The region of unexpected conference tournament champions at least throws open the momentum question.
Top-seeded Syracuse, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Wisconsin don’t have it. Third-seeded Florida State and fifth-seeded Vanderbilt do.
Does it matter? Five of the last six NCAA champions won their conference tournament. Last year, Connecticut won five games in five nights for the Big East tournament title and won the national championship as a No. 3 NCAA seed.
The Seminoles have that look. They became the first team other than North Carolina or Duke since 2004 to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and are the first team since Wake Forest in 1995 to beat the Tar Heels and Blue Devils on the way to a title.
This is a Florida State team that beat North Carolina by 33 points in Tallahassee this season and also beat Duke in Durham, N.C. Perhaps it’s a team of destiny. Florida State twice won this season on Michael Snaer buzzer-beaters, against Duke and Virginia Tech.
Vanderbilt took down Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference title game, and tears flowed from an emotional coach Kevin Stallings.
Syracuse powered its way to the Big East regular-season championship before falling to hot-shooting Cincinnati in the league tournament semifinals. The Orange are deep but played late in the season as though they were ready for NCAA play to begin.
The Bearcats also are in the East, as the No. 6 seed.
For much of the season, Ohio State belonged in the small circle of the nation’s best teams. But the Buckeyes hit a patch of three losses in five games.
Back in the NCAA Tournament is Larry Eustachy, who has guided Southern Mississippi to its first appearance in 21 years. It’s Eustachy’s first NCAA trip since his days at Iowa State in 2001.