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BC-BKC--NCAA Tournament-The Latest

March 21, 2019
By The Associated Press

The Latest on the first round of the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):

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12:45 p.m.

Washington has rewarded coach Mike Hopkins for returning the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament with a contract extension through the 2025 season.

The contract extension was announced on Thursday. The ninth-seeded Huskies open the NCAAs on Friday against No. 8 seed Utah State. It’s Washington’s first appearance in the tournament since 2011.

Hopkins is 47-21 in his two seasons at Washington, turning around a program that won nine games the season before he arrived. He’s twice been named the Pac-12 coach of the year and the Huskies ran away with the Pac-12 regular season title this year.

Terms of the contract were not announced.

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12:40 p.m.

As excited as Oklahoma’s Kristian Doolittle is for the NCAA Tournament, he’ll pass on watching the opening-round games deep into Thursday night.

“I’m going to go to sleep tonight,” he said. “We play at 12:30 (Friday). Can’t be up too late.”

The ninth-seeded Sooners (19-13) face No. 8 seed Ole Miss in the NCAA’s South Regional, the first of four games Friday in Columbia, South Carolina.

Doolittle is a 6-foot-7 junior third on the team with 11.2 points a game. He’s part of his second straight NCAA team, following Oklahoma’s first-round loss to Rhode Island in overtime a year ago.

“We put a lot of work into this game, game planned really well for Ole Miss,” he said. “And we get a new mindset of this could be our last game.

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12:15 p.m.

The first round has begun in Des Moines, Iowa, with coach Richard Pitino’s Minnesota team facing Louisville, the team that fired his father, Rick Pitino, in 2017.

Pitino downplayed the matchup this week, saying that “all that other stuff didn’t even really cross my mind.”

The Gophers are the No. 10 seed in the East Region, looking for their first NCAA Tournament win since 2013. Pitino is seeking his first such victory in six seasons at Minnesota. The Gophers should benefit from a friendly crowd, since they’re playing less than 250 miles from campus.

Louisville is the No. 7 seed, a five-point favorite to advance and likely face Michigan State — who the Cardinals beat in November— for a trip to the Sweet 16.

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12:10 p.m.

The buzz of an unprecedented Duke-North Carolina national championship game has been building all month. That’s the consensus from the crowd of bracket-pickers across the country, too.

As the deadline approached for finalizing those predictions in office pools and just-for-fun family contests, 36.6 percent of entrants on ESPN’s online platform picked Duke to win it all. Next was rival North Carolina at 15.8 percent, followed by the other No. 1 seeds Gonzaga (8.9 percent) and Virginia (8.3 percent).

Over at Yahoo, Duke was named as the champ on a whopping 46.6 percent of entries, with North Carolina coming in next at 16.1 percent. Gonzaga (9.0 percent) and Virginia (6.5 percent) followed.

Duke tips off against North Dakota State on Friday night in the East Region.

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11:30 a.m.

Millions of brackets are filled with millions of guesses, and it’s time to find out how they fare.

The crush of March Madness hits Thursday with 16 games in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Reigning champion Villanova is playing, and so is Michigan, the runner-up from last season.

Kansas and Michigan State are also in action, two of the more popular picks each year.

Murray State’s Ja Morant is going up against Marquette’s Markus Howard, a matchup of two of the biggest stars in the field.

The action begins just after noon Eastern with seventh-seeded Louisville playing No. 10 seed Minnesota.

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