With the NCAA Tournament coming up in a few days, let’s take a look at which No. 1 seed has the easiest path to the Final Four. Make sure you check out all of the latest betting lines on all of the games right here.
This is not a region in which the top seed has an easy path. Virginia is scheduled to meet Michigan State in the Sweet 16 if all the top seeds win their games in the second and third rounds of the tournament. Michigan State is a fourth seed that is very tough to beat, led by head coach Tom Izzo, one of the better coaches in the country. Virginia has to feel very uncomfortable about being so close to Michigan State in the brackets. Virginia will want Cincinnati to beat Michigan State in the third round so that it can have a better Sweet 16 matchup. If Virginia does get to the regional final, it would want to play Villanova more than Iowa State. Most experts think that Iowa State will probably be the team that makes the Elite Eight from that part of the bracket.
This is where a top seed has a fairly easy path to the Final Four – at least more than all the other regions. Florida should not be threatened very much by Pittsburgh or Colorado in the third round. The Gators would then play UCLA in the Sweet 16 if seeds hold to form. UCLA is a dangerous team, but when compared to other number four seeds in this bracket, the Bruins aren’t as strong as their competitors. If Virginia Commonwealth upsets UCLA and plays Florida in the Sweet 16, the Gators would have way too much size and strength for the Rams. Florida should not be a prime upset candidate in the first few games of this tournament.
If Florida does get to the regional final, it could play a Kansas team that will have Joel Embiid back in the lineup and on the floor. The question with Kansas is if the Jayhawks can win a couple of games without Embiid so that they can arrive at the Sweet 16 with Embiid ready to rejoin them. If Embiid does play, will he be effective? That question might affect the strength of Florida’s path more than anything else. For now, though, Florida’s path is easier.
The Wichita State Shockers have the hardest path to the Final Four of any top seed. That’s evidenced by the fact that they aren’t getting much love on the college basketball futures to win it all. Wichita State has to play Kentucky and its talented freshman, Julius Randle, in a likely third-round matchup. If the opponent is Kansas State, Wichita State would get a small break, but Kansas State is talented as well and would not be an easy out for the Shockers. If Wichita State can get past the third round, Louisville would probably be waiting in the Sweet 16. Nobody wanted to be drawn in the same bracket as the Cardinals on the Sunday night when the tournament pairings were revealed, but Wichita State got the short straw, so to speak. If Wichita State somehow got past Louisville, it would still probably have to beat Michigan or Duke in the regional final. This is a tough situation for the 34-0 Shockers.
Arizona has a path that is not easy but not overwhelmingly difficult. Oklahoma State is a very talented team in the third round, but the Cowboys do not have a deep bench because of roster attrition over the course of the season. Arizona should be able to wear down Oklahoma State and move into the Sweet 16, which would be played in Anaheim, not far from home. In Anaheim, though, Arizona could play San Diego State, another team that would be playing in a regionally favorable location. That could be a very difficult game for the Wildcats. If Arizona does get through to the regional final, Wisconsin would be a very hard team to play against, simply because the Badgers would probably be patient enough to make Arizona chase on defense and lose some stamina late in the second half. Arizona’s path to the Final Four is harder than Florida’s, but it’s easier than the path Virginia and Wichita State have.