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March Madness set to begin after NCAA tournament bracket revealed

The NCAA selection committee didn't deal the college basketball community any major surprises this year, but the nation will still be buzzing about several novel storylines in the lead-up to the Big Dance this week.

Defending champion Villanova (31-3) claimed the overall No. 1 seed, the third in school history, after cruising through the Big East tournament. They were joined on the top seeding line by Kansas (28-4), North Carolina (27-7) and Gonzaga (32-1) as the favorites tabbed by the committee to advance to the Final Four in Phoenix, Ariz.

Northwestern (23-11) finally qualified for the field for the first time in school history, snapping a 78-year drought by earning a No. 8 seed in the West Region. They'll tip off against No. 9 Vanderbilt (19-15), which became the first 15-loss team in NCAA history to earn an at-large bid.

19 PHOTOS
Best men's March Madness photos 2016
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Best men's March Madness photos 2016
HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02: Brice Johnson #11 of the North Carolina Tar Heels defends a shot by Tyler Roberson #21 of the Syracuse Orange in the first half during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at NRG Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Chris Steppig - Pool/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02: Buddy Hield #24 of the Oklahoma Sooners reacts in the second half against the Villanova Wildcats during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at NRG Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02: Brice Johnson #11 of the North Carolina Tar Heels and Marcus Paige #5 celebrate defeating the Syracuse Orange 83-66 as Tyler Roberson #21 of the Syracuse Orange reacts after the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at NRG Stadium on April 2, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 27: Malachi Richardson #23 of the Syracuse Orange falls off of the court in the second half against the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional Final at United Center on March 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26: The Villanova Wildcats celebrate defeating the Kansas Jayhawks 64-59 during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks falls as he drives between Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats and Kris Jenkins #2 in the second half during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 25: Marcus Paige #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates after a basket in the first half against the Indiana Hoosiers during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24: Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils goes up for a shot against Jordan Bell #1 of the Oregon Ducks in the second half in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at the Honda Center on March 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 17: Ben Bentil #0 of the Providence Friars dunks the ball in the first half over Elijah Stewart #30 of the USC Trojans during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 17, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 17: Kennedy Meeks #3 of the North Carolina Tar Heels rebounds against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles during the first round of the NCAA Men's Basbetball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 17, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 17: Zach Johnson #5 of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles dives to shoot the ball in the first half against Isaiah Hicks #4 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 17, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - MARCH 17: Roger Woods #0 of the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans and P.J. Thompson #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers fight for a ball during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Pepsi Center on March 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17: Taurean Prince #21 of the Baylor Bears dunks the ball in the first half against the Yale Bulldogs during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 20: DeAndre Bembry #43 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks goes up with a reverse dunk against hte Oregon Ducks in the first half during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20: Adam Woodbury #34 of the Iowa Hawkeyes goes up against Phil Booth #5 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18: Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins puts up a shot against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 17: Derek Willis #35 and Skal Labissiere #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats reject a shot by Rayshaun McGrew #11 of the Stony Brook Seawolves in the first half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 17, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 18: Isaiah Taylor #1 of the Texas Longhorns reacts after Paul Jesperson #4 of the Northern Iowa Panthers hit a half court three pointer to win the game with a score of 75 to 72 during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena on March 18, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Villanova will have to navigate an East Region that features Duke, Baylor, Florida and Virginia. Some speculated that the Blue Devils had done enough to earn a No. 1 seed after taking home the ACC tournament title. Committee chair Mark Hollis noted in an interview with CBS aired during the selection show that Duke was slotted as a No. 4 seed before beating three top-25 teams last week. The Blue Devils ultimately earned the No. 2 seed, and will have to take down the defending champs to reach the Final Four.

Kansas heads up the Midwest Region, which also includes Louisville, Oregon, Purdue and Iowa State. The Jayhawks seem to have drawn the softest bracket, as the Cardinals (24-8) were not expected to obtain a No. 2 seed after losing in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. The Ducks are perhaps underseeded on the No. 3 line, but they did lose starting forward Chris Boucher to a torn ACL during the Pac-12 tournament -- a fact that CBS analyst Clark Kellogg said likely contributed to their placement.

North Carolina (27-7) earned the No. 1 seed in the South Region despite losing to Duke twice in three matchups this season. The Tar Heels did, however, win the regular-season ACC title -- an achievement the selection committee seemingly prioritized. Regardless, they won't have an easy road to Phoenix in a bracket that boasts Kentucky, UCLA and Butler -- a fascinating collection of basketball blue bloods and programs with extensive recent success.

The West Region will be home to two powers in Gonzaga and Arizona. The Bulldogs lost only one game this season, a home upset to BYU. The Wildcats, meanwhile, just concluded an impressive march through the Pac-12 tournament by defeating UCLA and Oregon. That region also includes Florida State, West Virginia and Notre Dame. The Seminoles will take part in one of the most intriguing first-round matchups versus No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast in Orlando, Fla.

The most notable teams "snubbed" were Syracuse (18-14) and Illinois State (27-6), but even those squads can't feel too aggrieved.

Committee chair Mark Hollis cited Syracuse's 2-11 road record and poor nonconference play as to why the Orange were left out of the field. Ultimately, they never rediscovered the magic that carried them to the Final Four last year, having lost four of their final six games after falling to lesser teams such as St. John's, Boston College and Connecticut on their nonconference slate.

The Redbirds, meanwhile, only had one win against NCAA tournament teams -- and that was against Wichita State, whom they lost to twice. That wasn't enough to overcome losses to lightweights like Murray State, Tulsa and San Francisco.

As of Sunday evening, VegasInsider listed Kansas and North Carolina as 13/2 co-favorites to win it all. UCLA (9/1), Gonzaga (10/1) and Villanova (10/1) rounded out the top five.

Below is the entire bracket of 68 teams. Who do you think will take home the championship?

East Region

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 (Mount St. Mary's/New Orleans)

No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech

No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 UNC-Wilmington

No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State

No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 New Mexico State

No. 6 SMU vs. No. 11 (Providence/USC)

No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 10 Marquette

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy

Midwest Region

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 (N.C. Central/UC Davis)

No. 8 Miami vs. No. 9 Michigan State

No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Nevada

No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Vermont

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 14 Iona

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Rhode Island

No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Oklahoma State

No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State

South Region

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Texas Southern

No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Seton Hall

No. 5 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee

No. 4 Butler vs. No. 13 Winthrop

No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 14 Kent State

No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 (Kansas State/Wake Forest)

No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State

No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky

West Region

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 South Dakota State

No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt

No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Princeton

No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Bucknell

No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast

No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 Xavier

No. 7 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 VCU

No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 North Dakota

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