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By The Associated Press
March Madness has really begun! By the end of the first round, a trio of seeds were already gone – No. 1 seed Purdue, No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 4 seed Virginia – and millions of hooks burst had gone with them.
Here’s what to know with the Sweet 16 deals in play at the NCAA Tournament, including favorites and underdogs as well as key plays:
The tournament’s top four seeds were awarded to Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Purdue. Everyone had their share of headaches setting up what was already proving to be a chaotic tournament and the Boilermakers were the first to fall, ousted in a dizzying first round. Here are the latest news from each region:
EASTERN REGION: The Boilermakers secured a No. 1 seed for the fourth time, but Purdue was dropped by Fairleigh Dickinson in a near-historic upset. The region appears to be wide open for the likes of No. 2 seed Marquette, Duke, Michigan State and more.
SOUTHERN REGION: Alabama, led by coach Nate Oats in a difficult season, is a No. 1 seed for the first time behind SEC Player of the Year Brandon Miller, who armed safety after making the object of threats. The Crimson Tide opened the tournament with an easy win. Potential obstacles could include Baylor, Missouri and Creighton. Princeton or Furman, anyone?
MIDWEST REGION: Houston got a seed and won its opener, but All-American Marcus Sasser is hampered by a groin injury. Potential hurdles could include No. 2 seed Texas, who advanced to face the surprising Penn State.No. 3rd seeded Xavier held off Kennesaw State in their opener.
WEST REGION: Kansas is the top seed in a stacked region and the Jayhawks faced a tantalizing second-round game against Arkansas. Kansas is without coach Bill Self, who is recovering from heart surgery. The No. 2 seed UCLA looked like a strong title contender in her opener, No. 3 Gonzaga advanced and a juicy 4-5 game pitted UConn against Saint Mary’s in the second round.
Unforgettable pieces accumulate.
Princeton used a late run to claim its first NCAA Tournament win in 25 years by ousting No. 2 seed Arizona. Furman celebrated his first tournament appearance since 1980 with a victory over No. 4 seed Virginia on a deep 3-pointer from JP Pegues with 2.4 seconds left.
Then came 16-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson’s win over Purdue as the 22 1/2-point underdog smothered 7-4 center Zach Edey to advance and join UMBC in the record books.
On the player level, Texas A&M had no answer for Penn State’s 3-point insight from Andrew Funk, who went 8 of 10 to help send the Aggies home. Marquette’s Kam Jones had a superb second-half scoring spree to lead the Golden Eagles to a win in their opener.
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 16 seeded Fairleigh Dickinson (21-15) vs. No. 9 seeded FAU (32-3), Sunday, 7:45 p.m. ET (truTV)
One of those unannounced teams will travel to the Sweet 16. The underdog Knights of FDU may be the smallest team in the tournament, but after knocking out 7-foot-4 All-America center Zack Edey and Purdue, they will now face the ninth- Seeded Owls. Florida Atlantic is coming off a thrilling win over Memphis and coach Penny Hardaway.
6-seeded Kentucky (22-11) vs. 3-seeded Kansas State (24-9), Sunday, 2:40 p.m. ET, (CBS)
Wild cats abound! Oscar Tshiebwe had 25 rebounds, the second most in the tournament since 1973, when Kentucky beat Providence. That’s just four fewer rebounds than Kansas State in its 77-65 win over Montana State. K-State’s victory was its first in the tournament since 2018, when it beat… Kentucky.
7th seed Michigan State (20-12) vs. 2nd seed Marquette (29-6), Sunday, 5:15 p.m. (CBS)
Quick, name two coaches you think are great. Tom Izzo and Shaka Smart should be in your top 10, but only one will reach the Sweet 16 this tournament. The Spartans ousted Southern Cal behind 17 points from Joey Hauser and will face a team from Marquette to get 18 straight points from Kam Jones in the second half of a 78-61 win over Vermont.
Gun violence has claimed lives and disrupted college sports all season, affecting some of college basketball’s top programs, including Alabama. Coaches have been pushed into uncertain and intrusive roles trying to navigate the subject – as well as the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
On a lighter note, if you feel like you know March Madness well enough, try this 25-question quiz put together by AP.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The NCAA tournament is filled with great players and the AP All-America team is a good place to get familiar with the names. It’s also an event where guys you’ve never heard of — no offense, Drake — can turn into stars. The guard game will always be important (see: 2021 title winner Baylor) and there are NBA hopefuls in the mix.
Bet on that too: some players – maybe more than one – will be lucky enough to join mustachioed Doug Edert (remember the inspiring run in Saint Peters last year?) and find a way to shoot advantage of their fame.
HOW TO WATCH
Every game in the men’s tournament will be shown – here’s a schedule – either on CBS, TBS, TNT or TruTV and their digital platforms. CBS, which also has a handy schedule that includes team announcements, will handle the Final Four and the national title game this year.
The NCAA airs games through its March Madness Live option, and CBS games air on Paramount+. Fans of longtime play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz should soak up every moment: this is his final NCAA tournament.
Who will win the national championship? The Friday night betting favorites to reach the Final Four are (in order) Alabama, Houston, UCLA, Gonzaga, Texas and Kansas, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
MARCH MADNESS CALENDAR
The selection on Sunday set the bracket matchups for the first-four and first- and second-round games that stretch from Florida to California. Sweet 16 weekend will see games in New York (East Region), Las Vegas (West), Kansas City, Missouri (Midwest) and Louisville, Kentucky (South).
Where is the Final Four? In Houston on April 1, with the championship game on April 3. Basketball fans take note: the NCAA Women’s Tournament will hold its Final Four in Dallas, a four-hour drive from Houston.
Can’t get enough of March Madness? Well, there’s talk of expanding the tournament despite a host of challenges. Enjoy the 68 team version for now!
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and support: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top -25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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Brackets in tatters at the start of the 2nd round – The Denver Post
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