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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly two years in the making, the Big Dance is finally returning from its pandemic-induced hiatus. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to fill out your bracket.

Driving the news: 68 teams have been invited to the men's NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis — a bubbled basketball extravaganza unlike anything college sports has ever seen.

  • No. 1 seeds: Gonzaga, Baylor, Illinois, Michigan
  • Last four in: Michigan State, UCLA, Wichita State, Drake
  • First four out: Louisville, Colorado State, St. Louis, Ole Miss
  • Bids by conference: Big Ten (9), SEC (6), Big 12 (7), ACC (7), Pac-12 (5), Big East (4), American (2), Atlantic 10 (2), West Coast (2), Missouri Valley (2), Mountain West (2), 20 conferences (1)
Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago are back and ready to make some noise once again. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Best matchups:

  • No. 11 Michigan State vs. No. 11 UCLA: The Spartans and Bruins will play in Purdue's Mackey Arena to conclude Thursday night' play-in games. Safe to say this is one of the best "First Four" matchups ever.
  • No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 12 Winthrop: This will be a popular upset pick — for good reason. The Wildcats are without star point guard Colin Gillespie and the Eagles are an impressive 23-1.
  • No. 8 Loyola Chicago vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech: The Ramblers have the nation's best defensive rating, while the Yellow Jackets have lots of momentum after winning the ACC Tournament.
  • No. 12 UCSB vs. No. 5 Creighton: The Gauchos are one of the most talented mid-majors, and the Blue Jays may still be licking their wounds after losing big to Georgetown in the Big East title game.
  • No. 13 Ohio vs. No. 4 Virginia: The Bobcats have a stud point guard and nearly beat Illinois. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers won't arrive in Indy until Friday, with most of the roster in quarantine.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

By the numbers:

  • 6 shades of orange: Six teams in the Midwest Region have orange as their primary color: No. 1 Illinois, No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 5 Tennessee, No. 7 Clemson, No. 11 Syracuse and No. 12 Oregon State.
  • 4 top-two seeds: The Big Ten has a pair of No. 1 seeds (Illinois, Michigan) and No. 2 seeds (Ohio State, Iowa), marking the first time a conference has ever earned four top-two seeds.
  • 72-68: No. 9 seeds are 72-68 (.514) all-time against No. 8 seeds in the Round of 64, the only lower seed with a winning record. By comparison, No. 10 seeds are just 55-85 (.393) against No. 7 seeds.
  • 44 schools: With Hartford and Grand Canyon making their debuts, there are now just 44 Division I programs (out of 357) that have never gone dancing.
  • 3rd coach: Iona's Rick Pitino is the third coach to lead five programs to the tournament, joining Lon Kruger and Tubby Smith.

Printable bracket.

Official seed list

1–10: 1. Gonzaga, 2. Baylor, 3. Illinois, 4. Michigan, 5. Alabama, 6. Ohio State, 7. Iowa, 8. Houston, 9. Arkansas, 10. West Virginia

11–20: 11. Texas, 12. Kansas, 13. FSU, 14. Purdue, 15. Oklahoma State, 16. Virginia, 17. Creighton, 18. Villanova, 19. Tennessee, 20. Colorado

21–30: 21. USC, 22. Texas Tech, 23. BYU, 24. San Diego State, 25. Oregon, 26. UConn, 27. Clemson, 28. Florida, 29. LSU, 30. Loyola Chicago

31–40: 31. UNC, 32. Oklahoma, 33. Missouri, 34. Georgia Tech, 35. Wisconsin, 36. Maryland, 37. Virginia Tech, 38. VCU, 39. St. Bonaventure, 40. Rutgers

41–50: 41. Syracuse, 42. Utah State, 43. Michigan State, 44. UCLA, 45. Wichita State, 46. Oregon State, 47. Georgetown, 48. Drake, 49. Winthrop, 50. UC Santa Barbara

51–60: 51. Ohio, 52. North Texas, 53. Liberty, 54. UNC Greensboro, 55. Abilene Christian, 56. Morehead State, 57. Colgate, 58. Eastern Washington, 59. Grand Canyon, 60. Cleveland State

61–68: 61. Oral Roberts, 62. Iona, 63. Drexel, 64. Hartford, 65. Mount St. Mary's, 66. Texas Southern, 67. Norfolk State, 68. Appalachian State

Go deeper:

Go deeper

26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.

1 hour ago - World

Biden huddles with European allies on Ukraine ahead of Putin call

Putin in the Kremlin. Photo: Grigory Sysoyev/Sputnik via Getty

President Biden will seek to convince Russia's Vladimir Putin in a phone call Tuesday that the price of invading Ukraine would be steeper than anything he's faced in the past.

Driving the news: Biden held a call on Ukraine this evening with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., while Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer America's "unwavering support."

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