NPR's Facebook Audience Picks Villanova As NCAA Men's Basketball Champions

Tristan Thompson

Villanova, the defending tournament champion, plays Mount St. Mary's in the first round this year. It's not quite David versus Goliath - the Cyclones did win the Big 12 Tournament - but Iowa State will struggle to matchup against Purdue.

Go ahead and talk about Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, Kansas, Gonzaga and North Carolina as the prohibitive favorites to win the national championship.

Though Tatum now gives the Devils post play, they still rely most on outside shooting.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski at practice Thursday before Duke's first-round NCAA tournament game. "They made sure we were on the right track".

Mount St. Mary's: With all five starters coming back, the Mountaineers should be in position to get back in the NCAA field.

There might not be one certain turning point, Allen said, because the season has been so much of a roller coaster.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With star big man Chris Boucher cheering in a bulky knee brace from the sidelines, Tyler Dorsey scored 24 points to lead four players in double figures, and No. 3 seed OR beat 14th-seeded Iona 93-77 in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Jeff Dowtin scored a career-high 23 points with a flawless day at the free-throw line, upstart Rhode Island answered every threat and the Rams ran right into the next round of the NCAA Tournament by stunning cold-shooting No. 6 seed Creighton 84-72 on Friday in an opener of the Midwest Region.

Grayson Allen had 21 points and was 5-of-9 on 3s to lead Duke.

Duke had an average year compared to its lofty standards.

The Blue Devils started the season without freshmen Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Harry Giles.

Duke is nearly always among the favorites in the NCAA Tournament, and this year is no different.

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Yes, another year has passed without the NCAA issuing penalties for North Carolina athletes taking phony courses to keep them academically ineligible.

The bracket is set and the best two and a half weeks of the year for sports fans is ready to tip off. SC and Marquette fans were trickling in for their first-round matchup, and there was only one person that got boos. Leonard Hamilton has a couple of NBA-talents in Jonathan Issac and Dwayne Bacon and a deep roster that rotates 10 players.

The total has gone over in four of Duke's last five games.

In addition to the Blue Devils shooting over 50 percent from behind the arc for most of the night before settling at 46 percent, they blocked eight shots and contributed to Troy's errant ways with 13 steals. Most teams would get blown out if their star player turned in a woeful performance like that, but not UNC.

"One thing about March is everybody believes they can win", Krzyzewski said. The depth of this UNC team is unrivaled, and it's almost impossible for opponents to match up with their abundant offensive talent. The Ducks are even better, ranking second at 39.6 percent.

After last season's dream sequence of late-game shots concluding with the three-point dagger by Villanova's Kris Jenkins in the National Championship Game against North Carolina, it will be hard to eclipse that for most fans. It'll be tough for Saturday's victor to break that string because that team will, in all likelihood, have to beat Duke on its home floor - where the Blue Devils are undefeated this season - to make it to Bridgeport. It closed the half on a 9-4 spurt then opened the second half on 10-2 run to make it 48-33. They'll play the University of Miami in the first round.

The Tar Heels are coached by one of the greatest leaders in the nation in Roy Williams and his postseason success shouldn't go unnoticed.

I am no expert when it comes to picking these games, but there will be plenty of upsets along the way to the Final Four in Phoenix.

So Troy is making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2003. Later the Tar Heels (27-7) play Texas Southern. Let the madness begin.



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