march madness arrived.
Well, actually, the madness arrived at 12:02 a.m. Thursday when Notre Dame beat Rutgers in double overtime in a first-four playoff. Later Thursday, the 2022 NCAA Tournament starts in earnest, with top seeds Gonzaga, Baylor and Kansas in action.
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A preview of what’s happening in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday:
GAME OF THE DAY
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE VS. PROVIDENCE
The tournament kicks off with 16 first-round matches and one of the most intriguing pits the 13th-seeded Jackrabbits against the fourth-seeded Brothers in a Midwest Region Tilt in Buffalo, New York.
Providence is only favored by two points, according to FanDuel sports betting, and facing an opponent that no one would want to face right now.
South Dakota State went through the Summit League regular season undefeated and has the longest winning streak in the nation at 21 games. and is participating in the tournament for the sixth time in 11 years. The Jackrabbits are shooting 45% from 3-pointers to lead the nation, and they’re not just a sniper. It’s five.
Providence is not playing at its best right now. The Brothers emerge from a Big East Tournament 27-point loss to Creighton and have struggled to beat lesser teams on three occasions since mid-February.
Brothers Arthur Kaluma and Adam Seiko got a surprise pick on Sunday when Creighton and San Diego State faced off for a Midwest Region first-round game in Fort Worth, Texas.
Kaluma, a freshman forward and the highest-rated rookie in Greg McDermott’s 12 years at Creighton, has been a starter all season and is averaging 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Seiko, a senior guard, mostly came off the bench and averaged 5.3 points and 2.0 rebounds in 23 minutes per game.
The two played together last summer in the Ugandan national team.
“Family group chat is going crazy right now,” Kaluma told the Omaha World-Herald.
THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF FRONT
Michigan will be without starting point guard DeVante’ Jones when they face Colorado State in a South Region game in Indianapolis. Wolverines rookie Frankie Collins will make his first start.
Jones went into concussion protocol after being inadvertently hit in the nose by an elbow in practice this week. Jones, who is playing his final season after being transferred from Coastal Carolina, is the Wolverines’ third leading scorer. Michigan coach Juwan Howard hasn’t ruled out Jones returning later in the tournament if the Wolverines advance.
LET’S DO IT AGAIN
Winning back-to-back national titles is harder than ever, according to Baylor coach Scott Drew.
Only two schools have done so — Florida 2006-07 and Duke 1991-92 — since John Wooden’s UCLA teams won seven in a row from 1967 to 1973.
Baylor is trying to become third as they open the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the East against Norfolk State in Fort Worth.
“On this day, if you win everything, you probably have a lot of pros leaving,” Drew said. “And then with the transfer portal, people leave. And it’s hard to have enough talent, chemistry or experience to rehearse.
Drew had to replace four starters on the team who defeated Gonzaga in the national final.
“There’s normally more pressure and expectations when you’re the defending champion,” Drew said. “But at the same time with us, it’s such a new team and we’ve lost so much, I think there’s a lot of excitement. And we didn’t approach it with pressure, but with more ‘opportunities.
Chris Jans finally had his man when Teddy Allen’s long and winding road reached New Mexico State this season. The Aggies, seeded 12th in the West, will face Connecticut in Buffalo.
Allen had made stops in West Virginia, Wichita State, Western Nebraska Community College and Nebraska before arriving in Las Cruces.
Allen is averaging 19 points per game and is the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. This will be his second experience in the NCAA Tournament, but it’s been a while. He played in two games for West Virginia in 2018.
“It’s the third time I’ve recruited him,” Jans said. “It took me a while, but we finally did it.”
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The AP contributed to this report.