Kentucky is team to beat in NCAA tournament, which includes ... UCLA

NCAA tournament bracket includes UCLA and undefeated Kentucky

The race to the Final Four in Indianapolis officially began with Sunday’s release of the 68-team NCAA tournament bracket.

It remains to be seen, over the next three weekends, whether this is essentially a one-team race to history.

Kentucky continued beating its torrid path on Sunday when it improved to 34-0 with a win over Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game.

Kentucky enters the tournament six wins shy of a perfect 40-0 season. The Wildcats will be prohibitive favorites when they open Thursday with the No .1 overall seeding in the Midwest. Kentucky plays the Hampton-Manhattan play-in winner.

And what do you know? Kentucky, with eight NCAA titles, will be joined in the field by UCLA, with a record 11 banners. UCLA was a surprise entry to some, but the Bruins made the field with ease and landed as a No. 11 in the South Region.

Proving the NCAA selection committee has a sense of humor, it pitted UCLA in Louisville against former UCLA coach Larry Brown, who now leads Southern Methodist.

UC Irvine, which earned its first NCAA bid by winning the Big West tournament, earned a trip to Seattle as a No. 13 to play No. 4 Louisville in the East region.

Other top seedings were awarded to Villanova (East), Duke (South), and Wisconsin (West).

Wisconsin's overtime win over Michigan State in the Big Ten title game on Sunday likely was the deciding factor in knocking Arizona to No. 2 in the West. The Pac-12 champions open Thursday against No. 15 Texas Southern in Portland.

Connecticut, last year’s national championship, were faced with winning four games in four days to win the automatic bid from the American Athletic Conference.

It didn't happen. The Huskies fell short with Sunday's loss to SMU in the tournament finals.

Florida, another Final Four team from last year, also will sit this tournament out after a 16-17 finish.

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