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NCAA bracket 2017: No. 1 Villanova will play No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s/New Orleans on Thursday in Buffalo

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The Wildcats start off their quest for a repeat on Thursday at 7:10pm ET on CBS.

Big East Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Villanova Wildcats have been locked into a #1 seed for months now, and the only drama seemed to be whether they would be THE #1 overall seed. The answer is a resounding yes after a 31-3 regular season that was capped with both the Big East regular season and tournament championships.

The reigning National Champions will start their march for back-to-back titles in the Buffalo, N.Y. pod, with a potential return with Madison Square Garden in the cards if the ‘Cats can make it to the second weekend.

They’ll get a winnable game to start things off, taking on the winner of a First Four play-in game between Mount St. Mary’s and New Orleans on Thursday at 7:10pm ET, with a second round matchup against either the no. 8 Wisconsin Badgers or no. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies. The no. 4 Florida Gators and the no. 5 Virginia Cavaliers rounded out the top seeds in Villanova’s half.

The bottom of the bracket features the no. 2 Duke Blue Devils — and CBS made a point to say they couldn’t be here if they were the top #2 seed - as well as the no. 3 Baylor Bears.

Overall this is a very tough draw for the #1 overall seed, and the committee clearly did not do ‘Nova any favors in their bid to repeat. There are six Top-15 teams in KenPom’s rankings in the East region, which is why it has gotten the ‘Death Bracket’ label early on from analysts. Moreover, ‘Nova’s half of the bracket features several elite defensive teams in Virginia, Florida and Wisconsin.

There’s widely believed to be 10-12 teams capable of cutting down the nets, but Villanova will enter March Madness as one of the favorites to cut down the nets in Phoenix regardless of this draw.