March Madness is coming up fast. Here is what to know along with some key games to watch and who’s on the bubble ahead of Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament:
All eyes will be on the conference tournaments this week:
— The ACC Tournament is rolling March 7-11 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
— The Big 12 Tournament will be March 8-11 in Kansas City, Missouri.
— The Big Ten Tournament will be March 8-12 in Chicago.
— The Big East Tournament will be March 8-11 in New York.
— The Pac-12 Tournament will be March 8-11 in Las Vegas.
— The SEC Tournament will be March 8-12 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Selection Sunday is March 12, when bracket matchups will be set 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).
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.
Who’s going to win the national championship? With the regular season over, the betting favorites as of this week to reach the Final Four are Houston, Alabama, Kansas and UCLA, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. That differs from the top teams in the NCAA’s initial seed watch, which had Purdue in the top four, not UCLA. All of this matches many of the teams in the AP Top 25, too.
These teams are already going dancing after landing their league’s automatic bid: Kennesaw State (26-8, Atlantic Sun), UNC Asheville (27-7, Big South), Fairleigh Dickinson (19-14, Northeast), Drake (27-7, Missouri Valley), Furman (27-7, Southern), Louisiana-Lafayette (26-7, Sun Belt), Southeast Missouri State (19-16, Ohio Valley), Gonzaga (28-5, West Coast), College of Charleston (31-3, Colonial Athletic Association), Oral Roberts (30-4, Summit League), Colgate (28-5, Patriot) and Texas A&M Corpus Christi (23-10, Southland).
Mississippi State (20-11). The Bulldogs closed the regular season by losing half of their final six games, including games at NCAA Tournament-bound Missouri and red-hot Vanderbilt that would have bolstered their resume. Now, sitting 46th in the NET rankings, they surely need to beat Florida in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday to at least avoid several restless nights before the Selection Show.
Utah State (24-7). The Aggies won five straight in lopsided fashion to close out the regular season and put themselves in position to land an at-large bid in the NCAA field. They rank 21st in the NET but have just one Quad 1 victory, so they probably can’t afford an early exit in the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.
Rutgers (18-13). The Scarlet Knights have dropped five of seven heading into the Big Ten Tournament, a shaky stretch that has them squarely on the bubble and in need of a win against even more desperate Michigan on Thursday.
GAME(S) TO WATCH
Providence (21-10) vs. No. 11 UConn (24-7), Big East Tournament quarterfinals, Thursday, 2:30 p.m. Eastern (FS1). The Friars had been in solid NCAA Tournament shape before closing the regular season with home losses to No. 15 Xavier and Seton Hall. Beating the Huskies would give Providence a huge boost. The teams split their matchups this season, each winning at home by 12.
Auburn (20-11) vs. Arkansas (19-12), SEC Tournament quarterfinals, Thursday, 7 p.m. Eastern (SECN). As statement wins go, the Tigers’ 79-70 takedown of No. 17 Tennessee in the regular-season finale was massive. Auburn faces another tough challenge in its SEC Tournament opener against Arkansas. The Razorbacks closed the regular season with three straight losses, so winning at least one game in Nashville would make them feel a whole lot better on Selection Sunday.