four #1 seeds. But if you have ever watched March Madness, you know that never happens.
A #16 seed has never knocked off a top-ranked team. There have been several close calls but no upsets. A handful of #15 seeds have shocked a #2 seed. The last time this occurred was in 2001, #15 Hampton over #2 Iowa State 58-57. Most giant killers like Hampton are quickly dismissed in the second round.
A trend that has been noticed in college basketball over the last five years is most superstars either skip college all together or just play a year or two (see Carmelo Anthony and Syracuse, 2003 NCAA champs). Before the early exoduses by college players, a dozen or so college teams were constantly considered favorites to win it all (Kansas, Arizona, Kentucky, Indiana, Duke, etc.). The coaches had their stars for four years and with a good nucleus, would contend for at least three of those four years (see Duke 1990-94).
The effects of this are great if you enjoy a certain amount of parity. This had led to other large schools that once were only Sweet 16 hopefuls to become title contenders. Schools that were at best fourth or fifth place finishers in power conferences (such as the ACC and Big East) are now legitimate title hopefuls. This has led to more and more instances of small schools who have their players all four years, gaining continuity, cohesiveness, and maturing together, an increasing chance of toppling a nationally recognized team who may have two or three superstars but have only been together a year or two.
Conference tournaments will be held in the first two weeks of March. The selection process for the "at-large" bids has always come under heavy scrutiny because some small conferences only send one representative, whereas a major conference will send as many as eight or nine. Much of the debate stems from a small conference team winning their conference quite decisively but being upset in the conference tourney by a team they clearly defeated twice earlier.
Sometimes if the team's RPI index is high enough, they are still admitted into the 64-team field. Yet the majority of teams are left out in the cold and if they are lucky, can receive a NIT (National Invitational Tournament) offer. Last year's "play-in" game loser, Alabama A&M, won their conference, won the conference tourney, and lost the "play-in" game. They received no invites to either the 64-team tourney, or the NIT, while teams with a .500 area record at least received the NIT invite.
With March Madness and the NIT, roughly 100 of the just over 300 Division-I schools participate in one of these. Some say this is too many, while others say it would be a good idea to let every D-I school in (similar to the now defunct Indiana high school state tourney-think Milan, 1954, the movie Hoosiers). There will always be a few teams left out of March Madness, therefore the debate will always continue.
If a team gets on a roll at the right time, the seeding can be very kind to them. The teams to watch are seasoned bubble teams and small schools. Syracuse, Maryland, Arkansas, Stanford, and Charlotte have deep benches and a savvy coach. These are the teams that just get in, either as a #7-10 seed, win the first round game and pull an upset on the #1 and #2 seeded teams in the second round.
Small schools that "accidentally" make it in and are apt to pull an upset would be Northern Arizona, Long Beach State, Butler, Marist, and Coppin State. All 84 times the #16 seed has lost. Maybe this is the year.