Top overall seed Alabama has been on a roll despite being embroiled in a murder case. Another No. 1 seed, defending national champion Kansas, is coming off a blowout loss and has a trainer coming out of the hospital. Another, Houston, just saw his the best player falls in a heap with a terrifying injury.
This years march madness the leading contenders can be anything but perfect, but the presence of these teams and all their questions at the top of the pack could lead to precisely what the NCAA wants its tournament to be: a perfectly unpredictable disaster.
Most of the drama in this year’s bracket pick was resolved long before Selection Sunday.
Arizona State and Nevada made it out of the bubble and into the 68-team field. Rutgers and Oklahoma State did not. Purdue, led by 7-foot-4 Zach Edey, passed UCLA for the fourth and final No. 1 seed.
And in a decision almost everyone saw coming, the selection committee left North Carolina, last year’s national runner-up, out of the tournament. He made the Tar Heels the first team since the group expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to start the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and finish it without making the Big Dance.
The team they lost to, Kansas, is trying to become the first back-to-back NCAA champion since Florida in 2007. The Jayhawks earned the top seed in the West Region, where they await the return of coach Bill Self, who left for the hospital last week complaining of chest tightness and balance problems. has been discharged and is expected to return this week.
The tournament begins Tuesday with two First Four games. The complete madness starts on Thursday with the first round, with 16 games and 16 more the next day.
Kansas’ 20-point loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game likely played in FanDuel Sportsbook putting the Jayhawks at 9-1 to win the title, behind Southern Region Alabama (15-2 odds) and overall favorite Houston (11-2 odds), which would play in the Final Four in their hometown if the Midwest Region wins. The semifinals and finals are scheduled for NRG Stadium on April 1 and 3.
The Cougars lost their conference title game on Sunday, i largely because they didn’t have Marcus Sasser, the top scorer who left the previous day’s match early after slipping awkwardly and injuring his groin.
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Purdue probably found its way to the “1” line when it won the program’s second Big Ten tournament title on Sunday, less than 24 hours after UCLA, also battered this season, fell by two to Arizona in the title game. Pac-12.
For Alabama, the SEC tournament was relatively easy: no one stayed within double digits of the Tide, unlike the past two months, which have been met with an almost constant stream of headlines about a former player, Darius Miles, charged with capital murder in the January 15 murder of 23-year-old Jamea Harris.
The SEC and Big Ten led the way by fielding eight teams each in the 68-team field. Duke won the ACC for the 22nd time and was one of five teams in that conference in a relatively weak year.
But this tournament is always about much more than great schools with great pedigrees.
Some equipment to consider include Iona, 13th seed, coached by legend, Rick Pitino, who has the Gaels on the show for the second time in three years, and some people wonder if he will soon be heading to an open position at St. John’s. Iona earned a brutal draw: a first-round matchup against fourth-seeded UConn.
There’s Southern Conference champion Furman, back in the tournament for the first time since 1980 and MEAC champion Howard, back in the tournament for the first time since 1992.
There’s the state of Kennesaw, the show that was 1-28 in 2019-20 and is now in the bracket. And for the rest of you dreamers, there’s Texas Southern, the team that won its conference tournament as the No. 8 seed and goes into March Madness with a 14-20 record for one game inning against Fairleigh Dickenson.