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It's that time of year again — March Madness is here

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Selection Sunday is over, and the big dance is on. NCAA March Madness is here. The brackets for both the men's and women's college basketball tournaments have been released. Let's help you out with that office pool, if that's still a thing. Is that still a thing? So we're going to start on the men's side. We've called Kareem Copeland for this. He covers basketball for The Washington Post. Good morning.

KAREEM COPELAND: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Well, thanks for coming. So let's start with those No. 1 seeds. Who are they, and are they, in your opinion, worthy?

COPELAND: Oh, yes. Absolutely. I mean, this is actually one of those years where I feel like there's a lot of parity just kind of going into the bracket. I mean, all of the No. 1 seeds are certainly worthy. But, shoot, there's a handful of teams that I could actually see coming out at the end of this thing, which always makes it fun to try to fill out those brackets. UConn, the UConn Huskies - they were the No. 1 overall seed, the defending champions. But it's hard to win back-to-back titles.

MARTIN: OK. Give us a four - give us the four for people who are - the slackers who haven't filled out their own bracket. Help us out. Give us the No. 1.

(LAUGHTER)

COPELAND: So that's UConn. UConn's the number one overall. The four were UConn, the - Houston, North Carolina and Purdue, with UConn being the defending national champs. And they've got great guard play again and coming out of a tough Big East, which is always a difficult tournament to kind of come out of and win. Purdue - I could have seen Purdue easily also getting that No. 1 seed. But they lost in their Big Ten tournament. I think that would probably be the biggest question of the tournament. You know, they've been the No. 1 seed with the No. 1 player in the league - Zach - in the nation - Zach Edey.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah. I was going to ask you about that. Which - you know, obviously, look, it's a team sport. But which players are you going to be watching most closely? Zach Edey. He's the one?

COPELAND: Yeah. He's the one for me. I mean this is a team that won twice in the last three years has lost in the first round despite, being one of the top seeds in the tournament. So that's been their issue. They've had these really great regular seasons and then have gotten to the tournament and kind of flamed out a little bit early, losing in the first round in two of the last three years. Got upset last year by Fairleigh Dickinson. That's kind of like the big thing I'm watching when it comes to Purdue. And I think they might be the biggest No. 1 seed that could go a lot of different ways just because they've had tournament issues in recently.

MARTIN: Speaking of Fairleigh Dickinson, one of the fun things about the tournament is that surprising team that seems to come out of nowhere and make some noise. Is there a Cinderella team you've got your eye on?

COPELAND: There's a couple people that I'm kind of looking at. Utah State. Nobody really ever kind of talks about them. I'm not sure if they can win it all, but I could certainly see them winning - making a run. Their - Dan Sprinkle, their coach is a national coach of the year candidate. So they wouldn't surprise me.

All of the 12 seeds are kind of sneaky. That wouldn't really surprise me if you saw them kind of go on to run, make a couple games. James Madison, McNeese State, even Grand Canyon. I could see those - you know, I'm not talking about probably winning it all, but I could definitely see them kind of going on a run. I don't know if you can consider Kentucky a sleeper at number three because they're one of those blueblood programs. But I feel like they're a team that's not getting talked about enough. So that wouldn't surprise me at all.

MARTIN: OK. All right, 'cause I don't see Kentucky as a Cinderella. I mean, Kentucky is like a perpetual powerhouse, please.

COPELAND: That's what I was going to say.

MARTIN: Excuse me.

COPELAND: I don't know if they count.

MARTIN: All right. I mean, come on.

COPELAND: People don't talk about the three seeds as much, always.

MARTIN: All right. Fair enough. Any other storylines that would be fun to watch as we move through March Madness? Real quick.

COPELAND: Marquette. I like Marquette as the No. 2 seed, except their senior guard, Tyler Kolek, has got an oblique injury. And so that's kind of what to watch there. But I like Marquette and how things are set up for them. And with Shaka Smart, that's an experienced coach that could certainly go on another run.

MARTIN: All right. That is Kareem Copeland, sports writer for The Washington Post. And do not fear. Come back tomorrow morning when we will be talking about the women's side of March Madness. Kareem, thank you.

COPELAND: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Devan Schwartz
Devan Schwartz is an editor for NPR's Morning Edition. He is an experienced audio professional who, in addition to his work with NPR, has worked with such organizations as BBC, Slate, the New York Times, and various public radio stations.