March Madness 2023 Preview

The Road to the Final Four is near!


Paul Brady, Section Editor


“Punxsutawney Phil” saw his shadow on Groundhog Day this year, indicating an prolonged winter. Yet neither snowfall nor a silly rodent can pump the brakes on our nation’s most thrilling basketball tournament, dubbed “March Madness”. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. At this point, the MLB Spring training is underway and the men’s college basketball teams are playing their final games of the regular season prior to conference tournaments. What more could a sports fan possibly ask for? In this article, I’ll be breaking down all the major storylines around college hoops that hold significance for March Madness. Use this, if you will, as a guide to making your bracket, which will be released on Sunday, March 12. 

Crimson Controversy 

I must tip my cap to Nate Oats because he really turned Alabama’s basketball program in the right direction. In only his fourth year as head coach, the Crimson Tide is the second-highest-ranked team in the country with a laudable record of 25-4. Even with superstar freshman Brandon Miller at his disposal, Oats has not changed his philosophy on three-point shooting which is basically “you should do it a lot.” Alabama lives and dies by the three-ball, and they are pretty good at it. They have the tenth most three-pointers made amongst Division 1 teams, shooting 34% behind the arc. It’s hard to trust a team so reliant on electric shooting performances, however. Alabama, as I said last year and the year before, is totally feast or famine. Choosing them to take the cake in March would certainly be a gamble, but there is no denying they are capable of beating anyone. In addition, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding Oats’ team after Brandon Miller’s supposed involvement in the shooting death of a 23-year old woman earlier in 2023. It goes without saying that drama and legal troubles off the court rarely lead to success on the court. Think twice before you pencil Alabama’s name under the “Champion” header on your bracket. 

Teams to trust 

  • Kansas

This list is short and sweet for a reason! Nobody can really be trusted, and Kansas is the only exception in my book. The Jayhawks have the most impressive tournament resúme. They are the reigning national champions led by Hall of Fame coach Bill Self with the most wins against Quadrant 1 opponents. Kansas has battled through Big 12 competition all year and has proved to be a safe bet in tournament play. Could Kansas become the first back-to-back champs since Florida in 2006 and 2007? There’s no good reason to say no!

Teams to worry about

  • Tennessee

Unfortunately for the Vols, sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler will be out for the season after suffering an ACL tear on Tuesday in a win over Arkansas. Tennessee will look to Santiago Vescovi and Tyreke Key to shoulder the burden at the point guard position moving forward. Even though Rick Barnes can rely on a trio of stud seniors in Vescovi, Jordan-James, and Plavsic, the Zakai Zeigler injury is a significant blow to their March Madness aspirations.

  • Iowa State

There are very few Big 12 teams that I think do not have what it takes to earn some hardware this month. Iowa State is one of them, simply because they are struggling at the absolute worst time. The Cyclones have lost eight of their last ten games, and as a result, they are no longer ranked in the AP poll. To add insult to injury, the third-leading scorer, Caleb Grill, was just kicked off the team days before the start of the Big 12 tournament. Even without the bracket released yet, I bet Iowa State will be a first-round exit. That result will most likely give an opportunity for the 11 or 12 seed in their quadrant to make a Cinderella run. 

  • Maryland

The Terps just entered the top-25 after their big win over Purdue on February 16. That said, if you look at the breakdown of Maryland’s season, you will notice they are 16-1 at home and 2-8 on the road. Every team that wins multiple games in the Big Dance has the ability to win away games. Maryland is clearly lacking in this respect which is why they will do nothing in March. 

  • Virginia

Virginia has consistently lost early on in tournament play since their title win in 2019. I expect this year to be no different. Following a strong start, UVA is trending downward with recent losses to Boston College and UNC. Don’t pay attention to what the AP poll says, Miami is the best team in the ACC. 


This year more than ever it is critical to understand that anything can happen, meaning you should accept and expect the unexpected. Below is a list of potential sleepers whose names ESPN analysts will rarely mention leading up to the selection show. Having a core group of sleepers in mind will undoubtedly strengthen your bracket. As scary as it can be to pick a 14, 13, or 12 seed making the sweet sixteen, that is more likely to happen than all four 1 seeds winning in the second round. I fill out my bracket by keeping track of how many upsets I have. I suggest picking at least one 11-6 upset, two 12-5 upsets, and one 13-4 upset. 

  1. Boise State
  2. Creighton
  3. Auburn
  4. Arizona State
  5. Bradley or Drake (depending on who wins the Missouri Valley tournament)
  6. Arkansas
  7. Missouri
  8. NC State
  9.  UCSB or the winner of the Big West tournament
  10.  Charleston
  11. VCU
  12.  Illinois

Paul’s Picks (My Personal Favorites)

  • Kansas State

Kansas State has a really cool story with the flourishing of Keyontae Johnson. If you remember, Johnson collapsed on the floor in December 2020 while playing for the Florida Gators. Immediately after the incident, it was widely suspected he would never play again, but he has returned to peak form this year. Johnson leads the K-State Wildcats with 17.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Markquis Nowell is also a key contributor. He runs the point, has a lot of clutch moments, and provides quality leadership besides Johnson. 

  • Purdue

College basketball fans were outraged when Purdue remained ranked fifth in the country after losing to Indiana at home last Saturday. While I agree that their ranking should’ve lowered slightly, I’m still optimistic about Purdue’s chances in the future. Junior center Zach Edey is in contention for willing the Naismith national player of the year award, averaging over 22 points and 13 rebounds per game. Recorded at 7’4’’, 300 lbs, Edey is hands-down the most overpowering player in the game right now. He is a nightmare to guard in the paint which causes him to draw a ton of foul calls. When Edey is not on the floor, the Purdue offense mainly runs through scrappy guards like Fletcher Loyer and Brandon Newman. Mason Gillis is the sparkplug, providing the Boilermakers with a clutch three here and there. 

  • Baylor

Baylor by no means has the talent they had last year or the year before, but the Bears will still be a tough out in tournament play. Freshman Keyonte George is a name to keep in mind. George burst onto the scene this year, surpassing senior Adam Flagler and last year’s scoring leader L.J. Cryer in points. Baylor is weaker defensively than usual, but their identity is still very much based on good defensive play. I trust Baylor will take care of business in the first round and most likely earn a bid to the sweet sixteen.

  • Duke

With Coach K gone, the Blue Devils certainly showed signs of growing pains during the first season with Jon Scheyer at the helm. They’ve had questionable losses to Clemson, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech, but the narrative around this team at the moment is that they’re finally healthy and playing good basketball again. Duke faces off against UNC on Saturday, March 4 in the final game of their regular season. That game will be a must-watch for anyone interested in how things will shake out in the ACC. In terms of personnel, Duke is extremely young and inexperienced with the exception of guard Jeremy Roach. Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively have great size, physicality, and athleticism, and Dariq Whitehead gives good minutes off the bench. I believe Duke can really wreak havoc and bust some people’s brackets as a relatively lower seed this time around. 


UCONN is arguably the best team out of the Big East with a dazzling record of 23-7 (I’m not buying it with Marquette). I expect Coach Dan Hurley will be pleasantly surprised with the seed his team earns if they manage to take down the raging hot Villanova Wildcats to cap off the regular season. Andre Jackson is one of those players you’ll routinely see on “Sports Center’s Top 10 plays of the week” as he’s a truly dynamic scorer with a raw dunking ability. Adama Sanogo will, once again, be the big body for UCONN, and Jordan Hawkins is probably the best guard on the team. We know this program’s seen great success before during the Kemba Walker era. Is it time for the glory days to come back to Connecticut?

Honorable mention: Miami