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March Madness’ 68-team field tips off the day before St. Patrick’s Day

By Arnie Leshin 
Let’s face it, the top four in the 68-team March Madness field are not invincible. 
 
The football school Crimson (29-5) Tide has had some close calls, especially the 3-point win at Auburn, the 4-point win at home against the same Tigers, and some others.
 
Houston (31-3) had been on top of the heap but went down against Memphis in its Atlantic 10 Conference championship game on Saturday, and also lost to a Temple team that finished fourth in the same conference.
 
Kansas (27-7) was right up there and then lost to Texas Christian in its Big 12 semifinals. Purdue, well 29-5 Purdue, it can be said, can be judged as a one-man show behind No. 15, 7-foot-4 junior Zach Edey, who is averaging 22.3 scoring, 12.8 rebounds, 5-5 blocks, and 1.5 assists. 
 
The Boilermakers are by far the team with the most size, but none of their tall and taller players equal the talents of Edey, and they have dropped and won several tight games.
 
Now if UCLA (29-5) hadn’t lost 68-62 to visiting Arizona in its Pac-12 title game on Friday, the Bruins would probably have squeezed in ahead of a present frontline member. 
 
So it appears to be a free-for-all this time around.
 
Along, let’s say, with the current top four, other teams with genuine chances to carry off the NCAA championship trophy are Arizona, Marquette, Texas, Gonzaga, Xavier, Baylor, Virginia, Tennessee, Kansas State, Connecticut, Saint Mary’s, maybe even Duke. 
 
That’s a dozen in the hunt joining the quartet on top. 
 
The tournament bounces in with the March 16 St.Patrick’s Day 17th first round followed by the March 18-19second round. The Sweet 16 takes the court March 23-24, the Elite 8 plays on March 25-26, and the Final Four in Houston will be April 1, and the national championship on April 3.
 
For the Houston Cougars, it would be something special to play before a huge supporting cast. That’s right, there’s no place like home. 
 
There’s also the rest of the Lone Star State qualifiers Texas, Texas A & M, TCU, and even long shot, 16th-seededTexas Southern. The Longhorns are a 2 seed, the Horned Frogs a 6, and the Aggies a 7.
 
Texas is at 26-8 and lined up against No. 15 Colgate, which has the same record. 
 
There’s a run of low seeds with impressive records, as is No. 15 UNC Ashville at 27-7, No. 14 Grand Canyon at 29-11, No. 14 Kennesaw State at 26-8, No. 14 Montana State at 25-9, No. 13 Louisiana at 26-7, No. 13 Furman at 27-7, No. 13 Kent State at 28-6, No. 12 Charleston at 31-3, and No. 12 Oral Roberts at 30-4.
 
The over 30-win teams are Houston (31-3) Florida Atlantic (31-3), Charleston (31-3) and Oral Roberts (30-4). 
 
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Field —
 
1 Alabama (29-5) 
 
1 Versus 16 SEMO ST/TAMU-CC 
8 Maryland (21-12)
 
West Virginia (19-14)
5 San Diego State (27-6)
 
12 Charleston (31-3)
  4 Virginia (25-7)
 
13 Furman (27-7)
  6 Creighton (21-12)
 
11 NC State (23-10)
  3 Baylor (22-10)
 
14 UCSB (22-7)
  7 Missouri (24-9)
 
10 Utah State (26-8)
  2 Arizona (28-6)
 
15 Princeton (21-8)
  1 Purdue (29-5)
 
16 Texas Southern/FDU
  8 Memphis (26-8)
 
9 Florida Atlantic (31-3)
5 Duke (26-8)
 
12 Oral Roberts (30-4)
  4 Tennessee (23-10)
 
13 Louisiana (26-7)
  6 Kentucky (21-11)
 
11 Providence (21-11)
  3 Kansas State (23-9)
 
14 Montana State (25-9)
  7 Michigan State (18-12)
 
10 USC (22-10)
  2 Marquette (28-6)
 
10-2 Versus 15 Vermont
 
Houston (31-3)
16 Northern Kentucky (18-9)
 
8 Iowa (19-13)
9 Auburn (20-12)
 
5 Miami (25-7)
12 Drake (22-11)
 
4 Indiana (22-11)
13 Kent State (28-6)
 
6 Iowa State (24-8)
11 Pittsburgh (22-11)/Mississippi State (21-12)
 
3 Xavier (25-9)
14 Kennesaw State (26-8)
 
7 Texas A & M (25-9)
10 Penn State (22-13)
 
2 Texas (26-8)
15 Colgate (26-8)
 
1 Kansas (27-7)
16 Howard (18-12)
 
8 Arkansas (20-13)
9 Illinois (20-10)
 
5 Saint Mary’s (26-7)
12 VCU (27-7)
 
4 UConn (25-8)
13 Iona (27-7)
 
6 TCU (21-12)
11 Arizona State (22-12)/Nevada (22-10)
 
3 Gonzaga (28-5)
14 Grand Canyon (29-11)
 
7 Northwestern (21-11)
10 Boise State (24-9)
 
1 UCLA (29-5)
15 UNC Ashville (27-7)

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