March madness has arrived. Here’s what you need to know, including favorites and underdogs, as well as key games and how to watch the NCAA Tournament.
THE BEST SEEDS
The top four seeds in the tournament are Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Purdue. Each one is in a region, some tougher than others (on paper). We break them down for you.
EAST REGION: The Boilermakers earned a No. 1 seed for the fourth time after topping Penn State 67-65 in the Big Ten championship game, but face potential roadblocks in Memphis and Duke. Memphis (26-8) comes from a big surprise against Houston, leader of the world ranking, and led by Kendric Davis. Duke (26-8) shut out Virginia in a 59-49 victory in the ACC title game.
SOUTH REGION: Alabama is the No. 1 seed for the first time after sweeping the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles behind league player of the year Brandon Miller, capped by an 82-63 win over Texas A&M . They will open the tournament not far from home, in Birmingham, Alabama. Possible obstacles for the Crimson Tide could include Baylor, Arizona. There’s an intriguing early matchup between No. 5 seed San Diego State and No. 12 Charleston, which has 31 wins. Furman is making his first tournament appearance since 1980.
MIDWEST REGION: Houston (31-3) earned the top seed despite stumbling 75-65 against unranked Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game, without league player of the year Marcus Sasser (strained groin ). They will open against Northern Kentucky (22-12). Potential obstacles could include Penn State, which pushed Purdue to the limit in the Big Ten, and SEC Tournament runner-up Texas A&M.
WEST REGION: The Jayhawks fell 76-56 to Texas in the Big 12 championship game and finished with the top seed in a stacked region. They will open against Howard (22-12), making his first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1992. Potential hurdles include No. 6 TCU (21-12), which beat Kansas at Allen Field House 83-60 on the 21st January, and Arkansas (20-13).
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 7 Texas A&M (25-9) vs. No. 10 Penn State (22-13), Thursday, 9:55 p.m. ET (TBS) The Aggies, who felt slighted last season, are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2018, and the drought of The Nittany Lions date back to 2011. Both flirted with league tournament titles and have been hot. Texas A&M went 19-4 after a loss to Wofford and Penn State has won eight of 10.
No. 8 Arkansas (20-13) vs. No. 9 Illinois (20-12), Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET (TBS). The Razorbacks have made back-to-back trips to the Elite Eight. The top prospect and possible NBA draft pick Nick Smith Jr. has played in only 14 games due to knee problems but has scored more than 20 in half of the team’s last six. Illinois won the Big Ten season title before being eliminated by Penn State in the first round of the league tournament. Illinois is led by the transfers of Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech) and Matthew Mayer, who helped lead Baylor to the 2021 national championship.
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 from the ACC for regular season co-champions, and Drake’s Tucker DeVries from the Missouri Valley Conference tournament champions. DeVries is averaging 19 points, while Wong leads the team in points (16.2 ppg), assists and steals. Drake made the Elite Eight three years in a row, though it’s been a while (1969-71).
No. 6 Kentucky (21-11) vs. No. 11 Providence (11-21), 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 loss to Saint Peter’s. Meanwhile, the Friars went to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual champion Kansas. They are led by Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins.
Texas Southern and Kennesaw State are in. North Carolina is not.
The Tar Heels are the first team since the group expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to start the season ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll and end it with an NCAA Tournament airball.
Kennessaw State, three years after a 1-28 season, made the field. So did Southwest Athletic Conference Tournament champion Texas Southern, which is 14-20. Conference South champion Furman dances for the first time since 1980 and MEAC winner Howard makes his first appearance since 1992.
HOW TO SEE
Every game in the men’s tournament will air somewhere, whether it’s on CBS, TBS, TNT or TruTV and their digital platforms. CBS will have the Final Four semifinals and the national title game this year.
There are several sites that list game times, channel, and broadcast team, including NCAA and CBS. The NCAA will once again broadcast games through its March Madness Live option and CBS games will air on Paramount+.
MARCH MADNESS CALENDAR
Selection Sunday set the bracket matchups for the first four and first-round and second-round games stretching 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 fans take note: The NCAA Women’s Tournament will host its Final Four in Dallas, a four-hour drive from Houston.