The top overall seed, Alabama, has been on a roll despite the program being entangled in a developing murder case. Another No. 1 seed, defending national champion Kansas, has a coach coming out of the hospital and a team coming off a blowout loss. Yet another, Houston, just watched its best player go down in a heap with a scary injury.
This year’s March Madness frontrunners might be anything but perfect, but the presence of these teams and all their questions at the top of the bracket could make for precisely what the NCAA wants its tournament to be – a perfectly unpredictable mess.
Most of the drama in picking this year’s bracket was resolved far before Selection Sunday.
Arizona State and Nevada made it off the bubble, as most expected, and into the 68-team field. Rutgers and Oklahoma State did not. Purdue, with 7-foot-4 Zach Edey leading the way, edged out UCLA for the fourth and final No. 1 seed.
And in a decision most everyone saw coming, the selection committee left North Carolina, last year’s national runner-up, out of the tournament. It made the Tar Heels the first team to start the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 and finish it by not 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 are awaiting the return of coach Bill Self, who went to the hospital last week complaining of chest tightness and concerns with his balance. He has been discharged and is expected back this week.
Action begins Tuesday with two First Four games. The full madness starts 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 into FanDuel Sportsbook setting the Jayhawks at 9-1 to win the title, behind both Alabama of the South Region (15-2 odds) and the overall favorite, Houston (11-2 odds), which would be playing the Final Four in its hometown if it wins the Midwest Region. The semifinals and finals are set for NRG Stadium on April 1 and 3.