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NCAA Tournament By The Numbers – What To Look For As March Madness Begins

With apologies to the First Four, the NCAA Tournament does not officially begin until Thursday – today. Here are 16 things to watch for in honor of the 16 seeds — Georgia State, Wright State, Texas Southern or Norfolk State. Here’s to at least one of them winning.

1.) As you’re watching No. 6 seed Colorado State (25-5) and No. 11 seed Michigan (17-14) in the first game (12:15 p.m. eastern, CBS), be happy that Colorado State made it to Indianapolis.

As of Tuesday, Colorado State’s travel plans, which are directed by the NCAA across the 68-team field, were literally up in the air, and coach Niko Medved was understandably upset.

“It’s 10 o’clock, and we don’t know when we’re flying to Indianapolis,” he tweeted late Monday night. “And we don’t have any answers yet. It makes it very difficult to plan your day tomorrow as far as practice and preparation right now, especially when we’re scheduled for the first game of the tournament.”

The Rams did eventually make it in time for their first NCAA Tournament since 2013.

2.) The only question is, how did Michigan get invited at 17-14 and 11-9 in the Big Ten with a 4-5 finish to end the season? The Wolverines are No. 34 in the nation, according to the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), which weighs schedule difficulty heavily. Perhaps the NCAA Selection Committee should use the alternate version of the NET – the NCAA Eye Test, which weighs common sense heavily.

With that, Texas A&M at 22-12 and 9-9 in the SEC, which this season was much better than the Big Ten, and with an 8-2 finish, would have gotten in. Always be closing, the NCAA should start saying. And the Aggies were closing, with wins over No. 2 seed Auburn and No. 4 seed Arkansas in the SEC Tournament. Michigan did have some impressive wins down the stretch over Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State, but those were No. 5 and No. 7 seeds, respectively. And nine Big Ten teams get in? Really? And just six from the SEC? That’s not a good … NET.

“The Texas A&M thing, I was really stunned at,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “That’s hard for me to believe. They were 9-9 in a great league and were one of the best teams down the stretch. That’s what I call the eye test.”

3.) Speaking of the NET, the team with the worst NET in the field is Wright State at 191. The Raiders (22-13) beat No. 200 NET Bryant, 93-82, on Wednesday in a play-in game. Wright State will play No. 1 seed Arizona (31-3) on Friday (7:30 p.m., TruTV). Arizona is a 21.5 favorite by FanDuel. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi had a No. 241 NET before losing to Texas Southern’s 197 NET in a play-in game on Tuesday. Texas Southern (19-12) plays No. 1 seed Kansas (28-6) on Thursday (10 p.m., TruTV). Kansas is a 22.5-point favorite.

4.) The NCAA has been seeding teams since 1979 when Bird and Magic played in the national championship game for Indiana State and Michigan State, and this is the first year that no team from the Big Ten, Atlantic Coast or Southeastern Conference received a No. 1 seed. And all top seeds – Gonzaga, Arizona, Baylor and Kansas are from west of the Mississippi River.

5.) Speaking of making history, LSU has to be the first program ever to have the dubious and embarrassing distinction of going into two NCAA Tournaments in three years with an interim coach for reasons having nothing to do with the previous coach getting another job. In 2019, LSU coach Will Wade was suspended by LSU for not cooperating with LSU and NCAA investigations into alleged recruiting violations (which really weren’t alleged) unveiled by a Yahoo.com story. The “strong-ass offer” story put Wade on his ass in more ways than one. Assistant coach Tony Benford took over and led the Tigers to the NCAA Sweet 16. Three years later, many more “strong-ass” violations “allegedly” got Wade fired just before this NCAA Tournament. Assistant coach Kevin Nickelberry is LSU’s latest alleged-interim coach and will lead the No. 6 seed Tigers (22-11) against No. 11 seed Iowa State (20-12) on Friday (7:20 p.m., TBS).

6.) The NCAA would likely prefer LSU not be in the NCAA Tournament, considering the lengthy list of alleged violations just released. So, that may have been in mind with a bit of regional bias against the Tigers, but deservedly so. LSU’s first opponent, Iowa State, is just a five-hour drive from Milwaukee. And Milwaukee is just an hour from the campus of No. 3 seed Wisconsin (24-7), which plays No. 14 Colgate (23-11) on Friday (9:50 p.m., TBS). The LSU-Iowa State winner plays the Wisconsin-Colgate winner on Sunday.

7.) This will be the close shave tournament, if FanDuel’s point spreads are correct. There are no less than 11 opening round games with a spread of three points or fewer – Seton Hall -0.5 vs. TCU, Ohio State -0.5 vs. Loyola-Chicago, Michigan -1 vs. Colorado State, Texas -1 vs. Virginia Tech, Michigan State -1 vs. Davidson, USC -1.5 vs. Miami, San Diego State -2 vs. Creighton, Murray State -2 vs. San Francisco, Providence -2 vs. South Dakota State, Saint Mary’s -2.5 vs. Indiana, and Memphis -3 vs. Boise State.

8.) Beware the upset. Last year, no less than nine double-digit seeds won first round games.

OutKick’s Daily Picks and Pushes for NCAA Tournament

9.) No. 2 seed Duke (28-6) losing to No. 15 seed Cal State Fullerton (21-10) is probably not a good bet. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will be coaching in his 36th and last NCAA Tournament – just four hours from Duke in Greenville, S.C. And Cal State Fullerton, by the way, is 341st in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense at .375. Duke is 38th in the nation in its percentage of making three-point field goals at .368.

10.) Here is a double-digit seed pick for you. Take No. 11 Virginia Tech (23-12) and the one point against No. 6 Texas (21-11) in Milwaukee on Friday (4:30 p.m., TBS). Virginia Tech is No. 3 in the nation in three-point field goal percentage at .393 while Texas is 67th in three-point field goal percentage defense at .413.

11.) The Holy Roller is still at it. Loyola-Chicago team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, will be there live at age 102 when the No. 10 seed Ramblers (25-7) play No. 7 Ohio State (19-11) in Pittsburgh on Friday (12:15 p.m., CBS).

12.) There is but one first-time team in the men’s NCAA Tournament (excluding the First Four). That is Longwood University of Farmville, Virginia. The Lancers (26-6) are from the Big South and play No. 3 seed Tennessee (26-7) on Thursday (2:45 p.m., CBS).

13.) There will be three-point frenzy when No. 6 seed Alabama (19-13) plays No. 11 Notre Dame (23-10) in San Diego Friday (4:15 p.m., TNT). Alabama is 27th in the nation in three-pointers made with 9.3 a game to Notre Dame’s 36th with 9.1 a game. The Tide is fifth in the nation in three-pointers taken with 963, while Notre Dame is 68th with 790. But the Irish make a higher percentage 0 .378 for No. 18 in the nation to .308 by Alabama for No. 302. Notre Dame beat Rutgers, 89-87, in double overtime on Wednesday night in a play-in game.

14.) The No. 1 hex says Gonzaga will not win this national championship. Gonzaga 26-3 is the overall No. 1 seed and the No. 1 team in the final Associated Press poll before the NCAA Tournament last Monday. The last team to be No. 1 in the A.P. poll entering the Tournament that won the tournament was Kentucky – 10 years ago.

15.) There are four SEC programs in both the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments – Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas and Kentucky.

16.) All roads lead to New Orleans, which will be hosting its sixth Final Four, April 2-4 in the Superdome. That is tied for third on the list with Louisville behind Kansas City with nine and New York City with seven. But New Orleans leads in recent decades with the previous five from 1982 on, including 1987, 1993, 2003 and 2012. Kansas City has not hosted since 1964. New York City has not since 1950. Louisville has not since 1969.

See you, way down yonder.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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