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 starts things off 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).
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.
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: Gonzaga (West Coast, 28-5), 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), College of Charleston (31-3, Colonial Athletic) and Oral Roberts (30-4, Summit).
North Carolina (19-12). The Tar Heels had a chance to strengthen their NCAA Tournament chances against Duke last weekend and failed with a 62-57 loss. Now the preseason No. 1 needs to avoid an early exit in this week’s ACC Tournament or Selection Sunday could be a very nervous day.
Arizona State (20-11). The Sun Devils picked up a huge resume-boosting win at No. 8 Arizona on Desmond Cambridge Jr.’s 60-foot buzzer beater. Getting swept on the road by the Pac-12′s Southern California teams puts them in the position of possibly needing a couple of wins in the conference tournament to get into the field of 68.
Wisconsin (17-13). The Badgers missed an opportunity with a two-point loss to No. 5 Purdue in their penultimate regular-season game. Wisconsin could use a good run in the Big Ten Tournament, starting Wednesday against Ohio State.
WAC: Utah Valley won the Western Athletic Conference’s regular-season title, but is not the No. 1 seed in this week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas. Sam Houston, which finished a half-game behind the Wolverines, got the No. 1 seed based on the conference’s new, analytics-based seeding model. It could be a wacky week in the WAC.
GAME(S) TO WATCH
Providence (21-10) vs. No. 11 UConn, 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 could 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 lo better on Selection Sunday.