.5 and 17.3 points per game.

The Pick: Butler

East

Fortunately for Villanova, a third meeting with Butler does not appear to be happening anytime soon. The Wildcats, who won last season’s championship, will face a tough second-round test, however.

If it can get past No. 8 seed Wisconsin, the only other team that should scare the defending champs is Duke, who is all the way at the bottom of the region as the No. 2 seed.

As for sleepers, keep an eye out for No. 6 seed SMU, which plays some of the best small ball in the country. The Mustangs recently handled Cincinnati for the American Athletic Conference title.

Former Lawrence Central guard Kyle Guy, who was named Mr. Basketball last season, is playing for No. 5 seed Virginia, who will play UNC Wilmington in the first round.

The Pick: Villanova

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Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or kmills@greenfieldreporter.com.