March Madness is here

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Neumann-Goretti’s Christian Ings is a member of No. 16 Norfolk State.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament kicks off this week, with 68 teams hoping to capture the championship.

Four “First Four” games were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with first-round games set for Thursday and Friday and second-round matchups on Saturday and Sunday.

Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games will be played next week at four locations, including the Wells Fargo Center. The East Regional semifinals and final will be played on March 25 and 27 in South Philadelphia. Times are to be determined.

Villanova is the only local team that qualified for the tournament, but the Wildcats were placed in the South Regional and will not enjoy any kind of home-court advantage if they make the regional semifinals.

Nonetheless, local basketball fans will probably see some good games at Wells Fargo. If the higher seeds advance, there could be a doubleheader of No. 1 and defending champion Baylor vs. No. 4 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Purdue. 

For ticket information for the local games, visit https://onlocationexp.com/ncaa/ncaa-tournament-east-regional-tickets or ncaa.com/exchange.

This year’s Final Four is in New Orleans. A champion will be crowned on April 4 at the Superdome.

Looking for a longshot to make the regional semis in South Philly? How about No. 16 Norfolk State. The Spartans feature junior guard Christian Ings, a Neumann-Goretti graduate who helped the Saints win three state championships and spent his first two college years at Rider.

Villanova, the second seed, faces No. 15 Delaware on Friday at 2:45 p.m. in Pittsburgh. ‘Nova senior guard Collin Gillespie was the Big East Player of the Year.

Senior Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, a Neumann-Goretti grad, is a backup forward for the Wildcats who has battled leg injuries much of his career.

If Villanova wins its opener, a second-round opponent could be Loyola Chicago, which made a Cinderella run to the 2018 Final Four, cheered on by its biggest fan, Sister Jean, the now-102-year-old nun who will be courtside in Pittsburgh.

Overall, the biggest storyline in the tournament is whether Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will be able to win another championship before he retires at the end of the season.

Championship prediction: Auburn defeats Kentucky