"I just think it reflects the whole season, the regular season ... [then] just to go through that three-game gauntlet, the ACC tournament ... it's a reward for the whole body of work," Virginia coach Tony Bennett told ESPN when asked about his Cavaliers earning the No. 1 overall seed.
The NCAA Selection Show started with a list of all 68 teams that had made this year's tournament, putting an end to the annual tradition of teams nervously waiting to see if they would be dancing while the bracket was unveiled.
"I knew that when Davidson won we could be in trouble," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told ESPN's Jeff Goodman. "After all we have been through, we are honored to be in the NIT."
For the First Four, UCLA will face Saint Bonaventure on Tuesday, while on Wednesday, Arizona State will square off against Syracuse, which committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen said was the final team chosen by the selection committee. For the 16-seeds, LIU Brooklyn will face Radford (Tuesday) and North Carolina Central will play Texas Southern (Wednesday).
Fifth-seeded Kentucky is in the South Region but will start the NCAA tournament against No. 12 Davidson in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday. The Wildcats, who won the SEC tournament in St. Louis on Sunday, will have just a day off and one practice before boarding another cross-country flight.
Kentucky ran the table to win a fourth consecutive SEC championship yet drew a region that could include a second-round matchup against No. 4 seed Arizona and a possible Sweet 16 meeting with top overall seed Virginia if both advance.
When the Wildcats' seeding and bracket was announced, coach John Calipari told ESPN, "My phone blew up. I didn't know there were so many ways to say 'You got screwed again!'"
Also in the South: No. 10 seed Texas, back in the tournament after missing out last year and surviving the pressure of a late-season stretch on the bubble.
Standout freshman center and likely NBA lottery pick Mo Bamba, one of the best shot-blockers in the country, says he's recovered from a sprained left toe and is ready to play after missing all or part of the past three games.
"This has been, for us, a season unlike any other,'' Longhorns coach Shaka Smart said. "Now here we are. We are super excited about what's next."
The Midwest looks like it could be the "bracket of death" with No. 1 seed Kansas opening up in Wichita. The No. 2 seed is Duke, with Michigan State at No. 3. Those three have combined for 39 Final Four appearances.
Fourth-seeded Auburn will open against No. 13 seed Charleston in San Diego. Auburn players tried to play it cool when the Tigers' first NCAA tournament invite in 15 years became official. Even as an auditorium full of athletic department staffers and fans cheered the program's first berth since 2003, players remained seated.
"They want to act like they've been there before even if they've never been there before," Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said, adding that the old-hat response was guard Mustapha Heron's idea.
North Carolina's résumé earned the reigning national champion Tar Heels a No. 2 seed in the West and a home-state opener despite having 10 losses. They will face Lipscomb, which is making its first tournament appearance, on Friday in Charlotte.
North Carolina is 33-1 in NCAA tournament games in its home state, with the only loss coming in 1979.
Xavier earned the No. 1 seed -- its first in program history -- in the West despite being upset by Providence in the Big East tournament semifinals. The West Region, which concludes in Los Angeles, also includes Michigan, Gonzaga and Houston.
The SEC landed a league-record eight teams in the tournament, easily topping the six teams the conference has put into the tournament nine times, most recently in 2008. The Big 12 wound up with seven teams dancing.
Despite the annual hoopla of the bracket reveal, college basketball's biggest event also comes against the backdrop of an investigation-riddled season.
No fewer than a dozen of the 68 teams in the tournament have been named either in an FBI investigation or in media reports that allege coaches and others have directed payments and improper benefits to recruits and players, thus breaking rules that go to the core of the amateur-sports code that defines and regulates both the NCAA and the student-athletes who make this billion-dollar business run.
Shortly after the title game on April 2, a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to deliver recommendations from an investigation triggered by the FBI inquiry that led to charges last fall against assistant coaches, agents, employees of apparel companies and others.
Rasumussen has said the investigations played no part in the bracket-filling process.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.