More than 1,700 men’s college basketball players entered the N.C.A.A. transfer portal after last season, enabling teams to add older, experienced players in areas of need. The N.C.A.A. also granted players an extra year of eligibility in the wake of the pandemic.
The N.C.A.A. tournament’s field of 68 teams will be announced on March 13, and the flurry of losses could have implications for bracket. But for now, Gonzaga, Arizona and Kansas are being figured as No. 1 seeds, while No. 10 Baylor helped its case for a No. 1 seed by topping Kansas, 80-70.
Auburn, Kentucky, Purdue and Duke could all be in the mix for No. 2 seeds. Duke could still elevate itself to a No. 1 seed by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, which runs from March 8 to 12 in Brooklyn.
The upsets played out in a variety of ways, from beatdowns to barnburners.
No. 2 Arizona was routed, 79-63, at unranked Colorado in the worst loss by a top-two team against an unranked opponent since No. 1 Virginia’s 20-point loss to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in the first round of the 2018 N.C.A.A. tournament.
No. 3 Auburn blew an 11-point second-half lead against No. 17 Tennessee and could not complete a late comeback, falling, 67-62. No. 4 Purdue lost to Michigan State, 68-65, when a Northeastern transfer, Tyson Walker, drained a 3-pointer in the final seconds. The victory gave Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo his 662nd career win in the Big Ten, tying him with the longtime Indiana coach Bob Knight for the most in league history.
No. 6 Kentucky lost at No. 18 Arkansas despite getting 30 points and 18 rebounds from Oscar Tshiebwe, a national player of the year candidate and West Virginia transfer. The Arkansas senior guard JD Notae, who transferred from Jacksonville ahead of the 2019-20 season, went for 30 points, 8 assists and a key block in the final seconds as the Razorbacks won for the 13th time in 14 games.
One year after losing to Baylor in the round of 8 of the N.C.A.A. tournament, Notae believes his team has as good a chance as anyone to win the whole thing. And why not?