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Expanded March Madness includes more teams, more TV

Three more teams in this year’s edition of March Madness. Three more networks to cover it.

And the Big East will have its hooks in practically every nook and cranny of that new-look NCAA bracket.

The NCAA selection committee released its 68-team draw Sunday and included a whopping 11 teams from the deepest conference in the nation.

Leading the way for the Big East was Pittsburgh, seeded first in the Southeast even though it didn’t win a game in the conference’s postseason tournament.

All 68 teams in the NCAA tournament are aiming for one destination – the Final Four in Houston, set for April 2 and 4.

The Buckeyes (32-2) of the Big Ten were the top seed overall, with Kansas (32-2) of the Big 12 next, while defending champion Duke aced out another Big East team, Notre Dame, for the fourth top seed. The Blue Devils (30-4) are trying to become the first team since Florida in 2006-07 to repeat as national champions.

The tournament got a facelift this year, including the addition of three more at-large teams that will open the tournament in the “First Four.” Those games – UAB (22-9) versus Clemson (21-11) and Southern Cal (19-14) versus Virginia Commonwealth (23-11) – are Tuesday and Wednesday.

Every game will be aired in its entirety on four networks: TBS, TNT and TruTV and CBS.

As is always the case on Selection Sunday, there were plenty of head-scratchers – teams that came out of nowhere to make it and virtual shoo-ins that didn’t.

In the first category: Georgia (21-11), given a surprisingly high No. 10 seed despite losing twice to Alabama, a team that got left out. Many experts thought VCU, UAB and Clemson making the tournament were big surprises.

Among those snubbed were Virginia Tech (21-11), which has come close but missed for four straight years, and Colorado (21-13), which beat tournament teams Texas and Missouri once – and Kansas State, three times.

Those that did make it include nearly three-quarters of the Big East – 11 of 16 teams.

The Big Ten placed seven teams, including a pair – Penn State and Michigan State – with 14 losses each.

The Big 12 and Southeastern Conference got five teams each and the Atlantic Coast got four.

The pundits are at it again. They’re pointing to five at-large teams with 14 losses (Marquette, USC, Penn State, Michigan State, Tennessee), which is only one fewer than in the combined history of the entire tournament since it was expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Sunday’s highlights

(1) Ohio State 71, Penn State 60: Jared Sullinger had 15 points and 11 rebounds and the Buckeyes (32-2) defeated the Nittany Lions (19-14) to win the Big Ten tournament at Indianapolis.

(5) Duke 75, (6) North Carolina 58: Nolan Smith had 20 points and 10 assists and the Blue Devils (30-4) beat the Tar Heels (26-7) in the championship game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Kyle Singler added 11 points for Duke, which won a record 19th tournament title.

(15) Kentucky 70, (12) Florida 54: Brandon Knight scored 17 points, MVP Darius Miller hit two crucial 3-pointers and the Wildcats (25-8) cruised to the Southeastern Conference tournament title at Atlanta by beating the Gators (26-7). Kentucky streaked into the NCAAs with its sixth straight win, second straight SEC tournament crown and 27th title overall.

Richmond 67, Dayton 54: Kevin Anderson capped a tournament MVP performance with 23 points and the Spiders (27-7) captured their first Atlantic 10 title with a victory over the Flyers (22-13) at Atlantic City, N.J.

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