Kansas is a No. 1 seed for the third straight year and 14th time overall. Only North Carolina (16) has been the regional favorite more often.
But the Jayhawks have only been to the Final Four three times as a top seed. If KU breaks the trend this year, it will be because of its outstanding backcourt led by All-America Devonte Graham, who dished out a career-best 13 assists in the Big 12 tournament title game victory over West Virginia.
The Midwest seems top heavy. No. 2 seed Duke and No. 3 Michigan State were the top two ranked teams in the preseason poll. The Blue Devils, with Marvin Bagley III — the ACC player of the year — Grayson Allen and Wendell Carter Jr., won their first 11 games, including a victory over the Spartans, but they struggled on the road.
Michigan State opens its tournament path in Detroit. The Spartans won the Big Ten title and are making their 21 st straight NCAA appearance. Fourth-seeded Auburn shared the Southeastern Conference championship with Tennessee and is back in the tournament for the first time since 2003.
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Rhode Island was an upset loser to Davidson in the Atlantic-10 title game on Sunday, but the Rams have their highest seed in program history, a No. 7. They’ll meet Oklahoma and freshman star Trae Young, who leads the nation in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.8).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Three players who have been named first-team All-America by publications/services so far are in the Midwest: Kansas’ Graham, Duke’s Bagley and Oklahoma’s Young.
No. 12 New Mexico State over No. 5 Clemson. A 12 always beats a five, correct? Both teams are defensive-minded. New Mexico State defeated an ACC-bound tournament team, Miami, this season.
FINAL FOUR PICK
Duke over Kansas