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Houston out early, Duke to the Sweet 16 and more March Madness predictions

Fans are expecting chalk through the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament

Southeast Missouri State v Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It’s crunch time to get the final picks in before the NCAA Tournament starts in earnest. Before the first tip of the Round of 64 Thursday, the public made their picks for the first weekend and took a look to the Final Four.

The biggest takeaway from college basketball fans at-large – chalk.

Three of the four No. 1 seeds were picked to reach the Final Four by fans, according to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey. Purdue and Kansas both received roughly one-third of the vote in their support, while just over half of fans believe Alabama will emerge from the South.

The lone outlier, No. 2 Texas narrowly edged out top-seeded Houston.

Not surprisingly, Houston was also picked as the No. 1 seed most likely to lose first, getting slightly more votes, 32%, than Purdue’s 30%.

That opinion is almost assuredly based in the health questions surrounding Houston’s best player, Marcus Sasser. The guard is still a game-time decision for the Round of 64 game after missing the AAC Championship with a groin injury. If Sasser can’t play or is even not fully himself, the Cougars will need to find a way to replace is team-leading 17-points per game.

Part of the Houston hate may also come from a lack of public faith in a team outside of the power conferences. Head coach Kelvin Sampson has also been at the center of his fair share of controversies in the past, not exactly winning over national fans.

That’s not to say a team like Texas wouldn’t deserve to be in the Final Four. The Longhorns are coming off of a tumultuous season that saw their best basketball down the stretch. Texas won the Big 12 Tournament and was thought by some to be in consideration for a one-seed.

Somewhat surprisingly, Texas fans don’t have quite the same belief in the team as the rest of the nation. According the the Longhorns fanbase, more believe the team will exit in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 than think they will reach at least the Final Four.

Purdue will have issues of their own in the East Region. If things go according to fan predictions, they will take on apparent fan-favorite Duke in the Sweet 16. Duke was the only five-seed to receive a double-digit percentage of the vote to reach the Final Four. Jon Scheyer’s team was also the only team picked to reach the Sweet 16 by a plurality of fans that wasn’t the highest seeded option.

Alabama is clearly the darling of the public at-large. With Brandon Miller on the floor, there is no reason to expect an early exit for the Crimson Tide. The biggest test for Alabama is expected to come in the Elite 8 where Pac-12 champion Arizona may be waiting.

While the national audience is feeling confident in Alabama, Arizona fans see things playing out a little differently. Just shy of half of Arizona fans expect the team to reach at least the Final Four.

Of course it would be silly to expect total chalk to actually play out through the first weekend. Lower ranked teams are getting accustomed to making the Final Four, so the Sweet 16 is almost a given.

Once the games are played out through the first weekend, be on the lookout for another SB Nation Reacts survey to predict who will advance to the Final Four.

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