As in recent years, the men’s games will be broadcast on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. The official way to stream the tournament is through the N.C.A.A.’s March Madness Live app, which requires logging in through a TV provider. (The Paramount+ app, formerly known as CBS All Access, will also carry games broadcast on CBS.)
Here’s a look at the men’s bracket and the schedule for Friday (all times Eastern):
No. 7 seed Florida vs. No. 10 seed Virginia Tech, 12:15 p.m.
No. 3 seed Arkansas vs. No. 14 seed Colgate, 12:45 p.m.
No. 1 seed Illinois vs. No. 16 seed Drexel, 1:15 p.m.
No. 6 seed Texas Tech vs. No. 11 seed Utah State, 1:45 p.m.
No. 2 seed Ohio State vs. No. 15 seed Oral Roberts, 3 p.m.
No. 1 seed Baylor vs. No. 16 seed Hartford, 3:30 p.m.
No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago vs. No. 9 seed Georgia Tech, 4 p.m.
No. 5 seed Tennessee vs. No. 12 seed Oregon State, 4:30 p.m.
No. 4 seed Oklahoma State vs. No. 13 seed Liberty, 6:25 p.m.
No. 8 seed North Carolina vs. No. 9 seed Wisconsin, 7:10 p.m.
No. 2 seed Houston vs. No. 15 seed Cleveland State, 7:15 p.m.
No. 4 seed Purdue vs. No. 13 seed North Texas, 7:25 p.m.
No. 7 seed Clemson vs. No. 10 seed Rutgers, 9:20 p.m.
No. 6 seed San Diego State vs. No. 11 seed Syracuse, 9:40 p.m.
No. 3 seed West Virginia vs. No. 14 seed Morehead State, 9:50 p.m.
No. 5 seed Villanova vs. No. 12 seed Winthrop, 9:57 p.m.
Facing a swell of outrage and accusations that it had prized men’s basketball players more than students competing in next week’s women’s tournament, the N.C.A.A. apologized Friday for vast disparities in workout facilities at its marquee championship events.
Players at the men’s tournament in Indiana have benefited from an enormous, well-stocked complex in downtown Indianapolis. But the stars of the women’s game, who will play their championship tournament in Texas, were left with just a smattering of gear.
By Friday morning, with the public furor building and the N.C.A.A. already battered by years of pressure over student-athlete rights, the association offered unmitigated regrets — a striking, sudden comedown for an organization frequently criticized for insularity and defiance. Dan Gavitt, the N.C.A.A.’s vice president of basketball, apologized for “dropping the ball, frankly.”
“We will get it fixed as soon as possible,” he said from Indiana.
Similarly, Lynn Holzman, who played at Kansas State and rose to become the N.C.A.A.’s vice president of women’s basketball, said Friday that organizers “fell short.” Her voice sometimes catching during a videoconference with reporters, she acknowledged that the episode was a “blemish.”
“I’ve experienced when you don’t have something that’s the same,” she said, adding that there would be an “accountability aspect” to future discussions about what had transpired in Texas.
“When it is personal, it is as real as it can get,” she said. “It hurts. And when people passionately care about something — in this case, women’s basketball — our fans, our student-athletes who are playing this game, it is our responsibility to give them a great championship experience and one they can be proud of. It’s disappointing. It is. I don’t even have the words to describe how painful it is personally.”
The frustrations in Texas came during a week when student-athletes were already using the vast stage of the tournaments to air their grievances with the N.C.A.A. and its limits on how players may profit off their fame. Earlier in the week, players began tweeting with the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty to protest the association’s rules. Although much of that dissent has been publicly concentrated around the men’s tournament, it had also surfaced in the women’s competition.
The first game of the first round has two crucial story lines connected to health and medicine.
Let’s start with No. 7 Florida, which is making its fourth consecutive tournament appearance. But the Gators will be without the playing presence of someone it figured would be a wire-to-wire star of this season.
Keyontae Johnson, a junior forward who was voted the Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year, has not played since December, when he collapsed during a game at Florida State. A swirl of speculation about his health followed, but the Johnson family said in a statement last month that the “medical emergency was not related to or a result of a previous or current Covid diagnosis.”
But until Johnson’s family spoke, his collapse had prompted conversation and speculation around the college sports world about how the virus might endanger athletes.
Johnson hopes to begin basketball activities this summer but has lately been working with the team as a scout.
“In the past, we’d had some guys, some instances, where players got hurt and mentally kind of went away, got disengaged,” Johnson told the Gators’ website. “I wanted to learn from that and stay engaged. This was the best way I could also learn while not playing and still study guys, study teams, study plays. I like it.”
Then there’s No. 10 Virginia Tech, which enters the tournament having played just three games since a win on Feb. 6 at Miami. After that win, Atlantic Coast Conference officials canceled five Virginia Tech games because of virus-related issues, leaving the Hokies with few chances to show off their leading scorer, Keve Aluma, or a rebounding defense that was among the league’s best this season.
Former President Barack Obama is forecasting some first-round upsets but only limited chaos late in the men’s and women’s tournaments.
In the brackets he released on Thursday, the former president chose Gonzaga to win the men’s title, with a Final Four rounded out by the other No. 1 seeds: Baylor, Illinois and Michigan. In the women’s tournament, Obama predicted No. 2 Baylor would win the national championship after a Final Four that would include top seeds Stanford and North Carolina State, as well as No. 2 Maryland.
Obama expects eight upsets in the first round of the men’s tournament, including No. 12 U.C. Santa Barbara over No. 5 Creighton and No. 13 Ohio over fourth-seeded Virginia.
And while it was not an upset pick, he predicted that No. 5 Tennessee would beat No. 12 Oregon State, where his brother-in-law was the men’s basketball coach for six seasons.
In a bracket that pitted Gonzaga against Illinois for the men’s title, there was at least one sign of a second thought. In the South region, Obama crossed out No. 9 Wisconsin as a first-round pick and instead went with No. 8 North Carolina, which won a title during his presidency.
The former president’s crystal ball was, apparently, a bit clearer for the women’s tournament, which will begin on Sunday in Texas: No scratched-out picks. But he saw eight more first-round upsets, including No. 10 Michigan State over No. 7 Iowa State and No. 11 South Dakota over No. 6 Oregon.
But even Obama’s picks sometimes laughingly bristled over his predictions.
“Of course, we have ourselves beating anybody we go against,” Arella Guirantes, a guard for Rutgers, said on Thursday. “But it’s cool to see him picking us in the first round.”
Still filling out your bracket ahead of the noon Eastern deadline for many pools? Here’s a lightning round of last-minute advice:
Virginia, the 2019 title winner, is technically the reigning champion, since the tournament was canceled last year. But the Cavaliers had to withdraw from a semifinal game in last week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament after a positive test, subsequent quarantines and contact tracing within the program.
Coach Tony Bennett said most of the team, seeded No. 4 in the West Region, spent the week in quarantine in Charlottesville, Va. The Cavaliers are expected to arrive in Indianapolis Friday ahead of Saturday night’s game against No. 13 Ohio. They will have to jam in a lot during practice on Friday to prepare for their first game in nine days.
“I’m just really hopeful that we’ll be able to play this weekend,” the redshirt senior forward Sam Hauser said. “Quarantine is not that fun, but we’re allowed to at least go and walk around, get some fresh air, so just trying to keep a basketball in your hand as much as possible.”
Ohio features Jason Preston, a 6-foot-4 junior point guard who is averaging 16.6 points, 7.2 assists and 6.8 rebounds and has been called “the LaMelo Ball of college hoops” by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. Both Bilas and former President Barack Obama are picking Ohio to upset Virginia.
Kansas, the No. 3 seed in the West region, will also be playing its first game in nine days on Saturday — against No. 14 Eastern Washington — after withdrawing from the Big 12 tournament. The junior big man David McCormack is expected to practice in Indianapolis on Friday after having been in virus protocols. Coach Bill Self said the sophomore guard Tristan Enaruna would miss at least the first two games following a positive coronavirus test on Sunday “after numerous negative tests in a row.” The freshman forward Jalen Wilson, averaging 12.1 points and 8.2 rebounds, will miss at least the first game after testing positive last Friday.
Wilson’s former high school teammate, De’Vion Harmon of Oklahoma, will also miss his team’s first game against Missouri on Saturday after testing positive. Harmon is the Sooners’ second-leading scorer, with 12.9 points per game. Kansas beat Oklahoma last Thursday in the Big 12 tournament before Kansas pulled out because of Wilson’s positive test.
“I think it will be an adjustment, but not as much as what a lot of people think,” Self said. “We may not play well, but it won’t be because, I don’t believe, that we’ve been thrown a curveball that we can’t hit.”
Georgia Tech, the A.C.C. tournament champion and the No. 9 seed in the Midwest region, was dealt a huge blow. Moses Wright, who won the A.C.C. Player of the Year Award, will miss at least the first game against No. 8 Loyola Chicago on Friday because of virus-related issues, according to multiple reports.
Wright, a 6-foot-9 forward, is averaging 17.4 points, 8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Coach Josh Pastner will now have to use a smaller lineup against Loyola, which features the 6-foot-9 Cameron Krutwig, the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year, who averages 15 points and 6.7 rebounds.
This year’s N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament is a metaphorical color wheel. Green for the hundreds of millions of dollars it will reap, even without fans. Red for the anger that some players are expressing over being cut out of the profits they generate. And blue for the isolation others are feeling while marooned in a hotel at the start of 68-team, three-week game of survivor.
Chromatically speaking, however, those pale in comparison to the Midwest bracket, where there is — in very living color — a pigment that is not often a primary one in the world of sports: orange.
And there is lots of it.
On Friday, you’ll see Illinois orange and Oklahoma State orange. There is Clemson orange, which is very orange. And there are the Syracuse Orange, who are also orange. And when Tennessee plays Oregon State, there will be a veritable orange crush, a spectacle muted only by limits on the number of (in this case, orange-clad) fans allowed to attend the tournament.
Here’s a richer look at the statement color that has been used much more in college sports than the pros in the United States:
Five of the seven active Division I men’s basketball coaches in the Naismith Hall of Fame are involved in this N.C.A.A. tournament.
Michigan State’s Tom Izzo kicked things off against U.C.L.A. on Thursday night, losing 86-80 in overtime.
Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and North Carolina’s Roy Williams have teams playing on Friday. And Bill Self of Kansas and Rick Pitino of Iona start their tournament runs on Saturday.
Neither Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski nor Kentucky’s John Calipari got a bid, the first time since 1976 that both programs are out of the tournament.
Villanova’s Jay Wright, a finalist for the Hall of Fame this year, is back in the tournament after winning two of the last four N.C.A.A. titles, and Villanova plays Winthrop on Friday night.
Among active coaches, only Krzyzewski (five) and Williams (three) have more titles than Wright.