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March Madness Breakdown: Alabama Rises to the Top

Houston, Kansas, Purdue Also Earn No. 1 Seeds

North Carolina Among Teams Left Out

With the topsy-turvy nature of the 2022-23 season, it seems only fitting to see so many championship contenders stumble in conference tournament play, and that made things all the more interesting when it comes to people making March Madness predictions.

Houston, playing without injured leading scorer Marcus Sasser, lost to Memphis in the American Athletic Conference tournament. UCLA (Pac-12) and Kansas (Big 12) also fell in conference finals and that made the decisions regarding the teams most worthy of No. 1 seeds all the more challenging for the Selection Committee.

Charles Bediako #14 of the Alabama Crimson Tide gets second half instruction from head coach Nate Oats
Charles Bediako #14 of the Alabama Crimson Tide gets second half instruction from head coach Nate Oats // Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images/AFP

Defending national champion Kansas got some good news when it was announced that head coach Bill Self would be rejoining the team after missing the Big 12 tournament due to illness.

Looking at the Las Vegas odds, Heading into Sunday’s action, Houston (+600) had the best odds to win the national championship followed by Alabama (+800), Kansas (+800), UCLA (+1000) and Purdue (+1100). teams with the best odds not to make the field of 68 were Clemson, Oklahoma State, and Villanova as they were all priced at +20000.

The tournament starts on Tuesday when Texas A&M Corpus Christi is listed by the sportsbook as a 3½-point favorite against Southeast Missouri State and Mississippi State (-1½) is favored against Pittsburgh. Wednesday’s play-in games are Texas Southern (-2) being favored versus Fairleigh Dickinson, while Arizona State (-1½) is favored in the matchup with Nevada.

On the Top Line

Sasser warmed up in a fashion before Sunday’s loss to Memphis that makes it look like his groin injury wasn’t as serious as originally feared.

He was injured in the AAC semifinals and held out of the title game. This will be a much different team without him if he is sidelined or limited during the tournament. Still, the Cougars did more than enough during the season to warrant a No. 1 seed.

Purdue and Alabama took care of business on Sunday.

Zach Edey, listed by the college basketball predictions as the front-runner in the national player of the year odds, led the Boilermakers to the Big Ten tournament title. He had 30 points and 13 rebounds as Purdue barely held off Penn State on Sunday.

And now?

✅: Big Ten Tournament MVP pic.twitter.com/wZlIenYxgW

— Purdue Men’s Basketball (@BoilerBall) March 12, 2023

Alabama overcame a rough effort from freshman star Brandon Miller to roll past Texas A&M in the SEC championship game. The Crimson Tide won all three games in the conference tournament by double digits. The Crimson Tide will be a popular team among those making March Madness expert picks.

Watching the Blue Bloods

There were times this season when it was fair to wonder whether Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina would make it into the March Madness bracket.

The Tar Heels, who returned four starters from the team that played in the 2022 national championship game, did not make the field. They were the third team among the “Last Four Out” and that was much closer to making the field of 68 than many people making March Madness expert picks anticipated.

Duke topped Miami and Virginia, the two teams at the top of the ACC standings during the regular season, to win the ACC tournament.

Jeremy Roach had a slow start in the conference tournament before scoring 23 points against Virginia in the title game as he is getting healthy at the perfect time. Freshman Kyle Filipowski averaged 19.7 points in the tournament.

Despite losing to Vanderbilt twice in less than two weeks, Kentucky is in the field of 68 while Vanderbilt was among the teams not to make it in.

The Wildcats used a couple of wins over Tennessee to put themselves in the March Madness bracket and the Volunteers earned a No. 6 seed in the East Region.

Conference Bragging Rights

When looking at the conference breakdowns, the Big Ten and SEC led the way with eight teams getting bids. Seven of 10 programs in the Big 12 got in. The ACC and Big East each had five tournament teams.

The biggest surprise had to be the Pac-12 getting four teams into the field with Arizona State and USC both earning spots.

It was curious that both West Coast Conference teams in the March Madness bracket (Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s) were placed in the West Region. The Bulldogs and Gaels would need to reach the Elite Eight to meet for a fourth time this season.

Bubbles Bursting

Rutgers was on the list of the last four teams getting in by both ESPN Joe Lunardi Jerry Palm of CBS Sports.

Oklahoma State and Clemson are two other teams thought to have a chance to earn at-large bids only to be left out.

The team with the highest NCAA NET ranking left out of the tournament field was No. 38 North Texas. A loss to UAB in the Conference USA semifinals was too much to overcome.

Those making March Madness picks were not sure what to make of Penn State. However, the Nittany Lions used a run to the Big Ten title game to land a spot while North Carolina State, Arizona State, Nevada, Pittsburgh and Mississippi State were the teams earning tournament bids when they were firmly on the bubble.

Looking at Storylines

There are intriguing opening-round matchups in all four brackets.

A couple of games stand out.

Providence is led by Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins and the Friars drew Kentucky in the first round in the East Region. It will be worth watching the March Madness betting action on that matchup.

Albany, N.Y. will be the site when UConn, the No. 4 seed in the West, draws Iona. The Gaels are coached by Rick Pitino and he could be returning to coach in the Big East after a strong run at Iona.

Bracket Breakdown

Time will tell which bracket proves to be the most challenging. When it comes time to make the March Madness picks, it is hard to ignore that six of the teams in the top 20 in the Associated Press poll conducted while the conference tournaments were still going on landed in the West Region.

UCLA and Kansas were ranked second and third, Gonzaga was ninth, UConn 11th, Saint Mary’s 16th, Texas A&M 18th, and Texas Christian 22nd.

Streaking Teams

So which team comes into the March Madness bracket with the longest winning streak?

The honor goes to Oral Roberts out of the Summit League as the Golden Eagles have won 17 games in a row

Vermont (America East) has won 15 games in a row, and Iona (MAAC) takes a 14-game winning streak into the tournament amid rumors of Pitino being linked to multiple open jobs.

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