The Latest on Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament (all times local):
The best days of the NCAA Tournament for most fans are the first two. With 16 games on each day, it’s wall-to-wall ball.
Thursday tips off in Des Moines, Iowa, at 12:15 p.m. with an East Region game between No. 7 seed Louisville and No. 10 Minnesota. That’s coach Rick Pitino’s former Cardinals against a Golden Gophers team coached by his son, Richard Pitino.
The early session ends with one of the best individual players in the tournament. Ja Morant of Murray State faces fifth-seeded Marquette and Big East player of the Markus Howard in West Region game played in Hartford, Connecticut.
The defending national champion Villanova, a sixth-seed in the South, highlights the Thursday night games. The Wildcats tip at 7:20 p.m. against 11th-seeded St. Mary’s.
Friday’s games start with seventh-seeded Cincinnati against 10th-seeded Iowa in a South Region matchup. The game in Columbus, Ohio, starts at 12:15 p.m. Top-seeded Duke and Zion Williamson start their tournament at 7:10 p.m. Friday in Columbia, South Carolina, against the winner of the First Four game against North Carolina Central or North Dakota State. The Blue Devils are the top seed in the East.
North Carolina State’s omission from the NCAA Tournament field doesn’t sit well with athletics director Debbie Yow.
The Wolfpack (22-11) was 33rd in the new NET rankings, a more analytical system that incorporated factors such as game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin and net efficiency at both ends of the court.
In a statement, Yow pointed out that the Wolfpack beat eventual Southeastern Conference Tournament champion Auburn while playing five games against Atlantic Coast Conference peers Duke, North Carolina and Virginia — which all ended up with NCAA 1-seeds.
But N.C. State went just 3-9 in Quadrant 1 games and had the nation’s worst nonconference strength of schedule.
Yow said she was “disappointed” that “our total body of work was not rewarded” with an NCAA invitation.
The show to unveil the NCAA Tournament field of 68 teams returned to a familiar —and more straightforward— format.
Last year’s show aired on TBS for the first time and unveiled teams in an alphabetical format, then later revealed matchups by region – which drew plenty of criticism on social media from frustrated viewers.
This time, the show was back on its traditional CBS home and dove right into the East Region bracket with Duke as the No. 1 overall seed and skipped the alphabetical format. It was also back to a one-hour format after being expanded to two hours in some years recently.
As CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus put it earlier this week: “We’re going back to basics.”
Louisville is back in the NCAA Tournament after missing out last spring following its acknowledged involvement in a federal investigation of corruption in college basketball.
Its first-round opponent features someone very familiar with ties to the Cardinals’ recent past.
Louisville (20-13) is seeded No. 7 in the
East Region and will face No. 10 seed Minnesota in Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday. The Golden Gophers are coached by Richard Pitino, the son of former Cardinals coach Rick Pitino who was let go before last season in the midst of the scandal.
Louisville finished 22-14 and reached the NIT quarterfinals in a tumultuous year that included the vacation of its 2013 NCAA title as punishment for a stripper scandal. Interim coach David Padgett was replaced by former Xavier coach Chris Mack and this season was expected to be transitional, but the Cardinals instead earned a postseason berth thanks to a resume that included upsets of Michigan State and North Carolina.
Mack returns to the tournament a year after guiding Xavier to its first-ever No. 1 seeding.
Gonzaga is headed back to Salt Lake City as a No. 1 seed looking for a better result than the last time the Bulldogs were in the same scenario.
Gonzaga will face either Fairleigh Dickinson or Prairie View A&M in the first round of the tournament on Thursday. But it’s the history of the second round in Salt Lake City the Bulldogs would like to change.
Six years ago, Gonzaga was a No. 1 seed and sent to Salt Lake City, the first time the Zags earned a No. 1 seed. And the Bulldogs were sent packing in the second round after losing to No. 8 seed Wichita State. The Shockers went on to reach the Final Four.
This time around, the Bulldogs are looking to regroup after a stunning loss to Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference title game. After steamrolling through the conference during the regular season, the Bulldogs were held to a season-low 47 points in the 60-47 loss to the Gaels.
Villanova coach Jay Wright took the mic at the Pavilion and made a promise for the hundreds of fans at their on-campus arena.
“This is going to be a special year, I promise,” he said.
The Big East champion Wildcats have an unfamiliar seed in the NCAA Tournament — they failed to score a top-two seed for the first time since 2013. The Wildcats are trying to become the first team to repeat as national champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007.
They have a familiar foe to get past in the first round. The sixth-seeded Wildcats will play No. 11-seed Saint Mary’s in the South on Thursday in Hartford, Connecticut.
The Wildcats were the No. 2 seed in 2010 when they were upset by 10th-seeded Saint Mary’s in Providence, Rhode Island.
“Probably nobody was around but me,” Wright said. “But they’re a really intelligent team.”
Saint Mary’s knocked off Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament final to earn the automatic bid to the NCAAs.
Two of the most recent Big 12 coaches to be fired are in the NCAA Tournament with their new schools while their old ones are staying home.
Rick Barnes was fired by Texas after a lengthy and successful tenure that included a trip to the Final Four. Now, Barnes has Tennessee on the No. 2 line in the South Region.
The Longhorns are sitting out after their bubble was burst.
Travis Ford likewise had a lengthy tenure at Oklahoma State that included six NCAA Tournament trips in nine seasons. He was fired and landed at Saint Louis, where he has the Atlantic 10-champion Billikens dancing as the No. 13 seed in the East Region in his third season in charge.
The Cowboys lost to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament to finish 12-20.
The Atlantic Coast Conference claimed the top three seeds in the tournament, but it was the Big Ten leading the nation in tournament bids.
The Big Ten had eight teams make the field: No. 2 seeds Michigan and Michigan State, No. 3 seed Purdue, No. 5 seed Wisconsin, No. 6 seed Maryland, No. 10 seeds Minnesota and Iowa, and No. 11 seed Ohio State.
The ACC had led the country with nine bids in each of the past two seasons, but slipped to seven this time to tie the Southeastern Conference, while the Big 12 had six.
The American Athletic Conference and Big East each had four teams, while the Pac-12 ended up with three after looking at times like it might be a one-bid league this season
Minnesota’s first-round opponent will sure look familiar to coach Richard Pitino.
The Gophers got the 10th seed in the East Region, matched up with No. 7 seed Louisville in a first-round game in Des Moines, Iowa.
Pitino had two stints as an assistant coach at Louisville under his father, Rick Pitino, who was fired prior to last season after his name surfaced in connection to the bribery scandal that has been playing out in federal court.
Richard Pitino is in his sixth season at Minnesota. This is his second trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma received a bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday after some uncertainty.
The ninth-seeded Sooners (19-13) will play No. 8 seed Ole Miss (20-12) in the South Region on Friday in Columbia, South Carolina.
Outside of the program, expectations for Oklahoma were low this season. The Sooners lost superstar guard Trae Young to the NBA, and it was unclear where the Sooners’ points would come from this season. The Sooners re-invented themselves as a grind-it-out defensive team that heads into the NCAA Tournament with one more win than last year’s squad.
The Sooners got off to a strong start and worked their way into the in the Top 25. They struggled during the middle of Big 12 play, losing five games in a row and putting their NCAA hopes in jeopardy. The Sooners bounced back by winning four out of five, including a big win over Kansas. That gave them enough leeway to survive an upset loss to West Virginia in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament.
It was Oklahoma’s sixth bid in the past seven years under coach Lon Kruger.
Kansas coach Bill Self was more concerned about matchups and destinations than seeds.
Well, he could end up liking his destination.
The Jayhawks were the No. 4 seed in the Midwest Region, and that means a potential regional semifinal in Kansas City. But they must first beat Colonial champ Northeastern and then beat either SEC Tournament champion Auburn or No. 12 seed New Mexico State, the high-octane WAC champ, in games played in Salt Lake City.
For those that really want to peer into the future, the No. 1 seed is North Carolina. And that could mean a matchup between the Jayhawks and their former coach just down the road from their campus in Lawrence for a spot in the Elite Eight.
Kentucky earned the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, and the Wildcats could be in line for a tough second-round matchup against Wofford. The No. 7 seed Terriers have won 20 straight.
The field of 68 is set, and the bubble burst for several teams from power conferences.
The list included Indiana from the Big Ten, Alabama from the Southeastern Conference and North Carolina State from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
N.C. State (22-11) was No. 33 in the NET and beat eventual SEC Tournament champion Auburn, but went just 3-9 against Quadrant 1 teams and a nonconference schedule strength ranked 353rd —last— in the country.
Indiana (17-15) was 54th in NET, but owned six Quadrant 1 wins to keep itself in the running amid all its losses.
And Alabama (18-15) was 59th in NET and just 3-10 against Quadrant 1 opponents.
Other teams that fell short included TCU and UNC Greensboro, which was hoping to give the Southern Conference its first at-large tournament bid.
Gonzaga is the fourth No. 1 seed.
The Zags headline the West Region after losing to Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game. That was their first loss since falling to Tennessee and North Carolina in December.
The Zags have Big Ten runner-up Michigan as their No. 2 seed.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has a bit of history: For the first time the conference has three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
The ACC had league tournament champion Duke as the top overall seed. Virginia and North Carolina shared the conference’s regular-season championship and claimed No. 1 seeds as well.
That’s only the second time a league has managed three No. 1 seeds. The other time came in 2009 when the Big East had Louisville, Connecticut and Pittsburgh — though the Huskies were the only team to survive their bracket and reach the Final Four that year.
Virginia is the top seed in the South bracket, while UNC is on top in the Midwest.
Belmont ended up on the right side of the bubble.
The Bruins earned their first at-large bid in program history and will face Temple in a First Four game in the East Region. Belmont is making its eighth tournament appearance, the last coming in 2015.
Belmont and Murray State shared the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championship, but lost to the Racers in the conference tournament title game. Belmont was ranked 47th in the NET rankings and had a 2-2 record against Quadrant 1 teams.
Virginia has another No. 1 seed. Now the Cavaliers will aim to avoid a repeat of last year’s stunning and unprecedented upset.
The Cavaliers are the second overall seed in the field of 68 and will headline the South Region bracket. They open Friday in Columbia, South Carolina, against Gardner-Webb — which won the Big South Conference title.
Virginia became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a 16-seed last year, falling to UMBC in a moment now etched in tournament lore. The second-ranked Cavaliers won a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title but fell in the ACC Tournament semifinals against No. 12 Florida State.
Michigan State ended Michigan’s two-year reign in the Big Ten Tournament. Its reward was to be a No. 2 seed in the East bracket with overall No. 1 Duke.
The sixth-ranked Spartans beat the 10th-ranked Wolverines 65-60 on Sunday shortly before the field unveiling began.
Michigan State and Duke last met in an NCAA Tournament in 2015, when the Blue Devils won in the Final Four on the way to Mike Krzyzewski’s fifth NCAA title.
Duke’s run to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title with a healthy Zion Williamson was enough to make the Blue Devils the No. 1 overall NCAA Tournament seed.
The Blue Devils will open in Columbia, South Carolina, on Friday against the winner of a First Four game between North Carolina Central and North Dakota State.
Williamson was the ACC Tournament most valuable player after a dominating three-game run in Charlotte, which showed Duke is again the team that spent a national-best seven weeks at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 this season.
There were plenty of regular-season champions that stumbled in their conference tournaments and saw someone else claim that league’s automatic tournament bid.
That could have an impact on the strength of the bracket and which bubble teams make it into the field of 68.
Teams like VCU in the Atlantic 10, South Dakota State in the Summit League and Sam Houston State in the Southland Conference lost as top seeds in their tournaments. That opened the door for St. Louis (No. 103 in NET rankings), North Dakota State (No. 222) and Abilene Christian (No. 154) to earn bids, respectively.
In other leagues, upsets led to surprising teams earning bids behind the NCAA locks in those conferences — which reduced the number of slots for bubble teams like Indiana, North Carolina State and TCU.
The 68 teams have been determined. Now, it’s just a matter of who they’ll be playing in March Madness.
Duke looks like a shoo-in for a No. 1 seed when the bracket for the NCAA Tournament is revealed Sunday night.
Others vying for the top spots include Virginia, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Tennessee and possibly even the winner of the Big Ten title game between Michigan and Michigan State.
On Saturday night, Duke, led by freshman sensation Zion Williamson, won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and positioned itself as the favorite in Vegas to win it all when the nets come down at the Final Four on April 8.
The Blue Devils are an early 9-4 favorite.
The tournament starts Tuesday with a couple of play-in games, then gets into full force Thursday and Friday with 32 teams playing each day at eight sites around the country.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.
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