Alabama is the tournament’s top seed for the first time and was joined by Houston, Kansas and Purdue as the other No. 1 seeds when the bracket was revealed Sunday evening.
The Crimson Tide were placed atop the South Region after a strong 29-5 season that revolved around freshman star Brandon Miller.
But the shooting death of Jamea Harris in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 15 continues to hang over the program. Former player Darius Miles is one of two people charged with the murder and police say Miller transported the gun to the scene.
Miller hasn’t been charged in the case but his reputation has taken a massive hit despite averaging 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds and winning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors.
Still, Alabama (29-5) won both the SEC regular-season and tournament titles while being among the best programs in the country all season.
“We’re excited to be the No. 1 overall seed,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “Our players have worked hard and accomplished a lot this year. I couldn’t be more proud of them, what they’ve been able to do. It’s nice they got rewarded with it.”
NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee chair Chris Reynolds said Houston edged Kansas for the No. 2 overall seed.
“Houston was competitive in all their games that they lost except for today (against Memphis) and we understand they were without their best player,” said Reynolds, who is vice president of intercollegiate athletics at Bradley University. “For that reason, we kept Houston as No. 2.”
Cougars star guard Marcus Sasser will enter the tournament in less than top form after injuring a groin during Saturday’s American Athletic Conference tournament semifinals. The Cougars lost to Memphis 75-65 in the final on Sunday without Sasser.
Defending national champion Kansas will have coach Bill Self back on the sidelines after he was released from the hospital Sunday after a mid-week heart procedure in which he had two stents “placed for the treatment of blocked arteries.”
The Jayhawks lost to Texas in the Big 12 tournament title game without Self.
“I am proud of our team and coaching staff for how they have handled this and am excited to be back with them as the best time of the season gets underway,” Self said in a statement.
Purdue edged out UCLA for the final No. 1 seed. Joining the Bruins on the No. 2 line are Texas (sixth overall), Arizona (seventh) and Marquette (eight).
The SEC and Big Ten led the way with eight teams in the 68-team field. The Big 12 had seven and the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East each had five. The Pac-12 and Mountain West placed four apiece in the field.
At the other end of the bracket, Nevada (22-10) of the Mountain West was the final at-large selection in the field. The first team out was Oklahoma State (18-15) of the Big 12.
Reynolds pointed out that Oklahoma State won just one third of its Quad 1 games.
“When you look at their resume, they had 18 opportunities in Quad 1 and they won only six games,” Reynolds said. “They had opportunities in the nonconference schedule to win some games to enhance their resume and they fell a little short.”
Other teams who saw their tournament bubbles burst include Rutgers, North Carolina and Clemson.
The Final Four begins April 1 in Houston. The title game is April 3.
The tournament starts Tuesday with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. No. 16 seeds Southeast Missouri State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi square off, as do No. 11 seeds Pitt and Mississippi State. On Wednesday, No. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Texas Southern are in action, as are No. 11 seeds Nevada and Arizona State.
Texas Southern (14-20) is the third 20-loss team ever to reach the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers claimed a berth by winning the SWAC tournament.
–Field Level Media