A bit of office banter Tuesday: This marks the first year since 2005 that a Kansas or Missouri school didn’t reach the Sweet 16. That was the year Bucknell knocked out Kansas in the first round, and Missouri and Kansas State didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.
Two Big 12 teams, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech reached the Sweet 16 that year, and that’s where their tournaments ended.
Wichita State made the regional semifinals the next year and the Final Four in 2013, Kansas got to the second weekend in six of the next eight years, including Final Fours in 2008 and 2012. Missouri and Kansas State each made it to a regional final.
But in 2014, the tournament ended for the Jayhawks, Wildcats and Shockers on the first weekend in St. Louis, and it never got started for Mizzou.
The games continue however, and some new favorites have emerged. Three top seeds survived, and the fourth region has perhaps the most impressive round-of-32 winner, Kentucky, which defeated the Shockers.1. Florida (South No. 1 seed)
The Gators didn’t overwhelm Albany but wore down ninth-seeded Pittsburgh in their second game and maintained the role of tournament favorite.2. Arizona (West No. 1 seed)
A similar path to Florida’s. The Wildcats started and finished slowly against Weber State but easily took out eighth-seeded Gonzaga. Now comes a regular-season rematch with San Diego State that will be a defensive battle.3. Virginia (East No. 1 seed)
Coastal Carolina hung around for a while, but the Cavaliers put the hammer down on eighth-seeded Memphis and will roll into Madison Square Garden as the favorite to reach their first Final Four since 1984.4. Kentucky (Midwest No. 8 seed)
One victory changed the Wildcats’ profile, from underachiever to a national championship threat. Kentucky played great in defeating top-seeded Wichita State, and it already owns a regular-season victory over its next opponent, Louisville.5. Baylor (West No. 6 seed)
What team has been more impressive than Baylor? The Bears defeated Nebraska and Creighton by a combined 44 points. Point guard Kenny Chery is the key. When he plays well, so does Baylor.6. Michigan State (East No. 4 seed)
The Spartans put away a couple of upset-minded foes, Delaware and Harvard, and Adreian Payne has had the best game in the tournament with his 41-point performance against the Blue Hens.7. Michigan (Midwest No. 2 seed)
Can the Wolverines expect to keep shooting lights out? They made 14 of 28 three-pointers against Texas. But Michigan also has played excellent defense and is a real threat to return to the Final Four.8. UCLA (South No. 4 seed)
Except for Kentucky, Florida hasn’t seen a team as talented as UCLA in months. The Bruins beat Oregon, Stanford and Arizona to win the Pac-12 tournament and didn’t sweat much in knocking out Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin.9. Tennessee (Midwest No. 11 seed)
VCU in 2011 proved a team can get to the Final Four from the opening round, and the Vols have the look of a team that wants to keep playing.10. Connecticut (East No. 7 seed)
After surviving St. Joseph’s in overtime, the Huskies took out second-seeded Villanova. No team in the region will feel more comfortable in Madison Square Garden.11. Wisconsin (West No. 2 seed)
A wonderful second-half effort by the Badgers carried them past Oregon. Who are these guys? Typically slow tempo, Wisconsin scored 75 and 85 points in its tournament victories.12. Louisville (Midwest No. 4 seed)
Manhattan nearly derailed the defending NCAA champion in the opener, but the Cardinals came back strong in a 15-point victory over Saint Louis. Next up, a showdown with Kentucky, in a meeting between the last two national champs.13. Iowa State (East No. 3 seed)
The Cyclones trailed by eight with fewer than 4 minutes remaining but rallied to beat North Carolina without starting forward Georges Niang, who broke his foot against North Carolina Central. Does Iowa State have another gusty performance remaining?14. San Diego State (West No. 4 seed)
The Aztecs were nearly bounced by New Mexico State but came back strong to handle North Dakota State behind Xavier Thames’ 30. He’ll have to come up big against Arizona.15. Stanford (South No. 10 seed)
The Cardinal’s length and defense gave New Mexico and Kansas fits. Chasson Randle can control a game.16. Dayton (South No. 11 seed)
The South Region is guaranteed a double-digit seed in the title game, and the Flyers could pull off their third straight upset (by seed) after knocking out Ohio State and Syracuse.