With the field announced Sunday, for the first time, the Triangle has four teams: Duke, State, Carolina and Central.
Duke opens as the #3 seed in the Midwest and will face Mercer. Mercer is led by Langston Hall, who averages 14.7 ppg and an impressive 5.9 apg. He's the only double figure scorer although Daniel Coursey is all but there at 9.9 ppg.
Mercer nearly beat Texas early, losing 76-73, beat Seton Hall in double overtime, beat Valparaiso in triple overtime and were competitive with Oklahoma for better than a half before losing, 96-82.
Mercer had five overtime games with the triple, two double OTs and two one overtime contests.
In a Tweet during the announcement show we said that without playing TJ Warren it's impossible to understand how good he is. That's true for a team like Mercer too, but it's compounded by the lack of TV.
It's also impossible to know what's going on within a team. That's why Warren Buffett can offer a billion dollars for a perfect bracket. He'll bet on Creighton and Nebraska, we imagine, and even with his influence, he won't know if, say, Doug McDermott has a toothache or broke up with his girlfriend or has a private assurance that he'll go in the top five in the draft.
Multiply that by 68 and thousands of unknowns and you see the problem (and the tendency to make conservative bets).
If Duke does get past Mercer, the Devils will likely face UMass in the next round. Out of the A-10, the matchup goes to show that the committee does have a sense of humor.
On the bottom of Duke's side of the bracket are Texas, Arizona State, Michigan and Wofford.
If the committee had had a real sense of humor, it would have swapped UMass and ASU and sent Herb Sendek to play in Raleigh.
There's a slight chance that Duke and State could meet in the regional finals - State is in the 12/12 play-in game - but it's not very likely that both teams would make it.
State would have to beat St. Louis, almost certainly Louisville, and then whoever emerged from Wichita, Kentucky or Kansas State.
Stop and consider for a moment: Wichita State, Kentucky, Kansas State, Louisville, Michigan and Duke are all in the Midwest. That's startling.
But it doesn't really matter. At most anyone would play four of those teams, and you have to play better teams each round. The matchups are what matters.
UVa and UNC are in the East as the #1 and #6 seeds respectively.
UVa has a fairly easy road to the Sweet Sixteen, with Coastal Carolina and the winner of George Washington and Memphis - or that's what the committee wants you think. It's another A-10 team.
Just kidding, sort of anyway.
Cincinnati, Harvard and Michigan State loom in the bottom part of Virginia's side of the bracket.
None of it's easy, but it's doable.
UNC opens with Providence and if the Heels win, they graduate (haha) to the winner of Iowa State and NC Central.
It's a tall order for Central - to knock off Iowa State then UNC - but if the Eagles can hang with the Cyclones, then who knows?
On the bottom half looms UConn and Villanova, likely headed for reunion if the teams can beat St. Joe's and Milwaukee respectively.
Arizona is the top seed in the west, opening with Weber State.
Located in Ogden, Utah, not many people give Weber State much thought. In Utah, the Utes and BYU get most of the attention, and Utah State is not to be forgotten.
But neither is Weber. This school has a proud history. It's where Bill Fitch cut his coaching teeth and of course the Wildcats upset UNC once upon a time. Michigan State too. Almost got Florida and Georgetown, too.
Unlike its bigger state rivals, which tend to look like the Osmonds, Weber State has a more diverse roster and has always hit the JUCO ranks pretty hard to keep up.
You just never know what you're getting, but odds are what you get is pretty good. Arizona better not be complacent.
#8 Gonzaga, an annual disappointment, offers Oklahoma State and Marcus Smart a chance to continue the redemption story.
Smart is good enough to cause Arizona some problems in the next round, and with a little luck could face Oklahoma in the Sweet Sixteen. Oklahoma opens with North Dakota State before facing (probably anyway) the winner of San Diego State and New Mexico State.
Like Weber State, folks in Las Cruces have always had to be scrappy and are usually competitive. Just saying.
With a little more luck, Nebraska will upset Baylor - and let's face it, someone's likely to knock them out before long - and if Creighton beats the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette, another nice game to get to the Sweet Sixteen.
Oregon is likely to beat BYU, another team with a proud legacy, and then to play Wisconsin after the Badgers batter American.
Notably left in the cold: Larry Brown's SMU. Ranked in the Top 25, but with a strength of schedule something like #303, it just didn't wash.