The Louisville Cardinals are the No. 1 overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Unlike last year when Kentucky was the consensus top team, the past week of conference championships was full of jostling for position on the one line. The Cardinals, who were the No. 2 team in the country in the preseason, finished the season strong in conference and then backed that up with their second consecutive Big East Tournament title on Saturday night.
Joining Louisville as the No. 1 seeds this year are Gonzaga, Kansas, and Indiana. The four No. 1 seeds are typically known by the start of Selection Sunday, but this year there were at least six solid candidates for those four spots. Miami and Duke were thought to be the other top contenders for top seeds, but the ACC was shut out. Here's a closer look at the top four seeds heading into this week's tournament.
Indiana Hoosiers - East Regional - Washington, DC
The Indiana Hoosiers probably locked up at No. 1 seed last Sunday when they beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, earning the Big Ten's regular season title. It was the best conference all season long, and the preseason No. 1 team finished the year 27-6 overall and 14-4 in the conference. (Update: Committee Chairman Mike Bobinski confirmed that Indiana was the one team that was locked into a top seed before this weekend's games.)
Victor Oladipo, a contender for national player of the year and the biggest reason for the Hoosiers 2013 success, will be playing in front of a home crowd in DC if Indiana can make it to the second weekend. The No. 1 seed is a remarkable accomplishment for Tom Crean, who's came to Bloomington with a program in ruins and built one of college basketball's historic programs back into a powerhouse. Their semifinals loss to Wisconsin in Chicago may have cost them the top seed in the Indianapolis region, which former rival Louisville captured thanks to their Big East title.
Louisville Cardinals - Midwest Regional - Indianapolis, IN
Rick Pitino's Louisville team finished the season by winning 13 of their last 14 games, including Saturday night's Big East Tournament title against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. The Cards were one of the preseason favorites to make the Final Four in Atlanta, and they finish the season on a tear for the second consecutive season. That work over the past two months puts them in prime position to make a second consecutive trip to the Final Four, as they'll start their tournament in nearby Lexington.
The conference tournaments also likely swung their regional position with Indiana, nudging the Hoosiers off the one line in the Indianapolis regional. Now, the Cardinals will have a chance to play on the second weekend just to the north in Indy while the Hoosiers are shipped out to Washington, DC.
Kansas Jayhawks - South Regional - Arlington, TX
The Kansas Jayhawks continued their success under Bill Self this season, earning a No. 1 seed for the 11th time in school history. In Self's 10 seasons in Lawrence, the Jayhawks have won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title nine times. On Saturday night in Kansas City, they also earned their third conference tournament championship in the past four years.
Some thought this may be a transitional year for the Jayhawks after last season's run to the National Championship game, but KU finished with a 29-5 overall record. The season went off the rails for a brief moment in February as the Jayhawks lost three straight, including an upset loss to lowly TCU. But Self and KU righted the ship to finish the season strong and claim yet another No. 1 seed. The top line delivers the advantage of playing the first weekend back in Kansas City, and a potential regional weekend at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Gonzaga Bulldogs - West Regional - Los Angeles, CA
Mark Few and the Bulldogs are far from the mid-major Cinderella that made them a household name in many Marches over the past two decades. Gonzaga finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in both polls and a likely lock to earn the No. 1 seed in the West Regional. It's the highest seed in school history, with the Bulldogs earning a No. 2 seed in 2004 and multiple No. 3 seeds.
Led by WCC Player of the Year Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga finished the regular season 30-2. The 'Zags have historically struggled as favorites in the tournament, and folks will question their bona fides after the mid-major schedule. But Gonzaga is set up for a deep run -- they will play in Salt Lake City for the first weekend with a shot to play in Los Angeles in the regionals.