The NCAA men's basketball gambling concern has returned for another year, and this season's overall top seed is none other than Alabama, who edged out Purdue as well as Kansas and Houston, two teams that both got bounced from their conference tournaments this weekend. More on the Crimson Tide in a moment.
Let's take a look at the full bracket for this year's tournament, with the Final Four returning to Houston:
What jumps out from this incredibly shiny graphic? Rutgers missed the cut this year, despite beating Purdue, Penn State, and Indiana this season. But they also took a loss to Minnesota, the basement dweller in the Big Ten. Similarly, Vanderbilt was left on the side of the road.
Houston—KenPom's No. 1 ranked team—has been on the rise for the last few years, and it seemed like they would have been a lock to roll through this year's tournament. But Houston lost the American Athletic Conference Championship to a burly Memphis team that beat them by shooting 50 percent from the field and secured the win on defensive boards. So they find themselves in the same bracket as Texas (who beat Kansas for the Big 12 title belt on Sunday) and Penn State (who took Purdue to the wire in the Big Ten championship). Good luck with that.
Arizona State and Nevada were among the last teams in, and their reward for making the play-in tournament is having the opportunity to be No. 3 seed TCU's appetizer in the west. Also in the west, Kansas takes on No. 16 Howard, who returns to the tournament after an incredible last-minute victory in the MEAC championship. It's the Bison's first time back in brackets since 1992, when they lost to then-No. 1 seed Kansas.
Which brings us back to our overall No. 1 seed, Alabama. It's not much of a surprise that they're in the top spot considering the Crimson Tide were the No. 1 team in a tough SEC and have one of the best players in the country in freshman forward Brandon Miller. Miller is averaging 19 points and 8 rebounds a game.
What will be surprising is how Alabama is discussed over the course of the next several weeks as the team makes its run in the tournament given the connection between the program and the murder of Jamea Harris earlier this year. One of the men charged in the murder of Harris was a former Alabama player and, according to police testimony from last month, Miller brought the murder weapon to the scene of the crime.
If you've managed to catch any of Alabama's games this season, you'll know broadcasters have deployed as few words as possible around the case, choosing to acknowledge the crime in the same breath as they celebrate the success of the program. This all has been made more preposterous by comments from Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats about the case, as he has muddled through platitudes about Miller being "in the wrong spot at the wrong time," and shouted-out Ray Lewis for providing him valuable insight into navigating "a tragic situation." With the national spotlight now fully fixed on Alabama, the program is now likely to face more questions than ever before.