Purdue, Marquette land 1-2 seeds
Purdue and Marquette were far from the favorites in their conferences going into the season. They are now the top two seeds in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.
Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion Purdue (29-5) is a No. 1 seed for the first time since 1996, and fourth time overall.
Led by big man Zach Edey, the Boilermakers are going to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in a row, and 34th overall. They play Friday in Columbus, Ohio, against the winner of First Four matchup between Texas Southern and Fairleigh Dickinson.
Marquette (28-6) is in the tournament for the second year in a row for coach Shaka Smart, the coach who took VCU to the Final Four in 2011. The Golden Eagles, in consecutive tourneys for the first time since eight in a row from 2006-13, will play 15th-seeded Vermont (23-10).
If the Big East champion Golden Eagles win their opener, they would then play No. 7 seed Michigan State (19-12) or No. 10 seed Southern California (22-10). Coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans are in their record 25th consecutive tournament.
Duke, with some standout freshmen and 35-year-old rookie head coach Jon Scheyer (of Glenbrook North roots), takes a nine-game winning streak into the tourney after beating Virginia in the ACC Tournament title game.
The fifth-seeded Blue Devils (268) haven’t lost since falling in overtime on the road against Virginia on Feb. 11. They play scoring ace Max Abmas and 12th-seeded Oral Roberts (30-4).
After spending last year as the coach-in-waiting for Mike Krzyzewski’s last Final Four run, Scheyer assembled the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class that’s already got its first tournament trophy.
That first-round game Thursday in Orlando, Florida, is on the same side of the bracket as fourth-seeded Tennessee (23-10) and LouisianaLafayette (26-7) in its first NCAA tourney since 2014.
Considering Kentucky (21-11) was teetering on the tournament bubble in January amid speculation of Hall of Fame coach John Calipari leaving for Texas, the Wildcats weren’t going to complain about its No. 6 seeding in the East. The task for big man Oscar Tshiebwe and the Wildcats is winning Kentucky’s first NCAA Tournament game since 2019.