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Gonzaga gets top nod for NCAAs, Arizona, KU, Baylor next

NCAA Basketball: West Coast Conference Tournament-Gonzaga vs Saint Mary's

March 8, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Drew Timme (2) shoots the basketball against Saint Mary’s Gaels forward Matthias Tass (11) during the first half in the finals of the WCC Basketball Championships at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga received the top overall seed for the NCAA Tournament, with Arizona, Kansas and defending champion Baylor joining the Zags as No. 1s.

The March Madness bracket came out Sunday for a tournament that begins with early round games Tuesday and concludes with the Final Four in New Orleans on April 2. The championship game is April 4.

This marks the return to the first “normal” tournament since 2019, with teams scattering to jam-packed arenas in eight cities for the first weekend, then to four different destinations for Sweet 16 before the fun ends in the Big Easy for the semifinals and title game.

“This was a really special year because we all realized what we missed,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose team, a No. 2 seed, won the Big East title in front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden.

The tournament was scratched in 2020 due to the then-erupting COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, all the teams played in front of limited crowds in a makeshift bubble in and around Indianapolis. One thing that remains the same: Last year’s finalists, Gonzaga and Baylor, are top seeds, with the Zags the 15-4 favorite to win it all, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Arizona was next at 6-1, followed by No. 2 seed Kentucky (15-2) and Baylor (11-1).

Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s last tournament has Duke playing as a No. 2 seed in the super-stacked West, meaning he might have to get past Gonzaga in the regional final to make his 13th Final Four.

It’s one thing to face a tough bracket, quite another not to be in it at all. Dayton, Oklahoma, SMU and Texas A&M were the “first four out,” meaning there’s still a glimmer of hope for them if a team must make a late withdrawal due to COVID-19.

Teams that just snuck in included No. 12 seeds Wyoming and Indiana. The Hoosiers are one of a nation-leading nine teams to make it from the Big Ten. The Big East, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference placed six teams each.