The basketball calendar is getting crowded. Up first are the conference tournaments:
– The ACC Tournament will be March 1-5 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
– The Big Ten Tournament will be March 1-5 in Minneapolis.
– The Big 12 Tournament will be March 9-12 in Kansas City, Missouri.
– The Pac-12 Tournament will be March 1-5 in Las Vegas.
– The SEC Tournament will be March 1-5 in Greenville, South Carolina.
Selection Sunday is March 12, when brackets for First Four games (March 15-16) and first- and second-round games (March 17-20) are set at multiple sites across the country.
Sweet 16 weekend brings a twist this year for the women’s teams: There will be two regional sites instead of four with Greenville, South Carolina, and Seattle each hosting eight teams.
Where is the women’s Final Four? In Dallas, where the semifinals are March 31 and the championship game is April 2.
As it happens, the men’s Final Four is a four-hour drive down the road in Houston that same weekend.
Who’s going to win the national championship? The betting favorites as of this week to reach the Final Four are defending national champion South Carolina, Stanford, Indiana and UConn, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The NCAA’s seeding prediction is a little different – Utah replaces UConn – and the top quartet in the AP Top 25 poll is: South Carolina, Indiana, Utah and LSU. So buckle up!
Arkansas (20-11) reached 20 victories for the first time since the 2019-20 season when it went 24-8 before COVID-19 prompted the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. It may need to beat Missouri in an eight-nine seed matchup Thursday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament to secure its third straight bid to the NCAAs.
Syracuse (18-11) needed to rally late in the season to keep its NCAA chances alive and it did with wins over Miami and Pitt. That’s left the Orange as the last team in the field of 68, according to ESPN. Syracuse will look to enhance its chances at the ACC Tournament, starting Thursday against North Carolina State, a team once part of the top 10 that has slid out of the rankings.
Oregon (16-13) was projected as a No. 4 seed by ESPN in early January after opening the year 10-1. But the Ducks have lost 12 of their final 18 games. It Oregon can’t rebound in the Pac 12 Tournament starting Wednesday, it will end a run of five straight NCAA appearances, not counting the virus-cancelled event in 2020.
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 16 Oklahoma (22-5) hopes to keep its shot at a Big 12 Conference title alive when it hosts Kansas State (16-13) on Wednesday. The Sooners, projected a fifth seed for the NCAAs, trail Texas by a game in the last week of the regular season.
No. 25 South Florida (25-5) leads the American Athletic Conference and wraps up its regular season at Cincinnati (9-19) on Wednesday night. The Bulls have won 15 of their last 16 games and re-entered the rankings this week.
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25