NEW YORK, N.Y. (WLNS) — Michigan State will try and continue its unexpected run against Kansas State in the first game of the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
Despite being the lower seed, MSU is actually a 1.5-point favorite over Kansas State, who is the No. 3 seed in the East Region.
With MSU fans potentially having some tunnel vision, it’s a good time to take a big picture look at where we stand in the NCAA Tournament.
Two No. 1 seeds, Kansas and Purdue, are already gone along with millions of busted brackets and a host of bluebloods including Kentucky, Duke and Indiana —though UCLA’s drive for a 12th national title remains alive. Here is what to know:
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 4 seed Connecticut (27-8) vs. No. 8 seed Arkansas (22-13), Thursday, 7:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Huskies reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in nine years after outclassing Saint Mary’s behind 24 points by Adama Sanogo and timely 3-point shooting. The Razorbacks of coach Eric Musselman will look for another signature win — and perhaps a breakout game from Nick Smith Jr. — after ousting defending champion and top-seeded Kansas.
No. 2 Kansas State (25-9) vs. No. 7 Michigan State (21-12), Thursday, 6:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
Tom Izzo and Michigan State are in the Sweet 16 for the 15th time and first in four years after beating No. 2 seed Marquette. At Madison Square Garden — in a New York City reunion for players on both teams — the Spartans will face a Kansas State team that was picked to finish last in the Big 12 under first-year coach Jerome Tang but got 27 points from Markquis Nowell in dumping Kentucky.
No. 5 seed San Diego State (29-6) vs. No. 1 seed Alabama (31-5), Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
The Aztecs are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004 and have won 11 of their last 13. They will need balanced scoring against the Crimson Tide, who handily dispatched Maryland. All-America freshman Brandon Miller, who is playing in the shadow of a fatal shooting case back in Alabama, had 19 after going scoreless in the first round.
No. 3 seed Xavier (27-9) vs. No. 2 seed Texas (28-8), Friday, 9:45 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Musketeers are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017 and will face a Texas team that hasn’t been there in 15 years. Xavier put on a clinic on unselfishness in the first half of its 84-73 victory against Pittsburgh, totaling 17 assists on 19 made field goals. The Longhorns made just one 3-pointer in 13 tries in their 71-66 victory against Penn State, but Dylan Disu had a season-high 28 points.
The rest (times Eastern, seeds listed):
4 Tennessee vs. 9 Florida Atlantic, Thursday, 9 p.m. (TBS) 2 UCLA vs. 3 Gonzaga, Thursday, 9:45 p.m. (CBS) 1 Houston vs. 5 Miami, Friday, 7:15 p.m. (CBS) No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 15 Princeton, Friday, 9 p.m. (TBS)
The top four seeds were given to Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Purdue. Expectations for a chaotic tournament were met quickly: The Boilermakers were ousted by Fairleigh Dickinson in a first-round stunner and the defending champion Jayhawks lost to Arkansas the next day.
Princeton used a late run to earn its first NCAA Tournament win in 25 years by ousting No. 2 seed Arizona and then beat Missouri to lock in its first Sweet 16 spot in 56 years. For Princeton and other teams, getting this far after pandemic-disrupted seasons is a milestone.
Furman celebrated its first tourney appearance since 1980 with a win over No. 4 seed Virginia on a deep 3-pointer by JP Pegues with 2.4 seconds left. Then came 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson’s win over Purdue as the 22 1/2-point underdog joined UMBC in the record books.
All that happened before the Razorbacks and shirtless coach Eric Musselman celebrated their win over the Jayhawks.
The SEC and Big Ten led the way by placing eight teams each in the 68-team field. Conference USA (Florida Atlantic) and the Ivy League (Princeton) each got one team into the tournament. The records through two rounds:
ACC (5 teams made tourney): 5-4. 1 remaining (Miami). American Athletic (2): 2-1. 1 remaining (Houston). Big 12 (7): 7-5. 2 remaining (Kansas State, Texas). Big East (5): 7-2. 3 remaining (Creighton, UConn, Xavier). Big Ten (8): 6-7. 1 remaining (Michigan State). Mountain West (4): 2-3. 1 remaining (San Diego State). Pac-12 (4): 3-3. 1 remaining (UCLA). SEC (8): 9-5. 3 remaining (Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee). West Coast (2): 3-1. 1 remaining (Gonzaga).
Gun violence has cost lives and disrupted college sports all season, touching some of the top programs in college basketball, including Alabama. Coaches have been thrust into uncertain and unwelcome roles in trying to navigate the topic — as well as the fallout from the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
On a lighter note, if you feel you know March Madness pretty well, try this 25-question trivia quiz.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The NCAA Tournament is filled with great players and the AP All-America team is a good place to get familiar with the names. It’s also an event where guys you’ve never heard of can take a star turn. There are some NBA prospects in the mix.
Bet on this, too: Some player — maybe more than one — will have a chance to join the mustachioed Doug Edert (remember Saint Peters’ inspiring run last year?) and find a way to cash in on their celebrity.
HOW TO WATCH
Every game of the men’s tournament will be aired — here is a schedule — either on CBS, TBS, TNT or TruTV and their digital platforms. CBS, which also has a handy schedule that includes announcing teams, will handle the Final Four and national title game this year.
The NCAA is streaming games via its March Madness Live option and CBS games are being streamed on Paramount+. Fans of longtime play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz should soak up every moment: It’s his final NCAA Tournament.
Who’s going to win the national championship? The betting favorites earlier this week (in order): Alabama, Houston, UConn, UCLA, Creighton and Texas, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
MARCH MADNESS CALENDAR
Sweet 16 weekend has 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.
Can’t get enough March Madness? Well, there is talk about expanding the tournament despite a host of challenges. Enjoy the 68-team version for now!
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25