Oats was asked what his message would be to his team as it enters the tournament.
“Obviously, we never lose sight of the tragedy that’s kind of marked our season,” he said. “It’s always there. But today with the team, we’re going to celebrate this win without losing sight of that. Moving forward, we’re going to keep the team focused on the task at hand, just like we have without ever losing sight of the fact that it’s an unbelievably sad situation. Our guys have done a pretty good job of that.”
If the sight of Alabama cutting down the nets in Houston is discomfiting for N.C.A.A. officials, it was hard to make a case for anyone else to be the top overall seed.
Start with Kansas, the reigning champion seeded No. 1 in the West region, which has an impressive résumé but this weekend was without its coach, Bill Self, who sat out the Big 12 tournament after being hospitalized with an undisclosed medical issue. The Jayhawks were blown out Saturday by Texas in the conference title game but were still made a No. 1 seed.
So was the Midwest No. 1 seed Houston, which has a sparkling 31-3 record, but lost to Memphis in the American Athletic Conference title game on Sunday and has had a relatively easy schedule. The Cougars also lost to Alabama earlier this season.
And Purdue, seeded first in the East region, looked like the best team in the country for three-plus months with its 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey but had a run in February that included four losses in six games. The Boilermakers won the Big Ten tournament on Sunday, but not before nearly collapsing in the final minute against unranked Penn State.
A week ago, U.C.L.A. had a strong case for the top overall seed.
But the Bruins, who won the Pac-12 regular-season title by four games, lost to Arizona in the conference tournament title game without their two best defenders, forward Adem Bona and guard Jaylen Clark, the latter seemingly unlikely to return this season. The Bruins, who had a 12-game winning streak snapped on Saturday night, were becoming a popular pick as favorite before Clark suffered a lower body injury in the regular-season finale.
After U.C.L.A. rallied to beat Colorado in a Pac-12 quarterfinal on Thursday, Bruins senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. said when asked what they would look like without Clark: “We’re still trying to figure that out. This is our first game without him. He brings so much to our team. He brings intensity, energy. He’s our X factor when it comes to defensive end as well. On offense he can do so many things.”