NCAA Bracket 2023: Highlighting Favorites, Cinderella Teams for Men’s March Madness
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The Alabama Crimson Tide earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and a favorable draw to make a run to the Final Four.
Alabama was rewarded with a South Region bracket that features some top teams that displayed distinct flaws over the last few weeks.
The Houston Cougars, Kansas Jayhawks and Purdue Boilermakers were the other three teams awarded No. 1 seeds.
All three of those programs could face tough tests as soon as the second round, and it is far from a guarantee that all four of them reach the Final Four in Houston.
As always, there will be a few Cinderella teams that come out of nowhere to either win one game, or move into the Sweet 16.
The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles will be a popular pick as a No. 12 seed after their run to the Sweet 16 two years ago, but there are other less obvious Cinderella options that could benefit you more in your bracket pools.
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Alabama surged over the other contenders for the No. 1 overall seed by winning the SEC tournament on Sunday.
The Crimson Tide went 29-5 this season and lost just two games in SEC play.
Brandon Miller and Co. have an easy path to the second weekend because of the weaknesses displayed by the Maryland Terrapins and West Virginia Mountaineers.
Maryland suffered all nine of its Big Ten losses away from home and it lost three of its last four games. West Virginia went 0-7 against the three best teams in the Big 12.
The recent offensive struggles of the Virginia Cavaliers without Ben Vander Plas open up a clear path for Alabama to beat the higher seeds in the top half of the South Region bracket.
Alabama’s toughest test would come in the Elite Eight against the Arizona Wildcats, who could challenge the Tide down low with Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis.
Alabama passed all of its major tests in the regular season, and until a team proves it can slow down Miller and his teammates, it has to be viewed as one of the top teams to beat in the Big Dance.
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The Big Ten tournament champion was drawn on the same side of the bracket as Alabama.
Purdue and Alabama could meet each other in the Final Four if chalk holds in their respective brackets.
The Boilermakers have a tougher path to Houston than the Crimson Tide, but their route appears to be easier than the other two No. 1 seeds.
Purdue will face a challenge from either the Memphis Tigers or Florida Atlantic Owls in the second round. Zach Edey’s performance against either second-round foe is vital because Memphis and FAU are strong in the backcourt.
After that, the Boilermakers could cruise against a struggling Tennessee Volunteers side without injured point guard Zakai Zeigler, or a Duke Blue Devils team whose best player, Kyle Filipowski, could be neutralized by Edey’s size.
A showdown with the Marquette Golden Eagles could happen in the Elite Eight. Marquette comes into the Big Dance as the Big East regular-season and tournament champion.
However, there are a few upset-minded squads, like Oral Roberts, in the East Region who could open up the path for Purdue to not face all of the top seeds in the region.
Oral Roberts, the USC Trojans and Providence Friars could all be dangerous double-digit seeds that wreak havoc against some of the traditional powers of the sport.
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The Drake Bulldogs drew the perfect matchup for their defensive strengths to show.
The Missouri Valley tournament champion earned its last five wins by holding teams under 65 points.
Drake could cause problems for the Miami Hurricanes guards in the No. 5-versus-No. 12 matchup in the Midwest Region.
Nijel Pack and Isaiah Wong form one of the best backcourt scoring duos in the league, but they could be slowed down by Drake’s pace and tough defense.
Miami struggled against Duke’s stellar defense in the ACC tournament semifinals, as it went 8-of-26 from three-point range.
Drake may not allow Miami to score 78 points, like it did against Duke. The Bulldogs rank in the top 70 of six different defensive metrics on KenPom. Miami does not rank in the top 100 of any key defensive metric.
The Bulldogs can slow down and frustrate the Hurricanes to end up being the No. 12 seed to knock off a No. 5 seed.
Oral Roberts will be the popular No. 12 seed, but Drake could be even more dangerous because of its matchup.
Cinderella: Arizona State
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A First Four winner has won another game in the NCAA tournament in every event since the First Four expanded to the last four at-large teams in 2011.
That is good news for the Arizona State Sun Devils, who meet the Nevada Wolf Pack in Dayton and then could face the TCU Horned Frogs in the first round.
Arizona State carries some momentum into the Big Dance after it beat USC in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, a win that probably got it into the field over other bubble teams.
The Sun Devils were in this exact position under Bobby Hurley in 2018 and 2019. They beat the St. John’s Red Storm before losing to the Buffalo Bulls in the first round in 2019. They lost in Dayton the year before.
Hurley’s coaching experience in the First Four could be advantage that pushes the Sun Devils past Nevada.
The Sun Devils defense will be vital not only in the First Four, but against TCU as well.
ASU ranks sixth in two-point defense on KenPom and 28th in defensive adjusted efficiency. TCU has one of the worst three-point offenses in Division I, so it will rely more on the two-point offense than most teams.
A win over TCU would set up a second-round clash with the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a game in which very few people will pick ASU, and that could set it up to be the ultimate Cinderella of the tournament.