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NCAA tournament bracket takeaways: Selection committee snubs UCLA and USC

UCLA's Jules Bernard drives up the court against USC's Max Agbonkpolo.
UCLA’s Jules Bernard drives up the court against USC’s Max Agbonkpolo during the Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinal. UCLA drew a No. 4 seed and USC a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament.
(John Locher / Associated Press)
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March Madness has begun with the release of the NCAA tournament bracket. Here’s a first look at the bracket and breaking down UCLA’s and USC’s first-round opponents.

UCLA vs. Akron

1. It’s all about the matchups. Assuming the Bruins (25-7) get past 13th-seeded Akron (24-9) in the first round, they likely would face fifth-seeded St. Mary’s (otherwise known as the team that beat Gonzaga) in the second round. The Gaels are scrappy but not overly athletic or lengthy, meaning it’s a good matchup for the Bruins. Next up would most likely be top-seeded Baylor, which is not nearly as frightening as it was last season, when it was otherwise known as the team that beat Gonzaga. The Bruins probably did well to avoid a potential matchup with Gonzaga before the Final Four.

2. San Diego snubbed? Most of the widely-used metrics ranked UCLA above Texas Tech, which would have put the Bruins in the San Diego pod for the first and second games. But the NCAA tournament selection committee obviously disagreed, giving the Red Raiders the No. 3 seed that sent them to San Diego while shipping the Bruins up the West Coast to Portland, Ore. Oh, well. At least it’s a foodie’s paradise.

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3. Long distance runaround? UCLA getting put in the East Region means that the regional semifinal and finals would be at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, should the Bruins advance that far. That’s a long way to make one of the top teams in the country go that deep into the tournament. Bring your winter coat.

UCLA received a No. 4 seed and will start its push to return to the Final Four in Portland while USC is a No. 7 seed and Cal State Fullerton is No. 15.

USC vs. Miami

1. The committee wasn’t that impressed with USC’s record-breaking resume. The Trojans won 25 regular-season games — a program record —- but still found themselves a No. 7 seed in Greenville, S.C., where they’re unlikely to get many fans to travel. Andy Enfield was hopeful USC (26-7) would be seeded higher, but a lack of top-tier wins — only two against tournament teams — wasn’t enough. At least forward Chevez Goodwin gets to go close to home for his USC swan song.

2. USC may have trouble keeping up with Miami. The Hurricanes (23-10) aren’t the most consistent team, but their offense ranks among the top 20 in the nation, according to KenPom.com. A January win over Duke showed what Miami is capable of at its best, and it nearly knocked off Duke again this week in the ACC tournament. Guard Kameron McGusty is one of the top scorers in the ACC at 17.6 points per game.

3. It’s a tough road back to the tournament’s second weekend. Not only does USC need to shake off its last two weeks to get past Miami, but Auburn and its freshman star Jabari Smith likely loom in the second round. Wisconsin and its excruciatingly slow pace is another tough out in the bottom half of the Midwest Region.

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