March Madness is coming up fast. Here is what to know along with some key games to watch and who’s on the bubble ahead of Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament:
The basketball calendar is getting crowded. Up first are the conference tournaments:
— The ACC Tournament start things off March 7-11 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
— The Big 12 Tournament will be March 8-11 in Kansas City, Missouri.
— The Big Ten Tournament will be March 8-12 in Chicago.
— The Big East Tournament will be March 8-11 in New York.
— The Pac-12 Tournament will be March 8-11 in Las Vegas.
— The SEC Tournament will be March 8-12 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Selection Sunday is March 12, when bracket matchups will be set for the First Four and first- and second-round games that stretch from Florida to California.
Sweet 16 weekend will see games in New York City (East Region), Las Vegas (West), Kansas City, Missouri (Midwest), and Louisville, Kentucky (South).
Where is the Final Four? In Houston, on April 1, with the championship game on April 3.
Basketball aficionados, take note: The women’s NCAA Tournament will hold its Final Four in Dallas, a four-hour drive up the road from Houston.
Who’s going to win the national championship? With the season still rolling, the betting favorites as of this week to reach the Final Four are Houston, Kansas, Purdue and Alabama, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. That matches the top teams in the NCAA’s initial seed watch, too, and many of the teams in the AP Top 25.
Arizona State (20-9): Desmond Cambridge deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament after swishing a 55-footer at the buzzer to stun rival and then-No. 7 Arizona 89-88 on the road Saturday. The Wildcats have won two in a row and four of five to claw their way into the postseason picture. Sitting 61st in the NCAA’s NET rankings, they still have work to do but close the regular season against fourth-ranked UCLA and fellow bubble team USC — a clear path to locking up a tourney spot.
Auburn (19-10): The Tigers ended a tough February by dropping five of seven, including a 32-point drubbing at Kentucky. Three more of those recent losses came on the road — Tennessee, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. It doesn’t get any easier for Auburn, which finishes the regular season at second-ranked Alabama and against No. 12 Tennessee. The Tigers, ranked 36th in the NET, could use another Quad 1 victory.
Michigan (17-12): With freshman Dug McDaniel playing his best basketball of the season, the Wolverines have won three straight and six of eight to make a late push. They can significantly improve their tournament hopes by winning road games against Illinois and No. 15 Indiana this week.
Memphis (22-7): Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams have the Tigers and coach Penny Hardaway on the verge of making the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. They have won four of five, moving up to 38th in the NET, but can’t afford a loss at SMU on Thursday and could use a victory in their nationally televised home finale against top-ranked Houston on Sunday. Davis, who is averaging 21.2 points and 5.7 assists, missed the first meeting with Houston (a 72-64 loss).
Penn State (17-12): The Nittany Lions seemed like a tournament lock after winning three straight against Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio State. But then they squandered a 19-point, second-half lead to Rutgers on Sunday, leaving the senior-laden team on bubble watch down the stretch. Coach Micah Shrewsberry’s group can bounce back in a big way with Quad 1 games at Northwestern and against No. 21 Maryland.
Charleston (28-3), Florida Atlantic (26-3) and Liberty (24-7): All three dominated their leagues and won the regular-season championship, but they will likely need to win their conference tournament — all of them playing in one-bid leagues — to make the NCAA field.
GAME(S) TO WATCH
Xavier at Providence, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Eastern (FS1): The Friars are 15-0 at home this season and have won 17 straight at Amica Mutual Pavilion. That streak could be tested by Xavier, which is the lone Big East team with a chance to catch No. 6 Marquette for the top seed in the conference tournament. While the 19th-ranked Musketeers are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, the Friars could use another Quad 1 victory to strengthen their resume.
Purdue at Wisconsin, Thursday, 9 p.m. Eastern (FS1): Wisconsin has dropped seven of its last 11, leaving the Badgers squarely on the NCAA bubble. Beating fifth-ranked Purdue would be a huge boost for a team that hasn’t won two in a row in two months.
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, Saturday, 6 p.m. Eastern (ESPN2): The Cowboys have dropped five straight, all without guard Avery Anderson, who is out indefinitely following wrist surgery. The Red Raiders gained traction with home wins against three ranked teams in the past month — Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas.
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25