Starts with Z

This is an A-to-Z tour of the East, but folks, we need to start with Z. As in Zion. As in Zion Williamson. The beast of a freshman is Duke’s star, the most talked-about player in the nation, and he’s destined to be the most talked-about player between now and when team planes land at MSP.

A Big bottom

Three Big Ten teams landed in the bottom half of the East, with Maryland, a 6 seed, joining the Gophers and No. 2 seed Michigan State.

Gophers, Cards: They’ve met before

The Gophers and the Cardinals have met twice before in the tournament — most recently in 1994’s second round in Sacramento. Louisville scored 38 second-half points to beat Voshon Lenard & Co. 60-55. In 1982, Louisville eliminated a talented Gophers squad in a regional semifinal.

16, 18 ... who’s counting?

Even though this is a “16 things to know” article, there are 18 teams in the East Region, with two First Four games feeding a slot. North Dakota State is one of those four First Four participants. It’s the fourth year in a row that two of the First Four winners will feed into the East.

Last but not least

The Selection Committee now releases its ranking of all 68 teams, and Nos. 68 and 67 are in the East: Those Bison check in at 67, and the Eagles of N.C. Central were 68.

Terps in trouble?

Maryland fell to a No. 6 seed after going 1-3 in its last four games, more growing pains for the fourth-youngest team in the nation. The winner of the Belmont-Temple First Four game is a sleeper pick to survive into the first weekend.

The Billikens can

St. Louis has won its tourney opener five of its past six appearances, including the past three (2012, ’13, ’14), only to go 0-5 in the round of 32. The lone first-round loss in that time came in 2000 to Utah, then coached by Rick Majerus, who went on to coach the Billikens.

Curtain call for Temple’s Dunphy

Fran Dunphy’s Temple Owls sneaked into the tournament, as a First Four team and 11 seed. This is Dunphy’s final season, after 13 years in Philly following John Chaney’s run. The 70-year-old began coaching in 1971 at Army.

Belmont barely made it, too

Temple’s First Four opponent, Belmont, is the first team from the Ohio Valley Conference to earn an at-large bid to the since Middle Tennessee did so in 1987.

Another blue April?

Duke has won five titles, and each time in a city that ends in “apolis.’’ The Blue Devils won it all in Indianapolis in 1991, 2010 and 2015, and Minneapolis in 1992 and 2001.

LSU-Yale:  A rematch of sorts

In the 1969 Rainbow Classic in Hawaii, Yale upset LSU in the tourney title game 97-94. Yale’s Jim Morgan outscored Pete Maravich 35-34.

Tigers want a trip north

As a No. 3 seed, LSU has its highest seed since being No. 1 in 1981. But that hasn’t stopped the Tigers from succeeding. They reached the Final Four as a No. 11 seed in 1986 and a No. 4 seed in 2006.

Welcome back, Rams

VCU is back in after missing last year. The 2011 Final Four darlings had made it every season from 2011-17.

The Knights could seize the day

Coach Johnny Dawkins has Central Florida back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2005, and his dangerous Knights have two wins over ranked opponents this month.

It’s been a while

Michigan State has seven Final Fours under Tom Izzo, but in the past three seasons the Spartans haven’t made the Sweet 16. They lost in the second round in 2017 and ’18 after losing their opener as a No. 2 seed in 2016.

Bradley’s bad news

Michigan State’s first-round opponent, Bradley, made news last week when it had to apologize for limiting access for a longtime beat reporter. “We did not handle this situation appropriately,” the school said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.