Is this going to be the year when none of the No. 1 seeds reach the Final Four? No. 2 seeds Arizona, Texas and Marquette all won conference tournament titles while UCLA is a very dangerous team as well.
Defending champion Kansas was done no favors with UCLA, Gonzaga, UConn and Saint Mary’s in its bracket so that will be a tough road for the Jayhawks. Injuries to UCLA’s Jaylen Clark, Tennessee’s Zakai Zeigler and Houston’s Marcus Sasser could shake some things up when it comes to the March Madness picks.
Invariably, the best brackets are the ones that figure out which conference to get behind. This one is definitely heavy on Big East teams with the top two squads in the Pac-12 also looking to have extended runs.
When looking at the March Madness expert picks, Alabama and Houston have the best odds to win the national title.
After picking Kansas to beat North Carolina for the national title in last year’s championship game, my bracket-picking confidence is a little bit lower heading into the 2023 tournament.
Analysis: Double-digit seeds Utah State and Charleston were the upset specials in this bracket. Why not take a chance on Charleston getting to the regionals with the way the ACC has underwhelmed this season? Virginia did finish tied for the ACC lead in the regular season and there is experience in the backcourt. However, the offensive issues that showed up in the ACC title game are hard to ignore.
At the end of the day, the top two seeds could be playing for the title with Arizona’s offensive potential enough to ride with them to get to the Final Four even though the March Madness predictions favor top-seeded Alabama to get to the Final Four.
Creighton could be a tricky team in this region as the Big East schedule will prepare the Blue Jays for what is coming next.
- Pick: Arizona (+450)
Analysis: Let’s go with chalk in this bracket with all eight of the higher seeds moving on.
No. 7 seed Michigan State and No. 6 Kentucky could have tussles against USC and Providence in the first round while Tennessee is playing without injured point guard Zakai Zeigler is a concern.
Duke is red hot right now and, in a region where freshmen will play key roles, the Blue Devils are loaded with talented first-year players.
Speaking of freshmen, the No. 2 and 3 scorers for top-seeded Purdue are Fletcher Lboyer and Braden Smith, but both have experienced some recent struggles.
No. 2 Marquette returns nearly its entire team and that continuity, as well as the play of All-American point guard Tyler Kolek, could be crucial if the Golden Eagles meet Purdue and national player of the year front-runner Zach Edey in the regional final. Marquette figures to be listed by the Las Vegas odds as the underdog if this game happens.
- Pick: Marquette (+450)
Player. Of. The Year.
Tyler Kolek of @MarquetteMBB is HIM. pic.twitter.com/1SuVEyd0Is
— BIG EAST MBB (@BIGEASTMBB) March 8, 2023
Analysis: All the eyes will be on Houston leading scorer Marcus Sasser. If he is good to go, perhaps this Cougars’ team can do what the Clyde Drexler/Akeem Olajuwon teams were able to accomplish. The odds to win March Madness are calling for a long run for a talented Houston team.
If Indiana gets to the regional semifinal, Trayce Jackson-Davis could be a handful for the Cougars.
No. 4 seed Miami has done well against top teams but the Hurricanes tend to have lapses in motivation and concentration against teams they are supposed to beat. That is a dangerous way to proceed at this time of the year.
Houston is the only No. 1 seed in my bracket to reach the Final Four. However, beating Texas in the regional final will not be easy if the top two seeds get to play for a spot in the Final Four.
Texas A&M and Penn State just reached the SEC and Big Ten finals while Xavier and Iowa State could make life difficult for Texas in the bottom half of the bracket.
- Pick: Houston (+160)
Analysis: What in the world did Kansas do to deserve this bracket?
Four of the top 10 teams in the Associated Press Top 25 poll are in this region. The winner of Arkansas-Illinois could challenge the defending national champion.
UConn is drawing plenty of love from those who bet online even though the Huskies are still looking for their first NCAA Tournament win since the arrival of head coach Dan Hurley.
When UConn is hitting from the outside, this is a hard team to contend with. However, a potential second-round matchup with Saint Mary’s is no sure win for UConn.
A regional semifinal between Gonzaga and UCLA will be worth the price of admission. The Bruins will miss Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark, but there is still plenty of talent for UCLA to make another Final Four run. No bracket has more tightly bunched college basketball odds at the top than this one with Kansas, UCLA, Gonzaga and UConn ranging from +350-+450.
- Pick: UCLA (+350)
#Pac12MBB Defensive Player of the Year, presented by @Nextiva: Jaylen Clark 🐻
Full release ➡️ https://t.co/Ukfcw2qHRd#GoBruins | @UCLAMBB pic.twitter.com/Y4bes2MrU9
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) March 7, 2023
Analysis: Experience and toughness wins out as UCLA and Marquette reach the title game. Both teams have veterans at the key positions and have fought their way through challenging schedules.
The bracket does have some risks. The Pac-12 was not particularly strong this season so perhaps UCLA and Arizona might be overvalued, and Marquette is no sure bet to get to the Final Four.
In a year without a dominant team, going with a pair of No. 2 seeds to be playing for the title just seems like the best way to proceed.
- Picks: UCLA and Marquette
NCAA Championship Game
Analysis: Despite going 3-4 against ranked teams this season, UCLA is the pick to win it all.
UCLA has the ability to get it done on both offense and defense. The ability to win a defensive slugfest or get out in transition in a game full of offensive fireworks could serve the Bruins well in the tournament.
Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell and David Singleton have previous Final Four experience and that could be the difference. There are reasons why the sportsbook lists the Bruins with the best odds among the No. 2 seed to win the national title.
- Pick: UCLA (+1200 to win the national title).