NCAA tournament picks: The road to Houston will end with some serious home cooking

You’ve heard it all season: The Big 12 is the best men’s basketball conference in the country.

But his best regular-season team, Kansas, won’t repeat as national champion. Nor will their conference tournament champion Texas win it all. Both of these fantastic teams will not make it to the Final Four, as will the other five Big 12 teams on NCAA Tournament ground.

Which team, then, will be the last one standing? Ironically, he will be one of four to join the Big 12 on July 1.

And this national champion will be able to cut the nets in his own backyard.

The pick is in, and it’s the No. 1 seed from the Midwest region, Houston.

Cougars are built for this. His defense is terrifying. His bravery is intimidating. And his trainer, Kelvin Sampson, has never been better.

The Cougars have been building for this. They reached the Final Four in 2021, with contributions from Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, Reggie Chaney and Jamal Shead. They returned to the Elite Eight in 2022 even without an injured Sasser, their most talented player. And this season’s team is by far the best of the three.

But what about Sasser’s groin injury that caused him to miss the final of the American Athletic Conference tournament? He’ll be fine. Sampson was willing to lose to Memphis, which the Cougars did on Sunday, if it meant getting Sasser fully prepared for the Big Ball.

“I don’t think he could have lived with himself if he had played today and gotten hurt,” Sampson said.

“We are 31-3. We will be fine.

At NRG Stadium, 5½ miles from the heart of campus, they will defeat UConn in a semifinal. And in the title game, they’ll end the amazing streak of first-year coach Jon Scheyer and Duke.

The Blue Devils weren’t as hot for much of the season, but they are coming into the tournament riding a nine-game winning streak. They have the goods to get to Houston, but Houston is Cougar country.

It’s not Big 12, but there’s nothing wrong with AAC. And just consider this: Sasser was named the AAC player of the year, Shead his defensive player of the year, Jarace Walker his first year of the year, Chaney his sixth man of the year and J’Wan Roberts, who had 20 rebounds on Sunday. – your most improved player. The explosive Mark is still in the fold as well.

You’re going to hear all those names a lot over the next three weeks.


First round winners: Alabama (above Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), West Virginia, Charleston, Virginia, North Carolina State, Baylor, Utah State, Arizona.

Second round: Alabama, Charleston, Baylor, Arizona.

Sweet 16: Alabama, Baylor.

Elite Eight: Alabama.


First round: Purdue (over southern Texas), Florida Atlantic, Duke, Louisiana, Kentucky, Montana State, Michigan State, Marquette.

Second round: FAU, Duke, Kentucky, Marquette.

Sweet 16: Duke, Kentucky.

Elite Eight: Duke.


First round: Houston, Auburn, Miami, Kent State, Pittsburgh, Xavier, Texas A&M, Texas.

Second round: Houston, Miami, Xavier, Texas.

Sweet 16: Houston Texas.

Elite Eight: Houston.


First round: Kansas, Arkansas, VCU, UConn, Nevada, Gonzaga, Northwest, UCLA.

Second round: Arkansas, UConn, Gonzaga, UCLA.

Sweet 16: UConn, Gonzaga.

Elite Eight: UConn.


Duke over Alabama, Houston over UConn.