The Latest: Madness truly begins Thursday with Oklahoma-URI
The first four officially starts the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, but for most people Thursday is when the madness truly begins — and the brackets must be submitted to count in the office pool.
The first game to tip will be in Pittsburgh at 12:15 p.m. ET, with Trae Young and Oklahoma, the 10th seed in the Midwest Region, facing Rhode Island, seeded seventh. The Sooners have been swooning over the last month
The first No. 1 seed to play will be Kansas, which faces No. 15 Penn on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET in Wichita, Kansas.
TBS announcer Ernie Johnson announced Xavier would get a No. 1 seed, but the Musketeers weren't sure they'd heard him right.
They were gathered in an entertainment room in coach Chris Mack's house when Johnson mentioned prematurely during the selection show that the Musketeers had the first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed in their history.
Their reaction: Wait, what?
"I honestly didn't hear," top scorer Trevon Bluiett said. "The volume wasn't up high enough to hear. J.P. (Macura) leaned back to me and said, 'Did he say we have a No. 1 seed?'
"It was a good feeling to be first in school history to be able to do so."
Xavier's senior-laden roster has been through both sides of tournament craziness. The Musketeers got the first No. 2 seed in their history in 2016 and lost in the second round to Wisconsin. Last year, they overcame injuries and went on a late run, reaching the Elite Eight.
"The tournament is so unique," coach Chris Mack said. "We've got to play our best if we have to advance, and I think we're right on the verge of that. I think our defense grew up the last three weeks of the season. Experience helps, but being ready to play that night is the most important thing."
The last time Jamie Dixon had been part of an NCAA Tournament berth with TCU was 31 years ago as a senior guard for the Southwest Conference champion Horned Frogs.
On Sunday, coach Dixon and his Big 12 team gathered at their arena to watch the selection show on television with boosters and school officials, and celebrated together when TCU's name popped up on the screen. The Horned Frogs are the sixth seed in the Midwest Region and face the winner of the play-in game between Arizona State and Syracuse in Detroit on Friday.
It was a much different scene than in 1987.
"I don't even think it was televised back then," said Dixon, now in his second season coaching his alma mater. "I remember being in my dorm room. I remember getting a phone call. Coaches called me, so I went and told the other guys in the dorm."
Dixon said they then had maybe a 30-second advance notice than everybody else since Frank Windegger, then TCU's athletic director, was part of the selection committee.
"It's probably a story that shouldn't be put out there," Dixon said, smiling when mentioning a 30-year statute of limitations.
The West Region has three games that will be popular upset picks.
One comes in Charlotte on Thursday, when No. 10 Providence faces No. 7 Texas A&M. The Friars (23-10) had one of the conference-tournament season's biggest upsets, taking down Xavier in overtime of the Big East semifinals. The Aggies (20-12) have been inconsistent this season, matching the program's highest ranking by reaching No. 5 in the AP Top 25 before going 9-9 through the SEC.
No. 5 seed Ohio State could have its hands full with No. 12 South Dakota State in Boise.
Due to the early start of the Big Ten tournament this season, the Buckeyes (24-8) will have a 12-day gap between games before facing the Summit League-champion Jackrabbits. Ohio State also must find a way to stop South Dakota State's 6-foot-9 forward Mike Daum, the conference player of the year after averaging 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Also keep an eye on No. 6 Houston and No. 11 San Diego State in Wichita, Kansas. The Aztecs had some struggles earlier in the season, but will carry a nine-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament after beating New Mexico State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Houston, No. 21 in the AP Top 25, knocked off Wichita State before losing to Cincinnati by one in the American Athletic Conference title game on Sunday.
Kentucky could just as well have continued west from St. Louis toward Boise, Idaho, instead of flying back east to Lexington after winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The Wildcats are in the South Region but will start the NCAA Tournament against in Boise. They will have just a day off and one practice before boarding another cross-country flight to face No. 12 Davidson on Thursday in what could be another tough bracket.
Don't get coach John Calipari started on the seeding and tourney road for his Wildcats. They ran the table to win a fourth consecutive SEC championship yet drew a region that could include a second-round matchup against No. 4 seed Arizona and a possible Sweet 16 meeting with overall top seed Virginia if both advance.
"It is what it is," Calipari said. "They're not going make it easy for us. They could say this is all by the numbers and all that. ... OK. I would've been shocked if we got a 4 seed.
"I always say when you mis-seed somebody, you're not hurting that person or his team. It's who he plays that you hurt. Ask Wichita State."
Calipari was referring to Kentucky's 2014 third-round matchup against the top-seeded and unbeaten Shockers.
The Wildcats "upset" Wichita State 78-76 and ran off a few more surprises before losing to Connecticut 60-54 in the final. Having cleared their own daunting bracket to win the SEC, redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo looks forward to the next challenge.
"I know who's in the bracket and it's a really tough bracket," Diallo said. "We've just got to be prepared for anything."
Ever been to Idaho? "never in my life and never thought I'd be going there, either," Diallo said.
Texas is back in the NCAA Tournament after missing out last year and surviving the pressure of a late-season stretch on the bubble. The Longhorns are the No. 10 seed in the South Region and will play No. 7 Nevada.
The Longhorns' season was rocked by the January announcement that team leader Andrew Jones had leukemia and immediately began treatment. Late in the season, Texas removed shooting guard Eric Davis Jr., from the lineup after his name surfaced in a report suggesting he'd taken money from an agent representative.
Jones is living in Houston while he continues his treatments. He was on a video call with his teammates when Texas was announced as a tournament team.
"He wanted this so bad for us, since last summer," junior guard Kerwin Roach II.
And standout freshman center Mo Bamba, one of the best shot blockers in the country, says he's recovered from a sprained left toe and is ready to play and missing all or part of the last three games.
"This has been, for us, a season unlike any other," Texas coach Shaka Smart said. "Now here we are. We are super excited about what's next."
Georgia State and coach Ron Hunter are back in the NCAA tournament as Sun Belt Conference champions. The Panthers are a 15 seed and face No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the South Region in Nashville, Tennessee.
Hunter provided one of the most memorable moments in recent NCAA history when the Panthers, led by his son R.J. Hunter, upset third-seeded Baylor in the first round in 2015. Hunter coached that game from a stool on the sideline because he had torn his Achilles' tendon celebrating Georgia State's conference tournament run. Against Baylor, the winning shot by his son sent him tumbling out of the chair.
Tennessee's Rick Barnes is the seventh coach to take at least four programs to the NCAA Tournament, joining Lon Kruger, Tubby Smith, Rick Pitino, Eddie Sutton, John Beilein and Lefty Driesell. Barnes also went to the tournament with Providence, Clemson and Texas.
Auburn players tried to play it cool when the Tigers' first NCAA Tournament invite in 15 years became official. Even as an auditorium full of athletic department staffers and fans cheered the program's first berth since 2003, players remained seated.
"They want to act like they've been there before even if they've never been there before," Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said, adding the old-hat response was guard Mustapha Heron's idea.
Fourth-seeded Auburn will open against No. 13 seed Charleston in San Diego.
The Tigers won their first Southeastern Conference regular-season title since 1999 despite the season-long absence of post players Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley during an internal investigation into the program.
Nashville may as well be renamed South Cincinnati for at least one week.
Both of Cincinnati's college basketball powers, Xavier and Cincinnati, will be opening the NCAA Tournament in Nashville. Cincinnati's about a four-hour drive from Nashville.
Xavier is the No. 1 seed in the West Region and will face North Carolina Central or Texas Southern in its opening game Friday. Cincinnati is the No. 2 seed in the South Region and will face Georgia State on Friday.
The other games in Nashville are Nevada-Texas and Missouri-Florida State.
Rick Barnes is heading back to where he spent a good chunk of his career.
Tennessee earned the No. 3 seed in the South Region and will face No. 14 seed Wright State in its opening game in Dallas. Barnes coached just down the interstate at Texas from 1998-2015, and made the NCAA Tournament in all but one of his 17 seasons with the Longhorns.
Vols fans had been hoping their impressive season would get them assigned to Nashville, about a three-hour drive from their Knoxville campus. One of the teams going to Nashville instead is Texas, which got the No. 10 seed in the South.
Davidson's run to the Atlantic 10 Tournament title apparently stole a bid that otherwise would have gone to Notre Dame.
Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen, the chair of the Division I men's basketball committee, said on the TBS studio show announcing the NCAA Tournament brackets that the Fighting Irish were the last team left out of the field.
Davidson almost certainly wouldn't have gotten an at-large bid, but it got into the field by upsetting Rhode Island in the A-10 final. Rhode Island wound up getting the at-large bid that would have gone to Bonzie Colson and the Fighting Irish.
Michigan State is staying home as the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, where the Spartans will open against 14th-seeded Bucknell at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Michigan State (29-4) won the Big Ten regular season championship and lost in its tournament semifinals to rival Michigan, which handed the Spartans two of their four losses.
The Spartans are in the NCAA Tournament for the 21st consecutive year.
Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo always says he hopes to "win the weekend" in the NCAA Tournament. He hasn't been able to do that the past two years, getting knocked out in first and second rounds.
Izzo clearly knows how to win this time of year, though. He's won 47 NCAA Tournament games, a total that ties John Wooden for seventh on the all-time list.
North Carolina's resume earned the reigning national champion Tar Heels a No. 2 seed and a home-state opener despite having 10 losses.
The Tar Heels (25-10) open Friday in the West Region against 15-seed Lipscomb in Charlotte.
UNC is 33-1 in NCAA Tournament games in its home state, with the only loss in 1979.
The Tar Heels entered Sunday fourth in RPI and had a nation-best 14 Quadrant 1 wins, two more than any other team. That included two wins over Duke, a win at Tennessee, a home win against eventual Big Ten Tournament champ Michigan and a neutral-court win against Ohio State.
UNC won nine of 11 games before falling to top-ranked Virginia in Saturday's ACC title game.
The Midwest looks like the bracket of death with No. 1 seed Kansas opening up in Wichita. The No. 2 seed is Duke, with Michigan State at No. 3. Those three have combined for 39 Final Four appearances.
Oh, and Auburn is the No. 4 seed after earning the top seed in the SEC Tournament.
The first four teams out of the field were Baylor, Saint Mary's, USC and Notre Dame, while the Fighting Irish and Bonzie Colson were left out when Davidson won its conference tournament and forced Rhode Island into taking an at-large bid.
Syracuse was the last team into the field.
The No. 1 seeds for the NCAA Tournament are Virginia, Villanova, Kansas and Xavier with the top-ranked Cavaliers getting preferential seeding in the South Region.
The first four games in Dayton, Ohio, will be LIU-Brooklyn against Radford and St. Bonaventure against UCLA on Tuesday night, and North Carolina Central against Texas Southern and Arizona State against Syracuse on Wednesday night.
Among the intriguing early matchups is No. 8 seed Creighton and its star, Marcus Foster, against ninth-seeded Kansas State. Foster began his career with the Wildcats.
Bubble bursts. Here's who is out of the 68-team field:
Notre Dame had a seven-game losing streak while preseason All-American Bonzie Colson was out injured and couldn't do enough by the time he returned.
Louisville had a chaotic season mired by the firings of coach Rick Pitino and AD Tom Jurich amid the FBI case.
Saint Mary's lacked high-quality victories, but it's tough on a West Coast Conference team to get those opportunities.
Nebraska won 22 games and went 13-5 in Big Ten, but was 1-6 against quadrant-1 teams.
Oklahoma State beat Kansas twice and had victories against Texas Tech and West Virginia. The Cowboys also lost an assistant coach in the FBI scandal.
Baylor lost four of five down the stretch to play itself out.
Middle Tennessee made its first Top 25 appearance and dominated the Conference USA regular season, but came up short in the conference tournament.
USC was seeded second in the Pac-12 Tournament and lost the conference final.
The Atlantic Coast Conference leads the way with nine teams in the field.
There will be a couple of major differences for the NCAA Tournament selection show.
First, it will be broadcast by TBS, not CBS, the longtime network home of the tournament. CBS and Turner Sports have partnered on the tournament since 2011, but this is the first time the selection show will be on the cable-only network. It still starts at 6 p.m. EDT.
Second, the show will begin with all 68 teams revealed before they bracket is filled and matchups unveiled. TBS and CBS officials have said that will happen in the first 10 minutes of the show.
That means bubble teams such as Louisville, Arizona State, Syracuse and Saint Mary's won't have quite as long to find out whether they are in or out of the field of 68.
Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament is here and teams sweating out the wait until the brackets are revealed got bad news from the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Davidson beat Rhode Island in the A-10 tournament championship game Sunday to steal an at-large bid. Top-seeded and No. 25 Rhode Island looked like a lock to get into the field of 68 no matter what happened Sunday. But Davidson's only hope was to win the conference tournament — and Stephen Curry's alma mater did just that. For bubble teams such as Arizona State, Louisville, Syracuse, Baylor, Marquette and St. Mary's, that's a problem.
Penn won the Ivy League to earn an automatic bid Sunday, and so did Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference.