By The Associated Press
March Madness has begun! On the tournment’s opening day, only four out of 32 teams lost to lower-seeded foes but two of them were big: No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 4 seed Arizona both went down, busting millions of brackets.
Here is what to know going into Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament, including the favorites and underdogs as well as key games:
HOW TO WATCH
Every game of the men’s tournament will be aired — here is a schedule — either on CBS, TBS, TNT or TruTV and their digital platforms. CBS, which also has a handy schedule that includes announcing teams, will handle the Final Four and national title game this year.
The NCAA will again stream games via its March Madness Live option and CBS games will be streamed on Paramount+. Fans of longtime play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz should soak up every moment: It’s his final NCAA Tournament.
The top four seeds in the tournament are Alabama, Houston, Kansas, and Purdue. Each is in a region, some tougher than others (on paper), and each has had its share of headaches to set up what could be a chaotic tournament. Here is the latest from each region:
EAST REGION: The Boilermakers got a No. 1 seed for the fourth time, but Purdue could face potential hurdles in Memphis and surging Duke. Savvy veteran coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State are in the East, too, facing a first-round matchup with Southern Cal and coach Andy Enfield of Dunk City fame.
SOUTH REGION: Alabama, led by coach Nate Oats in a challenging season, is a No. 1 seed for the first time behind SEC player of the year Brandon Miller, who has armed security on hand after being the subject of threats. The Crimson Tide opened the tourney with an easy win. Potential hurdles could include Baylor or Missouri.
MIDWEST REGION: Houston got a top seed and won its opener even though All-American Marcus Sasser is clearly hobbled (strained groin). Potential hurdles could include Penn State, which hammered Texas A&M behind eight 3-pointers and 27 points from Andrew Funk. Former Arizona coach Sean Miller has Xavier in the tourney, too.
WEST REGION: Kansas is the top seed in a stacked region and the Jayhawks pulled away from Howard in their opener to advance to a tantalizing second-round matchup against Arkansas. No. 2 seed UCLA looked every bit a title contender in its opener. And you may remember VCU becoming the first NCAA tourney team to forfeit a game because of COVID-19 two years ago; the 12th-seeded Rams are back for a first-round game against Saint Mary’s.
Princeton and the Paladins grabbed the spotlight early on opening day and Penn State’s Andrew Funk said goodnight with a spectacular shooting display.
The Ivy League’s Tigers used a late run to earn their first NCAA Tournament win in 25 years, ousting No. 2 seed Arizona, 59-55. By then, the Paladins were already celebrating Furman’s first tourney appearance since 1980 with a win over No. 4 seed Virginia, 68-67, on a deep 3-pointer by JP Pegues with 2.4 seconds left.
Texas A&M had no answer for Penn State’s stifling defense and 3-point acumen of Funk, who hit 8 of 10 from deep to help send the Aggies home.
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 5 Miami (25-7) vs. Drake (27-7), Friday, 7:35 p.m. ET (TBS). The game features two conference players of the year, Miami’s Isaiah Wong in the ACC for the regular-season co-champions, and Drake’s Tucker DeVries from the Missouri Valley Conference tournament champs. DeVries is averaging 19 points while Wong leads the team in scoring (16.2 points per game), assists and steals. Drake made the Elite Eight three years running, though it has been a while (1969-71).
No. 6 Kentucky (21-11) vs. No. 11 Providence (21-11), Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET. (CBS). Led by last year’s AP player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe, the Wildcats are trying to avoid back-to-back first-round exits after that infamous defeat to Saint Peter’s. The Friars, meanwhile, went to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual champion Kansas. They’re led by Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins.
Gun violence has cost lives and disrupted college sports all season, touching some of the top programs in college basketball, including Alabama. Coaches have been thrust into uncertain and unwelcome roles in trying to navigate the topic — as well as the fallout from the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
On a lighter note, if you feel you know March Madness pretty well, try this 25-question trivia 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 take a star turn. Guard play is always going to be important (see: Baylor, 2021 title winner) and there are some NBA prospects in the mix.
Bet on this, too: Some player — maybe more than one — will have a chance to join the mustachioed Doug Edert (remember Saint Peters’ inspiring run last year?) and find a way to cash in on their celebrity.
Who’s going to win the national championship? The betting favorites this week to reach the Final Four are Houston, Alabama, Purdue and either Kansas or UCLA, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
MARCH MADNESS CALENDAR
Selection Sunday set the bracket matchup s 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 City (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 aficionados, take note: The women’s NCAA Tournament will hold its Final Four in Dallas, a four-hour drive up the road from Houston.
Can’t get enough March Madness? Well, there is talk about 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 bracket: 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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