The Latest: Kansas big man Azubuike warming up with brace
By The Associated Press
The Latest on the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):
Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is warming up with a brace on his left knee, which he hurt during a practice just over a week ago, keeping him out of the Big 12 Tournament.
The 7-foot, 285-pound sophomore did light work in practice this week, and coach Bill Self said Wednesday that he was ''optimistic'' that the team's leader in rebounds and blocks could play a few minutes in the top-seeded Jayhawks' Midwest Region opener against No. 16 seed Pennsylvania.
The Jayhawks romped to the Big 12 Tournament title without him, enjoying a tournament MVP effort from Malik Newman and a breakout performance from freshman big man Silvio De Sousa.
Thousands of fans have descended on the old downtown area of Wichita for the city's first shot at hosting the NCAA Tournament since 1994, when Kansas Coliseum was an opening-round site.
This time, it's the sparkling Intrust Bank Arena that is the centerpiece of the action on Thursday.
While some sites have struggled with empty seats in recent years, that shouldn't be a problem with top-seeded Kansas in action. More than 13,000 fans showed up Wednesday for the open practices, and many of those fans stuck around to see the other teams shoot around.
The Jayhawks play Penn in the first game Thursday. Also on tap in the Midwest Region is Seton Hall-North Carolina State, and in the West Region are Houston-San Diego State and Michigan-Montana.
Oklahoma guard Trae Young could be playing his last college basketball game.
The phenomenal freshman leads the nation with averages of 27.4 points and 8.8 assists heading into his NCAA Tournament game against Rhode Island on Thursday. No player has ever finished a season as the per-game national leader in both scoring and assists.
Young has said he will sit down with his family after the season to discuss whether he will return to school or not. Many projections have the 6-foot-2 star who has drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry going in the first round of this year's NBA draft if he decides to leave.
Young has achieved a great deal in a short span of time. He tied the NCAA record for assists in a game earlier in the season and has scored at least 40 points four times this season. He looked like the runaway favorite for player of the year until a string of six straight losses for the Sooners. Young struggled at times with turnovers, shooting and decision making. His teammates often struggled to finish close to the hoop or corral his expert passes.
Even with all that, he already has won the Wayman Tisdale Award as the nation's top freshman.
It wasn't clear Oklahoma would even make the tournament - the Sooners lost eight of their last 10 games and were bounced by Oklahoma State in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament.
The first major slate of NCAA Tournament games is set to begin as fans scramble to fill out brackets and get ready for a marathon of college hoops.
Sixteen games are scheduled for Thursday, starting with Oklahoma's Trae Young, the nation's leader in scoring and assists, leading the 10th-seeded Sooners against No. 7 seed Rhode Island.
The other early games match Tennessee against Wright State, Gonzaga vs. UNC-Greensboro and Penn against Kansas.
Two No. 1 seeds play Thursday: Kansas in the Midwest Region and Villanova in the East Region. Villanova opens against Radford at 6:45 p.m. Eastern.
Fans across the United States get in on March Madness like no other set of playoffs in sports, filling out brackets and joining office pools that challenge them to pick the winner of all the games.
Syracuse, St. Bonaventure, Texas Southern and Radford won their way into the round of 64 by winning First Four games in Dayton, Ohio.
Half the remaining field plays Thursday and another 16 opening round games will be played Friday.
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