March Madness: Alabama, Houston, Kansas, Purdue 1 seed

First overall, Alabama, made it despite being embroiled in a murder case. Another No. 1 seed, defending national champion Kansas, is coming off a losing streak and has a coach coming out of the hospital. Another, Houston, just watched his best player go down in a heap with a terrible injury.

This year’s March Madness the seedings are anything but perfect, but the presence of these teams and all their questions at the top of the bracket could make it exactly what the NCAA wants its tournament to be—a perfectly unpredictable mess.

Most of the drama surrounding the selection of this year’s group was resolved well before Election Sunday.

Arizona State and Nevada made it out of the bubble to the 68-team field. Rutgers and Oklahoma State did not. Purdue, led by 7-foot-4 Zach Edey, edged out UCLA for the fourth and final No. 1 seed.

And in a decision everyone saw coming, the selection committee left North Carolina, last year’s national runner-up, out of the tournament. That made the Tar Heels the first team since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to start the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and finish with a Big Dance failure.

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 No. 1 seed in the West Region, but only third overall, behind the Crimson Tide and Cougars. The Jayhawks are awaiting the return of coach Bill Self, who went to the hospital last week complaining of chest tightness and balance problems. He was fired and expected this week.

The head of the selection committee, Chris Reynolds, said it took into account every injury and every absence.

“It’s certainly something the committee has talked about throughout the year, and it certainly played a factor in the placement and selection,” said Reynolds, the athletic director at Bradley.

He said the board also didn’t ignore the lopsided losses: Two of Kansas’ seven Ls came in March to second-seeded Texas by 16 and 20 points.

“They mark it how they feel, and we’re just going to do what we need to do to get where we need to be,” Kansas forward KJ Adams said.

The tournament starts on Tuesday with two first four games. Full madness begins on Thursday with 16 games in the first round, then 16 more the next day.

Kansas’ loss to Texas on Saturday in the Big 12 semifinals is likely written into FanDuel putting the Jayhawks at 10-1 to win the title, behind South Regional Alabama (8-1 odds) and overall favorite Houston (5-1 odds), which would play the Final Four in its hometown if it wins the Midwest Regional. The semi-finals and final are scheduled for April 1 and 3 at NRG Stadium.

The Cougars lost the conference title game on Sunday, in large part because they were without Marcus Sasser, the leading scorer who had left the previous day’s game early after slipping awkwardly and injuring his groin.

Purdue arguably found itself on the “1” line when it won the program’s second Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday, less than 24 hours after UCLA, also undefeated this season, lost twice to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game.

For Alabama, the SEC tournament has been a relative breeze — no one has stayed within double digits of the Tide — unlike the past two months, which have seen a near-constant flow of titles about former player Darius Miles, who has been charged with capital murder in the Jan. 15 shooting death of 23-year-old Jamee Harris.

“I’m not sure we would have predicted this,” said coach Nate Oats of the Tide, who are seeded No. 1 for the first time. “Being the No. 1 seed is great. That says what an incredible regular season we had. You still have to go win games.”

The SEC and Big Ten led the way by placing eight teams each in the 68-team field. Duke won the ACC for the 22nd time and was one of five teams from that conference in a relatively weak year.

But this tournament is always about more than big schools with big pedigrees.

Some teams to keep an eye on include 13th seed Iona, coached by legend Rick Pitino, who has the Gaels in action for the second time in three years – and some people are wondering if he will soon leave for the vacant St. Louis job. John’s. Iona received a brutal draw – a first-round matchup against fourth-seeded UConn.

There’s Southern Conference champion Furman, returning to the tournament for the first time since 1980, and MEAC champion Howard, returning to the tournament for the first time since 1992.

There’s Kennesaw State, a program that went 1-28 in 2019-20 and now finds itself in the bracket. For other dreamers, there’s Texas Southern – a team that won the conference tournament as the No. 8 seed and comes into March Madness at 14-20 for a play-in game against Fairleigh Dickinson.


AP March Madness coverage: and bracket: and -25-college-basketball-poll and

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