Today the big day for NCAA tourney — the start of games in the main bracket
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Basketball Writer
Reigning national champion Villanova will be in action along with Michigan, the runner-up from a year ago, while Belmont and Murray State open the NCAA Tournament today as trendy upset picks.
There’s Kansas and Michigan State to provide some blue-blood flavor, and Murray State’s Ja Morant and Marquette counterpart Markus Howard some star power. There’s the big-name coaches such as Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and the under-appreciated in Wofford’s Mike Young.
What more could you want on the first real day of the dance?
Other than Zion Williamson, of course. Duke doesn’t get started until Friday.
But there is still plenty of intrigue as the first round gets going today in Des Moines, Iowa, with an East Region matchup between seventh-seeded Louisville and No. 10 seed Minnesota — the school coached by Richard Pitino, the son of disgraced Cardinals coach Rick Pitino.
The younger Pitino dismissed any notion that the NCAA Tournament selection committee made the matchup on purpose.
“I don’t have a whole lot of opinion on it,” Pitino said, “because when I’m sitting there Selection Sunday, I’m looking around, I’m excited about the fact that I know we’re in the NCAA Tournament. I’ll play whoever. I’m excited.”
Also in Des Moines, No. 2 MSU faces No. 15 Bradley, No. 7 Nevada meets No. 10 seed Florida, and the second-seeded Wolverines face No. 15 seed Montana.
Michigan is coming off a tough loss to MSU in the Big Ten Tournament title game, but coach John Beilein put a positive spin on the showing in Chicago. He saw a team executing at a higher level, one that is hungry to break through and deliver a national championship.
“I’ve had a lot of wins and a whole lot of losses, and after a loss, every time there seems to be a bounce in our team,” said Beilein, whose Michigan teams have twice lost in the national title game. “Hopefully we will have the same edge, right, that we have had in the last couple of years in the first rounds after winning. I think we will have more of an edge, hopefully.”