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March Madness guide: What to look for in the NCAA Tournament

March Madness has returned, and it has returned with all of its usual fervor.

Two years of bottled-up energy is about to be unleashed, and it’s going to be a bumpy trip.

Here are a few things to watch as the fun begins:

OUR FAVORITES

Gonzaga. Last year, the Zags advanced to the national championship game. This season, they might be even better.

Arizona. Tommy Lloyd took what he helped build with Mark Few at Gonzaga and developed it into a powerhouse.

Kansas. Ochai Agbaji and the Jayhawks have the kind of squad that can go all the way. They may also have the shortest path to the Final Four.

Baylor. Despite not winning the Big 12, the Bears won the national championship last year. It’s possible that this will be a repeat performance.

Report: Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen suffers fractured finger

CINDERELLAS POSSIBLE

South Dakota State University The Jackrabbits put up a lot of points and haven’t lost since mid-December.

Loyola University Chicago. Never put your faith in a team that has Sister Jean on its side.

Murray State University The Racers have three players that can take over a game at any time and have a 20-game winning run going into the tournament.

Chattanooga. The Mocs have some bite and a big-time scorer in Malachi Smith.

A-LIST PLAYERS

Gonzaga’s coach is Chet Holmgren. Unlike anyone we’ve ever seen, he’s built like a center yet plays like a guard.

Gonzaga’s head coach is Chet Holmgren. He’s built like a center yet plays like a guard, unlike anyone we’ve ever seen.

Oscar Tshiebwe is from Kentucky. If the Wildcats’ big man wants a rebound, he’ll get it. You’ve also got an offensive game to go with your tenacity.

Keegan Murray, Iowa Electric, and efficient. He might be this year’s bracket’s breakthrough star.

Purdue’s Jaden Ivey. To flailing defenders, his initial stride appears to be a blur. His rim finishes are featured on the nightly highlight clips.

Bryant, Peter Kiss. Loves to spout nonsense. With a nation-leading 25.1 points per game, he has the game to back it up.

MUST-SEE GAMES

Thursday’s West Region matchup pits No. 4 Arkansas against No. 13 Vermont in Buffalo. Last year, Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks battled Colgate before advancing to the Elite Eight. With their effective, five-out attack, the seasoned Catamounts will be a tough out.

No. 6 Texas takes on No. 11 Virginia Tech in the East Region on Friday in Milwaukee. The Longhorns boast a tough defense, but they finished the season with three consecutive losses. The Hokies struck gold at the perfect time, winning four games in four days to capture the ACC Tournament.

West Region matchup: No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Davidson, Friday in Greenville, South Carolina. With Tom Izzo at the helm, the Spartans are always a threat in the bracket. The Wildcats have a history of pulling off upsets remember Steph Curry’s run in 2008 and have two guards in Foster Loyer and Hyunjung Lee who can fill it up.

No. 7 Ohio State will face No. 10 Loyola Chicago in the South Region on Friday in Pittsburgh. With Sister Jean on their side, the Ramblers have a history of pulling off shocks, including a spectacular run to 2018 Final Four. The Buckeyes had high-volume scorer E.J. Liddell on their side, but they hobbled down the stretch in the run-up to the NCAA tournament.

ODDS

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the favorites to win it all are Gonzaga plus-300, Arizona plus-600, Kentucky plus-850, and Kansas plus-1,000.

Longest shots: 22 teams, including Iowa State, TCU, Creighton, and Notre Dame, are plus-50,000.

Gonzaga-Arizona plus-950, Gonzaga-Kansas plus-1,100, Gonzaga-Auburn plus-1,600 are the best bets to reach the championship game

National champion conference: West Coast plus-290, SEC and Big 12 plus-370, Pac-12 pus-500

First-round spreads: Gonzaga minus-23.5 against. Georgia State; Baylor minus-21.5 vs. Norfolk State; and Duke minus 18.5 vs. Cal State-Fullerton.

 

Get the remote ready! Find the full TV schedule here, including tipoff times and links to stream. And hurry: First Four games are Tuesday, March 15, and Wednesday, March 16 (truTV). First-round games are Thursday, March 17, and Friday, March 18 (CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV). And second-round games are Saturday, March 19, and Sunday, March 20 (CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV).

Source: FWBP

 

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