NCAA tournament bracket: March Madness bracket as the season begins

Perhaps the saddest thing about college basketball — and it has to do with the fact that it’s now a sport that most casual fans pay attention to for about a month, six or seven weeks tops — how important its regular season has become. for the sports community.

It’s been like this for a while, of course, but it feels like it’s gotten bigger in recent years. A team can come out, win nearly 30 games and its regular season conference and tournament titles, get knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament and be viewed by most as a loser.

And if that team happens to be the No. 1 seed.

While setting the annual projected preseason field of 68 before the season tip-off on Monday, it was hard to ignore the Boilermakers as the team with the best chance to eventually become the No. 1 all seed coming in March.

They have five starters back, including returning national player of the year in center Zach Edey. While someone has to get him the ball, Edey is a force to be reckoned with.

The Big Ten is long on talented teams with excellent home-court advantages but short on top-quality guards and Final Four contenders, the latter of which is a chronic condition that makes it obvious that Purdue should record a league record of 15-5 or 16-4. .

And it’s never fun for opponents when one of the best teams from the year before has a serious attitude to prove it after a postseason woes. Two recent examples are North Carolina’s run to the 2017 title after losing in the championship game the year before and Virginia’s 2019 surge after losing to a No. 1 seed. 16 last March.

That doesn’t mean this year is Purdue’s coronation. Its sophomore guards (Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith) need to improve after logging big minutes in their first college season. And there’s also the matter of a tendency to lose double-digit picks — No. 13 (North Texas) in the first round of 2021, No. a year. There is some history that will block you mentally in the coming months.

But for the purposes of projecting a field of 68 teams, based on the first 30 to 35 games of the season and not a sample size of one release of only a handful of games? It’s hard to ignore Purdue and its chances of finding itself back in line at No. 1 come Selection Sunday in March.

The last four include: Oregon, Nevada, Ohio State, Providence

The first four are out: Missouri, Iowa State, NC State, Colorado State

Ten other groups to consider: Arizona State, College of Charleston, Iowa, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, Utah, VCU, Xavier, St. Bonaventure

Conference call: Big Ten (7), SEC (7), ACC (6), Big East (6), Big 12 (6), Pac-12 (5), Mountain West (4), American Athletic (2), West coast ( 2)

Bracket format: Midwest vs. West; South vs. East

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(1) BIG TEN/Purdue vs. (16) SWAC/Jackson State-OHIO VALLEY/Morehead State winner

(5) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Florida Atlantic vs. (12) ATLANTIC SUN/Eastern Kentucky

(4) Texas A&M vs. (13) SUMMIT/South Dakota State

(3) Miami vs. (14) AMERICA EAST/Vermont

(6) Villanova vs. (11) Ohio State-Oregon winner

(7) Maryland vs. (10) New Mexico

(2) Houston vs. (15) HORIZON/Wisconsin Milwaukee

Just as a team Purdue perhaps gaining more skepticism after the tournament’s early breakout, teams that run deep are likely to gain less advantage. Are the various metrics under-sold Florida Atlantic when 31-3 going into the postseason? Yes. With the improved schedule, will it end up being a top ten team this year? It won’t be easy. … Eastern Kentucky is a bid-league team to watch. The Colonels have the backbone of a 23-game winning streak and are heavy favorites to win the Atlantic Sun. …

State of Ohio it was good for two months (10-3) last season, then terrible for seven weeks (1-14) and then a big trouble in the final week of the regular season and in the Big Ten tournament (5-2). The Buckeyes have plenty of depth at back, but will they mature into a consistent team? … Houston has done well against high-level competition in the past few years. The Cougars won’t have many games to lay down and win in the Big 12, but then again, that hasn’t been their original style.

Western District (Los Angeles)

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(1) BIG EAST/Marquette vs. (16) METRO ATLANTIC/Iona

(8) Auburn vs. (9) Indiana

(5) MOUNTAIN WEST/San Diego State vs. (12) SUN BELT/Southern Mississippi

(4) Baylor vs. (13) SOUTHERN/Furman

(3) PAC-12/Arizona vs. (14) BIG WEST/UC Santa Barbara

(6) North Carolina vs. (11) MISSOURI VALLEY/Drake

(7) Illinois vs. (10) Kansas State

(2) SEC/Tennessee vs. (15) BIG SOUTH/UNC Asheville

Auburn he should have an excellent frontcourt, but his guard game will be little proven. The Tigers could be an up-and-down team, with a number of possible outcomes for the season. They are the wild card. … San Diego County returns several starters from its national runner-up team but also several key signees and experienced transfer additions. The Aztecs will defend and probably be a headache for everyone this year. …

It can be difficult North Carolina falling short of expectations – both internally and externally – as dramatically as last year. The Tar Heels have overhauled their roster to the point where they shouldn’t miss the NCAA tournament either, but there’s a wait-and-see element that should test Hubert Davis’ team. … Illinois hasn’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since the title game in 2005, but it’s been enough in Champaign to end that drought.

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(1) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (16) NORTHEAST/Fairleigh Dickinson-SOUTHLAND/McNeese State

(8) Virginia vs. (9) ATLANTIC 10/Dayton

(5) Saint Mary’s vs. (12) CONFERENCE USA/Liberty

(4) Kentucky vs. (13) MID-AMERICAN/Akron

(3) State of Michigan vs. (14) COASTAL/UNC Wilmington

(6) UCLA vs. (11) Clemson

(7) County of Boise vs. (10) State of Mississippi

(2) Creighton vs. (15) BIG SKY/Weber State

There is a chance for former LSU coach Will Wade to return to the NCAA tournament in his first year on the sideline. McNeese State. The Cowboys’ last NCAA trip was in 2002. … in KentuckyThe stock changed a lot early in the season, but the Wildcats go into the season with a good chance to advance to the second weekend of the postseason for the first time since 2019.

UNC Wilmington he did not join the new league. The Colonial Athletic Association changed its name one word over the summer and is now the Coastal Athletic Association. … Creighton had high expectations last season, faltered in December but ended up making it to the Elite Eight. The Bluejays return three starters and could have Final Four success in March. One upset for them: They are Omaha’s regional champions and have to go elsewhere in the first and second rounds.

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(1) ACC/Duke vs. (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Howard

(8) Memphis vs. (9) St. John’s

(5) Arkansas vs. (12) Nevada/Providence winner

(4) Texas vs. (13) IVY/Yale

(3) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. (14) WESTERN ATHLETIC/Stephen F. Austin

(6) Alabama vs. (11) Wake Forest

(7) Southern California vs. (10) Wisconsin

(2) Connecticut vs. (15) PATRIOT/Colgate

The show’s loss suggests St. John’s he’s far from a finished product, so this placement is a gamble that Rick Pitino will get the Red Storm to be more successful. … Gonzaga can play in Spokane because the subregional is not played at the Zags’ home field. Mark Few’s team will play only one game at the Spokane Arena, a meeting on Jan. 4 and Pepperdine. …

The committee tries to avoid regular season replays, but that doesn’t apply to exhibition games. Wake Forest met Alabama last month. … ConnecticutThe road back to the final four could easily be Brooklyn on opening weekend and Boston in the regional. As much success as the Huskies have had in the West over the years (winning four of their five titles as West Region champions), they’d probably like to stay closer to home.