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College basketball’s last weekend before the NCAA Tournament offers fans and players something unique to the sport: a second lease on life. Some 300 teams will be fighting for 20 remaining automatic spots in this weekend’s conference championship tournaments.
Twelve conference tournaments have already been decided, and one team, St. Mary’s, has already “stolen” a bid. That has left several teams on the at large bubble scrambling. Indiana and Ohio State will play a virtual NCAA Tournament elimination game on Thursday, and teams like Alabama and Florida also face must-win games.
Zion Williamson will be making his return to the Duke Blue Devils on Thursday, against either Pittsburgh or Syracuse. Other storylines include the probable last rides of several college coaches. The SEC’s regular season champions, the LSU Tigers, are also playing without their head coach, Will Wade, who was suspended indefinitely.
Of course, the real fun begins on Selection Sunday, and one bit of news all fans can welcome is the return of the traditional Selection Show. Last year’s clunky, two-hour long slog was panned by viewers and media analysts alike. Apparently, CBS got the message, cutting the show in half, and axing the studio audience, alphabetical team reveal, and Charles Barkley.
March Madness wouldn’t be complete without bracket games, and for those inclined, there are plenty of places to go and play for free. Several sites offer gargantuan cash prizes on the astronomical chance that someone fills out a perfect bracket. In all, some 40 million Americans are estimated to fill out 70 million brackets this month.