With much fanfare, brackets for the men's NCAA basketball tournament were released on what has come to be known as Selection Sunday. Virginia, Villanova, Kansas and Xavier are the No. 1 seeds.
The tournament begins Tuesday with opening-round games in Dayton, Ohio, and then gets into full swing Thursday and Friday at eight sites across the country. Final Four action is set for March 31 and April 2 in San Antonio, Texas.
Hard core March Madness participants already know when their office pool brackets are due — most likely by Thursday's games. That will give newbies and dilettantes plenty of time to study up.
Here is an NCAA bracket for the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament.
Sports Illustrated reports:
"Murray State was the first team to secure its bid to the Big Dance by winning the Ohio Valley Tournament, and Michigan was the first team from a major conference to lock up a spot by defeating Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament Championship.
The last team to steal a bid into the tournament was Davidson. The Wildcats knocked off Rhode Island in the A-10 Tournament Championship Sunday to secure a spot in the Big Dance, and make the bubble a bit more difficult to navigate. The Selection Committee said Notre Dame was the team that was bumped out because of Davidson.
The ACC has the most teams in the tournament with nine (Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech Florida State, Miami and Syracuse).
"The biggest snubs of this year's tournament include Oklahoma State, USC, Saint Mary's, Louisville and Notre Dame. Syracuse claimed the final spot in the bracket for at-large teams."
This year's tournament is being played under a cloud. Shortly after the new championship team is crowned, a commission investigating alleged bribes and payoffs is expected to release its recommendations.
That commission's investigation, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, started after the FBI charged assistant coaches, agents, employees of apparel companies and others in a federal bribery and fraud probe.
The Associated Press reports:
"No fewer than a dozen teams in the tournament have been named either in the FBI investigation or in media reports that allege coaches and others have directed payments and improper benefits to recruits and players - thus, breaking rules that go to the core of the amateur-sports code that defines both the NCAA and the 'student-athletes' who make this billion-dollar business run.
They range from teams that made it into the tournament off the so-called bubble — Alabama — to one of the best teams in the country. Arizona, a No. 4 seed in the South, has been roiled by a report that wiretaps caught coach Sean Miller discussing a $100,000 payment to freshman Deandre Ayton. Miller has strongly denied the accusation, though the story line figures to follow the Wildcats through what could be a long run in the tournament."
In media interviews, chairman of the NCAA selection committee Bruce Rasmussen said the investigations did not play a role in the bracket-filling process.