The madness is fully underway.
The first full day of the men’s NCAA Tournament began Thursday with some dramatic upsets, with No. 13 seed Furman scoring the day’s first upset when the Paladins shocked No. 4 Virginia. Then, No. 15 Princeton busted brackets everywhere by upending No. 2 Arizona after trailing most of the game – and marking the third straight year a No. 15 seed advanced to the second round.
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No. 2 UCLA 86, No. 15 UNC Asheville 53
The first round was drama-free for the veteran Bruins. UCLA led 14-0 before UNC Asheville got on the board and the Bruins were never threatened.
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Five players finished in double-figures for UCLA, which shot 54% from the field. The Bruins also outrebounded the Bulldogs 40-25 and had a 24-9 advantage in assists. Perhaps the most impressive statistic – and one that certainly made defensive-minded coach Mick Cronin happy – was UCLA’s 11 steals, with Jaime Jaquez Jr. out in front with five.
Final: No. 4 Tennessee 58, No. 13 Louisiana 55
The Volunteers managed to win despite scoring their sixth-fewest points of the season. That’s mainly because Louisiana’s 55 points were a season low.
Both teams struggled from the field, Tennessee shooting 45.7% and Louisiana hitting at a 40% clip. The Vols went 4-for-16 (25%) from deep. The Ragin’ Cajuns went 6-for-18 (33.3%) from 3. Even the free-throw shooting was bad, as Tennessee went 12-for-21 from the line and Louisiana went 5-for-9. Both teams were sloppy, as well: Tennessee had 18 turnovers and Louisiana had 15.
In the end, the Vols did enough to survive and advance, but they’ll need a much better effort if they hope to beat Duke and advance to the second weekend for just the second time under coach Rick Barnes.
Final: No. 1 Houston 63, No. 16 Northern Kentucky 52
Houston has only itself to blame for what will surely be a short stay in the NCAA tournament.
Just five days after Marcus Sasser injured his groin in the American Athletic Conference tournament semifinals, he was back in the Cougars’ starting lineup Thursday night. For a first-round game against a No. 16 team.
For those who need a refresher, like Kelvin Sampson apparently, a 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 just once since the men’s tournament began seeding teams more than 40 years ago. As pesky as Northern Kentucky was, the odds of the Norse beating Houston were infinitesimally small. Certainly smaller than the odds of Sasser tweaking his groin, an injury that is famously slow to heal and just as easy to aggravate.
Sure enough, with less than 90 seconds left in the first half, Sasser limped to the Houston bench. He looked pained just sliding over on the seat, and Houston trainers quickly rewrapped his leg. When the Cougars came out for the second half, Sasser was in warmups.
He had “aggravated his groin injury,” the school said, and was “questionable (to) return tonight.”
Now Houston’s hopes of winning its first national title, in its hometown no less, are questionable, too. And for what? A game Sasser didn’t need to be, and had no business, playing in.
– Nancy Armour
Half: No. 10 Penn State 38, No. 7 Texas A&M 22
The Nittany Lions are well on their way to their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2001.
Texas A&M made just eight field goals in the first half on 25 attempts (32%). Penn State hit 54.2% of its shots from the field and went 6-for-9 (66.7%) on 3-pointers.
Half: No. 2 UCLA 46, No. 15 UNC Asheville 25
UCLA opened its first-round matchup against UNC Asheville on a 14-0 run and didn’t let up. The Bruins opened up a 21-point lead in the first half, outscoring the Bulldogs 46-25. They shot 59.4% from the field. Jaime Jaquez Jr. led UCLA with 14 points, five steals and two rebounds.
The Bulldogs didn’t help themselves with 12 first-half turnovers. Drew Pember and Alex Caldwell each scored seven points.
Marcus Sasser aggravates groin injury
Turns out, the good news of Marcus Sasser’s return for No. 1 Houston was brief.
Sasser aggravated his left groin injury according to the Cougars’ official Twitter account, and his return for the second half against No. 16 Northern Kentucky is questionable.
The senior guard, the AAC player of the year and Houston’s best player, went to the bench late in the first half in obvious pain. He limped back to the locker room with his groin wrapped at the break. He played 14 minutes in the first half, scoring five points and grabbing two rebounds.
– Lindsay Schnell
Half: No. 1 Houston 30, No. 16 Northern Kentucky 27
No. 1 Houston is in a dogfight through 20 minutes.
The Cougars took just a three-point lead into halftime against the Horizon League tournament champions. They hit just one of their nine 3-point attempts in the first half, though Northern Kentucky managed to go just 2-for-12 from deep and actually shot worse overall (33% from the field to Houston’s 46.4%). Nine Houston turnovers haven’t helped.
Of particular concern to Houston in the second half is the health of Marcus Sasser. The Cougars star returned to the starting lineup after missing the American Athletic tournament title game but appeared to be in pain on the bench late in the first half, his upper leg wrapped. Houston said he aggravated his groin injury and was questionable to return.
Houston has 20 minutes to avoid becoming just the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16.
Half: No. 4 Tennessee 30, No. 13 Louisiana 19
The Volunteers entered halftime with an 11-point lead despite turning the ball over a dozen times in the first half. Uros Plavsic has a team-high seven points and Jahmai Mashack added six points.
The Cajuns have failed to knock down a three so far, going 0-for-6 beyond the arc, and are only shooting 29.6% from the field. Jordan Brown has 12 of Louisiana’s 19 points, while the rest of the team has combined for seven points.
Final: No. 2 Texas 81, No. 15 Colgate 61
A No. 15 seed took out a No. 2 seed early Thursday with Princeton’s win over Arizona, but that wasn’t the case for Texas. The Longhorns advanced with a decisive, 20-point win over the Colgate Raiders.
Texas shot 53.4% from the field and went 13-for-23 from three. Sir’Jabari Rice finished with 23 points off the bench, followed by Dylan Disu’s and Marcus Carr’s 17 points each.
Keegan Records and Ryan Moffatt had a team high 13 points for the Raiders, who weren’t able to get it done on the defensive end, either. Colgate was outrebounded by Texas 34-24.
Final: No. 7 Northwestern 75, No. 10 Boise State 67
Boise State was able to close the Wildcats’ lead to four before Northwestern pulled away for a 75-67 win.
Boo Buie scored a game-high 22 points, five rebounds and five assists. Chase Audige also exploded for the Wildcats, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the second half to finish the Broncos off.
Boise State’s Marcus Shaver Jr. returned in the second half with a taped ankle and a noticeable limp after leaving the first half early with a twisted right ankle. Max Rice led the Broncos with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists, with Chibuzo Agbo adding 12 points and Shaver recording 10. But the Broncos weren’t able to generate enough offense to get past Northwestern, who led the entirety of the game.
Marcus Sasser returns to Houston lineup
Houston got a win before the Cougars even tipped off in the 2023 NCAA Tournament: Marcus Sasser is back.
Sasser is the Cougars’ leading scorer at 17.1 points, and also chips in 3.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game. The AAC player of the year, he got hurt late in the first half of Houston’s conference tournament semifinal, slipping on the floor and hurting his groin. He did not play in the AAC tournament championship, which Houston lost 75-65 to Memphis. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said earlier this week that Sasser would be a game-time decision Thursday.
In a potent offense — all five Cougar starters average 9 points or more — Sasser is the key. A 6-foot-2, 195-pound combo guard, he is UH’s first first-team All-American since Hakeem Olajuwon and a likely second round pick in the 2023 NBA draft.
– Lindsay Schnell
Final: No. 5 Duke 74, No. 12 Oral Roberts 51
Jon Scheyer’s first NCAA Tournament win as head coach at Duke was a breeze.
The No. 5 Blue Devils jumped out to a 15-0 lead and never looked back as they cruised past Oral Roberts and into the second round. Jeremy Roach led the way with a game-high 23 points.
Duke dominated the boards, finishing with a 47-32 advantage. Highly-touted freshman Dereck Lively II paced the field with 12 rebounds. Oral Roberts shot poorly, just 30.2% from the floor and an even-poorer 25% from 3.
It feels odd to consider Duke a dark horse, but with a No. 5 seed and without Mike Krzyzewski on the sideline the Blue Devils certainly weren’t the favorites to win this tournament. But they are playing just about as well as any team in the country, now winners of 10 straight games, including a run to the ACC tournament title.
Final: No. 9 Auburn 83, No. 8 Iowa 75
Charles Barkley is surely happy. His alma mater, Auburn, is moving on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament following an 83-75 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Johni Broome (19 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks) and Allen Flanigan (10 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) finished with double-doubles, while four other Tigers reached double-digit points.
Payton Sandfort led the Hawkeyes with 21 points off the bench, but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback.
Half: No. 2 Texas 41, No. 15 Colgate 32
The Longhorns led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but the Raiders cut it to a single-digit lead going into halftime. Texas jumped to an early lead by way of the 3-point line, shooting 53.3% from beyond the arc. Sir’Jabari Rice has 15 points, two assists and four rebounds off the bench for Texas.
But the Raiders closed the half on a 14-6 run to stay within striking distance. Ryan Moffatt leads Colgate with six points, one steal and one assist.
Half: No. 7 Northwestern 38, No. 10 Boise State, 32
The Wildcats entered halftime with a six-point lead over the Broncos, having led the entire game and by as many as 10 points. Guard Boo Buie is the only Wildcat in double figures with 11 points, three assists and three rebounds. Chase Audige added seven points and Ty Berry recorded six. Northwestern only committed four turnovers and fouls in the half.
Broncos guard Marcus Shaver Jr. went down after twisting his right ankle with 2:33 left in the first half. He was helped back to the locker room and couldn’t apply pressure to his ankle. It’s not clear if he will return. Chibuzo Agbo leads the Broncos with 10 points, one assist and three rebounds.
Half: Duke 40, Oral Roberts 23
The Blue Devils got out to a dominant start in their first-round matchup, jumping out to a commanding early lead.
Duke had two players finish the half with double-digit points. Jeremy Roach posted 13 and Dariq Whitehead added 10 off the bench. Dereck Lively II was a force on the glass, pulling down nine rebounds.
Oral Roberts, meanwhile, struggled to find momentum. Max Abmas led the team with eight points in the first 20 minutes.
Overall, the Blue Devils shot an impressive 50% from the field and 40% from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles shot just 26.5% from the field and shot 20% from beyond the arc. Duke won the rebound battle 25-15.
Half: Auburn 31, Iowa 26
The ninth-seeded Tigers spread the scoring around, finishing the first half with four players tallying at least five points. Nine players scored for Auburn overall.
Both Johni Broome (eight points, six rebounds) and Allen Flanigan (six points, seven rebounds) are on double-double watch for the Tigers. Iowa’s Filip Rebraca led all scorers with 10 points at the break.
Both teams struggled from 3-point range. Auburn connected on just 1 of 9 shots from beyond the arc while Iowa missed all nine of its attempts.
President Biden’s bracket completely busted halfway through first day of NCAA Tournament
President Joe Biden shared his brackets for the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments on Twitter ahead of Thursday’s tip-off of the men’s action and, well … his bracket is just as busted as the rest of us.
The commander in chief picked Arizona to win the whole thing. Halfway through the day’s action, the No. 2 seed Wildcats had been eliminated, shocked by No. 15 Princeton in the first round.
To make matters worse, the president had Arizona squaring off with No. 4 Virginia in the Elite Eight. The Cavaliers were also upset Thursday, falling to No. 13 Furman in jaw-dropping fashion. Not great to already have an entire region essentially eliminated on Day 1, but we imagine Biden has bigger things to worry about.
Final: No. 8 Arkansas 73, No. 9 Illinois 63
Despite Illinois’ torrid comeback attempt, No. 8 Arkansas held on for a first-round victory over the ninth-seeded Fighting Illini.
Ricky Council IV was a force for the Razorbacks, tallying 18 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Davonte Davis added 16 points.
Meanwhile, Illinois’ Terrence Shannon Jr. led all scorers with 20 while teammates Coleman Hawkins and RJ Melendez added 10 points apiece.
The Fighting Illini were hampered by turnovers, giving away 17 possessions compared to Arkansas’ 11 turnovers in the game. Both teams shot less than 40% from the field, but the Razorbacks won the rebound battle 42-34 and advanced to the round of 32.
Final: No. 15 Princeton 59, No. 2 Arizona 55
Biggest upset of the tournament? The No. 15-seeded Tigers erased a double-digit deficit in the second half to knock off the second-seeded Wildcats.
Arizona was out-rebounded 39-37 and fell victim to six blocked shots in the loss. Princeton’s Tosan Evbuomwan paced the team with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The Wildcats received a 22-point effort from Azuolas Tubelis and got a double-double from Oumar Ballo (13 points, 12 rebounds) but could not close out the first-round matchup.
Princeton, which shot just 16% from 3-point range (4-for-25), did just enough to pull off an unforgettable upset. The Tigers finished the game on a 9-0 run.
Small South Carolina school provides first upset of the day
Furman kicked off the madness by knocking off No. 4 Virginia thanks to a clutch 3-point shot from JP Pegues in the final seconds.
It marked the first tournament win since 1974 for the private school with an enrollment of 2,500.
Learn about the school that was thrust into the NCAA Tournament spotlight, like, what is a Paladin?
— Jordan Mendoza
Final: San Diego State 63, College of Charleston 57
The Aztecs survived in one of the closest games of the day. Matt Bradley led all scorers with 17 points and also added seven rebounds and four assists. Jaedon LeDee pulled down 10 rebounds and contributed eight points.
Charleston got up an impressive performance by Ante Brzovic, who posted 12 points and eight rebounds. Jaylon Scott chipped in with nine points and seven rebounds.
Charleston took a whopping 24 attempts from beyond the arc but made just five of them (20.8%). The Cougars were a disappointing 31.5% overall from the field. San Diego State, meanwhile, shot 42.9% from the field and out-rebounded Charleston 44-34 to advance to the round of 32.
The Azetcs, who will play No. 13 seed Furman in the second round on Saturday, last won an NCAA tournament game in 2015 over St. John’s.
Final: Alabama 96, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 75
Talented freshman Brandon Miller was held scoreless, but the top-seeded Crimson Tide received plenty of scoring in a blowout victory over the No. 16 seed.
Nick Pringle led all scorers and posted a double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Mark Sears added 15 points and Jahvon Quinerly chipped in with 13.
The Islanders were led by Isaac Mushila, who went for a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Trey Tennyson had a team-high 20 points.
Alabama was deadly from 3-point range, connecting on 15 of 33 attempts (45.5%). The Crimson Tide also shot 47.8% from the field.
Miller, who contributed five rebounds and three assists, had not been held to fewer than eight points all season.
Half: Arkansas 36, Illinois 26
The Razorbacks were dominant in the first half. Ricky Council IV led all scorers with 10 points and added six rebounds. Anthony Black chipped in with seven points and four rebounds.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Illini were paced by Terrence Shannon Jr. (eight points) and Luke Goode (six points).
Illinois shot just 27.6% from the field and went just 3 of 11 from 3-point range. They were out-rebounded 27-19.
Half: Arizona 31, Princeton 30
Arizona came alive in the final minutes of the half to take a one-pointn lead over Princeton. The Wildcats were paced by Azuolas Tubelis, who scored 14 points and added three rebounds and an assist in the first 20 minutes.
Tosan Evbuomwan led the Tigers with eight points and four assists. Zach Martini placed himself on double-double watch with seven points and five rebounds.
Princeton made just two 3-pointers out of 12 attempts. It also did not attempt a first-half free throw. The Tigers, however, out-rebounded the Wildcats 22-17 to keep the game close.
Half: San Diego State 32, College of Charleston 29
The Aztecs rode a 15-5 run to end the half. San Diego State guard Matt Bradley paced all scorers with nine points to go along with four rebounds and two assists.
Charleston attempted 11 three-pointers and made just three of them. San Diego State shot 49% from the field. The Aztecs committed 11 turnovers to find themselves in an early hole but responded in the final 10 minutes of the half.
Half: Alabama 54, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 34
The Crimson Tide rolled to a big halftime lead over the Bison. Mark Sears led all scorers with 13 points to pace Alabama. Teammate Noah Clowney added 10 points and four rebounds.
Alabama star freshman Brandon Miller was held scoreless in the first half. Miller played 13 minutes in the half, going 0 of 3 from the field and 0 of 2 from 3-point range. He added five rebounds and an assist. Miller’s regular-season low was eight points against Houston.
Isaac Mushila led Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with nine points and five rebounds. The Islanders are trying to become just the second No. 16 seed to upset a top seed in tournament history. University of Maryland Baltimore County posted a 74-54 win over No. 1 Virginia in the first round of the 2018 tournament.
Kansas 96, Howard 68
Jalen Wilson, a first-team All-America selection, scored 20 points and added seven rebounds as the Jayhawks started their national title defense. Kansas had little trouble dispatching Howard, which was making just their third NCAA tournament appearance.
Gradey Dick added 19 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and three steals for the Jayhawks, who hit 52 percent of their shots and led by as many as 24.
The Jayhawks played the game without head coach Bill Self, who is still recovering from a health issue that caused him to miss the Big 12 Conference tournament. The Jayhawks, who had all five starters score in double figures, will play the winner of Illinois and Arkansas on Saturday.
Howard freshman forward Shy Odom had 15 points and eight rebounds in the game, which was attended by Vice President Kamala Harris, a Howard University alum.
Missouri 76, Utah State 65
Kobe Brown hit three three-pointers in the second half, on the way to a personal 12-0 scoring spurt, to break open a close game and lead the Tigers to a 76-65 victory over Utah State in the first round of the South Region.
Brown finished with 19 points for Missouri, who which will take on the winner of Arizona and Princeton on Saturday. D’Moi Hodge led the way with 22 points, hitting five three-pointers of his own.
Utah State had a 49-47 lead in the second half but could not sustain it due to poor shooting and turnovers. The Aggies were led by Taylor Funk’s 16 points and seven rebounds.
Maryland 67, West Virginia 65
The South’s No. 8 seed Maryland used a late spurt to pull away with a 67-65 victory over No. 9 West Virginia, in a game that featured nine ties and 11 lead changes. The Terrapins now move on to play the winner of Alabama and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday. Maryland lost to Alabama in the second round in their last NCAA tournament appearance in 2021.
The Mountaineers had a chance to win the game but Kedrian Johnson’s final-second 3-point attempt was short.
Julian Reese led four Terrapins, who were down by 13 points in the first half in double figures with 17 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. Hakim Hart added 15 and Donta Scott had 11 points and eight rebounds.
West Virginia was led by Johnson, who scored 27 points.
Furman 68, Virginia 67
Virginia guard Kihei Clark threw away a pass that was intercepted by Furman’s Garrett Hien, leading to JP Pegues drilling a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left to give No. 13 seed Furman the first upset of the tournament over the fourth-seeded Cavaliers.
The Paladins, who rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit, will play the winner of Charleston and San Diego State on Saturday.
After Hien made two free throws with 12 seconds left to cut the Virginia lead to two, Furman trapped Clark, who tried to throw it to a teammate where it was picked off by Hien near midcourt. Reece Beekman’s three-point attempt at the buzzer missed, setting off a wild celebration by Furman.
Jalen Slawson led the Paladins, who made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 43 years, with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and was one of four Furman players in double figures.
Virginia exits the tournament early once again, reminiscent of their 2018 upset at the hands of UMBC. The Cavaliers were paced by Kadin Shedrick who had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Virginia in a battle with Furman
The Cavaliers have led by as much as 10 over Furman, but the Paladins are keeping it close and trail 32-27 at halftime, despite shooting only 34 percent, including 4-14 from 3-point range. They are also being outrebounded by eight.
Reece Beekman is pacing the Cavaliers with 10 points and four rebounds and Jalen Swanson leads Furman with eight. Leading scorer Mike Bothwell, who averages 18 points a game, has five points, but also has three personal fouls.
Maryland leading West Virginia at halftime
The Terrapins found themselves down 13 points early against the Mountaineers but closed strong to take a 32-30 halftime lead. Jahmir Young and Hakim Hart led a balanced Maryland attack with seven points each, while Kedrian Johnson of West Virginia leads all scorers with 10. Maryland is shooting 58 percent from the field.
First two tournament games underway
The first games of March Madness are underway as a pair of South Region games kick off the action.
West Virginia and Maryland are going back in forth in their 8-9 matchup in Birmingham, Alabama as the first half winds down, while the first game in Orlando pits No. 4 seed Virginia and No. 13 seed Furman.
Bill Self will not coach Kansas’ first-round game
Kansas coach Bill Self will not be on the sideline when the top-ranked Jayhawks take on No. 16 seed Howard on Thursday.
Norm Roberts will continue to serve as acting head coach in place of Self, who is considered day to day.
Self returned to practice this week after being discharged from the University of Kansas Health System, where he had two stents inserted to treat blocked arteries in his heart.
Kansas takes on Howard at 2 p.m. ET.
Five potential NCAA Tournament first-round upsets
It’s hard to pay attention to every team in college basketball throughout the long season that started way back in November, when everybody was still focused on football. And, even when the gridiron action is done, the hardwood teams from big-name conferences snag most of the marquee TV slots. So a lot of you might not know about these so-called mid majors that are about to swoop in and grab their share of the spotlight, if only for a few days, or even the occasional power conference team that limps in as a double-digit seed but hits its stride at the right time. We’re here to help. Here are five candidates to consider strongly to pull off a first-round upset.
— Eddie Timanus
How to watch NCAA Tournament first-round games
Whether it’s at home, at a bar or at work, millions of Americans will be tuning in to watch teams make or break their bracket.
CBS and Turner Sports have the broadcasting rights to the men’s NCAA Tournament and broadcast games on four channels. Three of them – CBS, TNT and TBS – you may know from broadcasting dozens of other sporting events each year, but the remaining channel, truTV, is one that always eludes basketball fans each year.
Here’s where to find TruTV, depending on your cable provider or streaming service, and what games will be on the network:
What channel is truTV?
TruTV can be found on several cable providers, and has the same channel number nationwide on some of the providers. Here are the channels:
AT&T U-Verse: 164/1164
Cox: Varies by location
Spectrum: Varies by location
Xfinity: Varies by location
For streaming, truTV is also available on: YouTube TV, iOS App Store, Google Play, Amazon App Store, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Android TV.
Which March Madness games will be on truTV?
Eight games will be broadcast on truTV in the first rounds of March Madness. Here are the games that will be on truTV, as well as tip-off times (in ET):
- No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Furman (Thursday, 12:40 p.m.)
- No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 College of Charleston (Thursday, 3:10 p.m.)
- No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Boise State (Thursday, 7:35 p.m.)
- No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 15 UNC Asheville (Thursday, 10:05 p.m.)
- No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Kennesaw State (Friday, 12:40 p.m.)
- No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 11 Pittsburgh (Friday, 3:10 p.m.)
- No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 14 Grand Canyon (Friday, 7:35 p.m.)
- No. 6 TCU vs. No. 11 Nevada/No. 11 Arizona State (Friday, 10:05 p.m.)
— Jordan Mendoza
You’ll probably have to trash your bracket
The reality of the NCAA Tournament is that unpredictability and randomness usually trump a perfect script. And this year in particular, we should all spend the next three weeks embracing the idea that our picks are useless and our brackets will likely need to be thrown in the trash.
On paper, this has the potential to be one of the craziest tournaments we’ve ever seen.
Why? Maybe because this has not been a dominant year for the big, traditional brands. Instead, we’ve seen Houston cruise through the American Athletic Conference while barely getting a worthy test from anyone besides Memphis. We’ve seen football schools Alabama and Texas A&M dominate the SEC while Kentucky comes into the tournament looking like an underachiever.
We’ve seen Miami, a team built on veterans and transfers, rise to the top of the ACC while Duke went way under the radar most of the year and North Carolina missed the tournament entirely. And the Big Ten almost felt like a random results generator at times with nine teams finishing within two games of each other in the standings behind Purdue, which ran off with the conference title.
— Dan Wolken
Final USA TODAY Sports coaches poll
Houston enters the NCAA Tournament with the No. 1 ranking in the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, despite its loss in the American Athletic Conference championship game just prior to the unveiling of the brackets on Sunday.
The Cougars, who were playing without leading scorer Marcus Sasser in the loss to Memphis, retained 21 of 32 No. 1 votes to stave off second-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide received eight firsts after winning the SEC title in impressive fashion on Sunday.
— Eddie Timanus
Alabama clear favorite in South Region
The South Region is loaded. It begins at the top with the overall highest seed, but if Alabama is to make its first Final Four in program history, it will have to navigate a bracket filled with lots of accomplished programs, including four programs with national championship banners hanging in their home arenas.
Two of the three most recent NCAA champs are here, Baylor and Virginia. Arizona, a powerhouse of the ‘90’s, is back in the title hunt. Then there’s Maryland, which cut down the nets early this century and is hoping to make noise as one of the Big Ten’s numerous representatives in the field.
— Eddie Timanus
Defending champion Kansas leads West Region
Good news for the Jayhawks – they wouldn’t have to play Texas again until the Final Four. Even better news – Kansas head coach Bill Self is expected to rejoin the team. He was discharged Sunday from the hospital, where he checked in last week with chest tightness and balance problems. According to doctors, Self had two stents placed in order to treat blocked arteries in his heart.
The No. 2 seed, UCLA, enters the tournament with injury issues. If UCLA hadn’t lost defensive whiz Jaylen Clark to injury in the regular-season finale, there’s a good chance the Bruins would have had a No. 1 seed and a path to the Final Four.
— Josh Peter
Purdue No. 1 in East, but many contenders loom
Purdue is looking to advance to the Final Four for the first time under coach Matt Painter and the first time as a program since 1980. The Boilermakers are built around 7-foot-4 junior center Zach Edey, the favorite for national player of the year.
The East Region doesn’t lack for star power: Purdue is joined by No. 2 Marquette, No. 3 Kansas State and No. 4 Tennessee, followed by No. 5 Duke and No. 6 Kentucky.
— Paul Myerberg
Texas A&M, Penn State have little time to bounce back
How can you not like a regional bracket that – if the seedings hold form – will have Texas meeting Texas A&M in the second round and wind its way to Houston, and Texas playing for a spot in a Final Four being held in Houston?
The best first-round matchup in the Midwest?
The Texas A&M-Penn State game pairs teams that had great runs last weekend and have tremendous guard play; but both played Sunday and have to come back and play Thursday. (It also matches the sartorial splendiferousness of Aggies coach Buzz Williams and his suit vests against the quarter-zip-casual Micah Shrewsberry.)
— Steve Berkowitz