Back to normal: Zags, Baylor join KU, Arizona as NCAA No. 1s

Mar 13, 2022, 3:56 PM | Updated: Mar 14, 2022, 9:17 am
Gonzaga's Julian Strawther (0) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball cham...

Gonzaga's Julian Strawther (0) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball championship game against Saint Mary's at the West Coast Conference tournament Tuesday, March 8, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

From the familiar names at the top of the bracket — Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor — to the well-worn debates all across it — why did Coach K get shipped out West? did somebody do Dayton wrong? — this version of Selection Sunday felt as comfortable as a well-worn Air Jordan.

March Madness is back to normal, or as close to normal as it can get, and that means all those stunning upsets and once-in-a-lifetime game-winners will play out in front of crazy crowds for the first time in three years.

“This was a really special year because we all realized what we missed,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose second-seeded team won the Big East title in front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

Gonzaga is the overall top seed, with Arizona, Kansas and Baylor joining them on the “1” line for this “seems like old times” NCAA Tournament. It’s the first since 2019 to be played in different cities and different time zone across America. The party lands in New Orleans for the Final Four and championship game April 2-4.

It’s a return to the way things were before the pandemic scrubbed the tournament completely off the 2020 calendar, then turned the 2021 event into a one-city-fits-all affair — all the games played in a makeshift bubble in front of limited crowds in and around Indianapolis.

“It’s all about staying in the moment and having more fun than anybody in the tournament,” said John Calipari, the coach of second-seeded Kentucky.

The best way to have fun, of course, is winning it all. Baylor did that last year in a title-game romp over Gonzaga. Just like last year, both are No. 1 seeds again, with the Zags the 15-4 favorite to win the title, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Arizona was next at 6-1, followed by Kentucky (15-2) and Baylor (11-1).

“A great learning experience,” Gonzaga’s Drew Timme called last year’s second-place finish in an interview on ESPN. “Obviously, things didn’t go the way we wanted. But it allowed for a lot of self-growth for the program. We’re excited for the challenge.”

Some players to watch over the next three weeks include Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, one of dozens who switched schools via the amped-up “transfer portal” that is displaying a penchant for reshaping college hoops at the blink of an eye.

Kofi Cockburn leads No. 4 Illinois into a first-round matchup against Chattanooga, and freshman Jabari Smith leads slumping No. 2 Auburn into the Midwest Region, where a potential matchup against conference rival LSU, which fired coach Will Wade earlier this week, is in the offing.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last tournament before retirement has Duke playing as a No. 2 seed in the West. His road to a 13th Final Four could include a second-round matchup against Tom Izzo and Michigan State. And while some thought the selection committee might send Coach K to his native Chicago and the Midwest for the Sweet 16 as a farewell gift, of sorts, instead it would be a trip to San Francisco and a potential meeting with Mark Few’s Bulldogs.

It’s one thing to face a tough bracket, quite another not to be in it at all. Dayton, Oklahoma, SMU and Texas A&M were the “first four out,” meaning there’s still a glimmer of hope for them if a team must make a late withdrawal due to COVID-19.

Xavier wasn’t even on that list, which went down as one of the evening’s biggest snubs. That was according to Dick Vitale, the national treasure who was forced to spell things out on a white board — not shout about it — while he rests his vocal cords after cancer treatments. Dickie V also thought Tennessee, as a 3, and Iowa, as a 5, got worse seeds than they deserved after winning their conference tournaments.

Dayton would have been in were it not for an upset in its Atlantic 10 conference tournament. Richmond slipped past Davidson for the title, and while Davidson still made the field, Dayton did not.

“Our committee really liked Dayton,” said selection committee chair Tom Burnett. “They were deserving of consideration, but unfortunately, they ended up on the ‘first four out’ list.”

Teams that just slipped in included No. 12 seeds Wyoming and Indiana, who will square off in the First Four. No. 11 seeds Rutgers and Notre Dame were the other last two teams in, while Michigan was seeded 11th, as well.

The Hoosiers and Wolverines are among the nation-leading nine teams to make it from the Big Ten. That’s the same number as last season, but the conference only moved one team to the second weekend. The Big East, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference placed six teams each.


More AP coverage of March Madness: and and


This story has been corrected to delete reference to Notre Dame being in Big Ten.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Biogen pays $900M to settle doctor kickback allegations

BOSTON (AP) — Biogen has agreed to pay $900 million to resolve allegations that it violated federal law by paying kickbacks to doctors to persuade them to prescribe its multiple sclerosis drugs, federal prosecutors said. The agreement announced Monday settles a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former Biogen employee Michael Bawduniak, according to a statement from […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Author James Patterson appears at an event to promote his joint novel with former President ...
Associated Press

James Patterson donates to PEN America, Howard University

NEW YORK (AP) — Howard University, PEN America and Scholastic Book Clubs are among the latest recipients of donations from James Patterson, the bestselling author who has given over $100 million to literary and literacy programs. On Tuesday, Patterson announced $5.3 million in cash awards. They include $2 million to PEN to support the organization’s […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Michigan trooper shot, critically wounded in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — An undercover trooper with Michigan State Police was shot and critically wounded early Tuesday as he and other members of a narcotics unit were conducting surveillance in Detroit, police said. The trooper was struck by gunfire around 1:30 a.m. EDT on Detroit’s west side as he and other members of the narcotics […]
6 hours ago
Far-Right party Brothers of Italy's leader Giorgia Meloni shows a placard reading in Italian "Thank...
Associated Press

Italy gets new tranche of EU funds as dust settles from vote

ROME (AP) — The European Commission signed off Tuesday on the next 21-billion-euro ($20.2 billion) tranche of Italy’s pandemic recovery funds, a welcome infusion that comes amid questions about whether Giorgia Meloni and her euroskeptic party, which won the national election, will be able to keep the funding coming. The outgoing government of Premier Mario […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct...
Associated Press

Meta disables Russian propaganda network targeting Europe

A sprawling disinformation network originating in Russia sought to use hundreds of fake social media accounts and dozens of sham news websites to spread Kremlin talking points about the invasion of Ukraine, Meta revealed Tuesday. The company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it identified and disabled the operation before it was able to gain […]
6 hours ago
Follow @ktar923...
Sponsored Content by Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.

Sponsored Articles

Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
Back to normal: Zags, Baylor join KU, Arizona as NCAA No. 1s