The Kentucky Wildcats, winners of 23 games in a row, were given a relatively easy path to the Final Four Sunday while Arizona, ranked No. 1 for most of the regular season, found its road littered with major hurdles.
Pairings for the NCAA Tournament were announced by the event's selection committee Sunday and, as usual, there were plenty of complaints.
Pittsburgh expected to be a No. 1 seed, but wound up as a No. 2. Although the selection committee tries to keep teams close to home for the first round, Connecticut will play in Spokane, Wash., Oregon will go to Nashville and the powerful Duke Blue Devils will travel to Salt Lake City.
Auburn and Alabama got into the tournament despite major holes in their seasons while Boston College and Texas Tech were left out.
And the teams generally regarded as the top two in the country - Arizona and Kentucky - were placed in the same half of the bracket. That means that even if they advance to the Final Four, they would meet in the semifinals instead of having a chance to play in a dream national championship game.
Most of all, however, there was controversy with the seedings in the West Region.
Arizona, Kansas, Duke and Illinois were named the top four seeded teams in that region - winners of the Pac-10 regular season title, the Big 12 regular-season crown, the ACC Tournament and the Big Ten Tournament.
Kentucky, seeded No. 1 in the Midwest, could run into the likes of Dayton, Wisconsin, Marquette or Pittsburgh in its quest for a berth in the Final Four.
Texas and Oklahoma were named the other top seeds - the Longhorns in the South and Oklahoma in the East.
The tournament begins Tuesday night in Dayton, where North Carolina-Asheville will meet Texas Southern for the chance to take on Texas Friday in Birmingham, Ala.
Arizona, which was knocked off in the opening round of the Pac-10 Tournament by UCLA last Thursday, will play its first NCAA game Thursday in Salt Lake City against Vermont. Oklahoma will also play Thursday in Oklahoma City against South Carolina State and Kentucky opens Friday in Nashville against Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis.
After the field is whittled from 65 to 16 next weekend, the survivors will play in the regional semifinals at Albany, N.Y.; San Antonio, Minneapolis and Anaheim.
The national championship will be decided April 7 in the Louisiana Superdome.
Among the points of interest in the bracket:
-- Butler received one of the final at-large berths despite losing in the Horizon League final to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Bulldogs, who went 25-5, were snubbed last season despite finishing with an identical record and defeating eventual national finalist Indiana.
-- A pair of controversial selections were Alabama and Cincinnati, which finished with identical 17-11 records. The Crimson Tide were seeded 10th in the Midwest Region and the Bearcats are eighth in the West Region.
Alabama lost nine of its last 14 games, including a setback against Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament. Cincinnati has lost eight of its last 12 games and stumbled in the first round of the Conference USA tournament with a loss to Southern Mississippi.
-- Six teams each from the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference will play in the tournament along with five from the Big 10 and Pac-10 and four from the ACC, Big East and Conference USA.
One of the key factors to tournament success could be the amount of rest the top teams have had going into the tournament. Arizona, for instance, was knocked out in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament by UCLA while Oklahoma had to battle hard for three days to win the Big 12.
"We looked like we got in a big old fist fight," Oklahoma Coach Kelvin Sampson said. "Tournaments are like a war of attrition."
"I'm not sure that (the loss to UCLA in the Pac-10 Tournament Thursday) might not help us going in," said Arizona Coach Lute Olson. "Instead of having a winning streak going in with a lot of pressure, it might be a little easier to motivate our guys."
Traditionally, some of the best games in the opening round of the tournament are played between teams seeded eighth and ninth in their region.
Those games this year will send Oregon against Utah, Cincinnati against Gonzaga, LSU against Purdue and California against North Carolina State.