LAS VEGAS (AP) — Oregon is a No. 1 seed for the first time in program history. Rival Oregon State is back in the bracket for the first time in a generation, led by the son of the school’s greatest player.
Former rivals Texas and Texas A&M could rekindle their hate-hate relationship with a win, part of a Big 12-themed portion of the bracket.
And Duke and UNC Wilmington are leaving North Carolina to play each other in Rhode Island of all places.
Yep, it’s going to be a wild West Region in the NCAA Tournament.
It starts with those high-flying Ducks.
Coming off a sweep of the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles, eighth-ranked Oregon (28-6) is the top seed in the West and will play in Spokane against the Holy Cross-Southern winner from the First Four.
Despite their best season in 77 years, the Ducks are the least-hyped top seed, and got a lot less attention than some No. 2 seeds like Michigan State and Villanova. But the 88-57 win over 12th-ranked Utah in the Pac-12 final propelled the Ducks to No. 1 in the West.
“I wouldn’t want to play them, I know that,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said after Saturday night’s game in Las Vegas.
Oklahoma is the No. 2 seed, Texas A&M is third, Duke fourth and Baylor fifth in the region that will conclude in Anaheim, California, March 24-26.
Get past the First Four winner, Oregon will move on to face the winner between Atlantic 10 champion St. Joseph’s (27-7) and Cincinnati (22-10).
“We’re certainly pleased with where we’re at, but we’re not satisfied,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said.
Oklahoma (25-7) and national player of the year front-runner Buddy Hield will start the NCAA Tournament close to home, facing Cal State Bakersfield (24-8) just 20 miles up the road in Oklahoma City.
The sixth-ranked Sooners were on pace to be a No. 1 seed, but a last-second loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 semifinals — after a mid-court heave by Hield was overturned upon review — left them at No. 2.
Get past Cal State Bakersfield, and Oklahoma will play the winner between Oregon State (19-12) and Atlantic 10 runner-up VCU (24-10). The Beavers ended a 26-year NCAA Tournament drought and were one of a conference-record seven Pac-12 teams.
After that, the Sooners may face some familiar foes, with three other Big 12 teams and former Big 12 member Texas A&M playing in the West Region.
Texas (20-12) had a terrific rebound season in its first year under coach Shaka Smart and will take on Missouri Valley champion Northern Iowa (22-12) in Oklahoma City.
That could set up a possible rivalry-rekindling game.
Texas and Texas A&M were longtime rivals before the Aggies move to the SEC four years ago, and could play in the second round.
The 17th-ranked Aggies (26-8), who lost to Kentucky in the SEC title game, have their highest seeding as a program and will face Horizon League champion Green Bay (23-12) in the opening game. Texas A&M is 4-0 against teams from the Big 12 this season.
Baylor (22-11) opens with a potentially-difficult game in Providence, Rhode Island, facing Ivy League champion Yale (22-6), which is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962, despite the dismissal of team captain Jack Montague.
The Bears lost four of six to end the season and fell to Georgia State as a No. 3 seed last season, so they’re wary of taking anyone lightly.
Even if Baylor gets past Yale, the next step will be even tougher. Despite some hiccups during the regular season and blowing a 16-point lead in losing to Notre Dame in the ACC semifinals, 19th-ranked Duke (23-10) is the defending national champion is still loaded with talent.