2023 NCAA Tournament Bracket Reveal: Live Reaction & Instant Betting Analysis

2023 NCAA Tournament Bracket Reveal: Live Reaction & Instant Betting Analysis article feature image
Credit:

Getty Images. Pictured from left: Zach Edey (15) of the Purdue Boilermakers, Jaylen Wilson (10) of the Kansas Jayhawks and Oscar Tshiebwe (34) of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Welcome to Selection Sunday.

March Madness is the best time of the year for college basketball fans and bettors alike. After what has been a roller coaster of a season, it all culminates with the NCAA Tournament: The best event in all of sports.

But before we fill out our brackets and place our bets, we have to analyze each matchup and seed the selection show gives us. That’s where our college basketball staff comes in.

As NCAA Tournament matchups are announced, our college basketball betting staff will deliver instant reactions for every game across all four regions and the First Four — including style comparisons, tempo analysis, betting leans and more.

Use the navigation bar below to jump to a specific region or matchup you're looking for, and then dive into our instant reactions and analysis. This article will be updated frequently throughout Sunday evening, so remember to refresh your browser intermittently and check back in with us for continuous updates.

Let the madness begin.

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First Four

16
Texas A&M Corpus Christi
16
SEMO
11
Mississippi State
11
Pitt
12
Arizona State
12
Nevada
16
Texas Southern
16
Fairleigh Dickinson
16

Texas A&M Corpus Christi

16

SEMO

The Islanders are on familiar turf here, having lost in the play-in game to Texas Southern last season. Essentially the entire rotation is back from that squad, so don’t expect TAMU-CC to be intimidated in this spot.

One veteran will likely not be available, though: Terrion Murdix. The Islanders’ highest-usage player went down with a knee injury in the Southland Tournament, and his absence could be crucial.

For its part, SEMO is rolling. The Redhawks won four games in four days to take the OVC crown, and bowling ball guard Chris Harris will be a handful.

Expect a shootout here. Both teams are very willing to run; SEMO is top 10 nationally in pace. TAMU-CC will likely dominate the interior, while SEMO’s lethal backcourt can get hot in a hurry.

— Jim Root


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11

Mississippi State

11

Pitt

In the era of pace and space, it’s actually a little impressive that Mississippi State made the Big Dance while playing at the 334th-ranked tempo in college basketball and shooting the worst 3-point percentage of any team in the nation. That’s right, the absolute worst. Not among power conference or in the SEC, the Bulldogs hit just 26.6% from deep and still found a way to generate enough offense to succeed.

A lot of that came on the back of Tolu Smith. The big man in the middle gobbled up all of those missed 3s, ranking in the top 25 nationally in offensive rebounding rate. The Bulldogs, as a team ,were 15th in the nation in that stat. Basically, Chris Jans had his guys chucking the ball up and banking on second-chance looks.

That could work against the Panthers, who ranked 12th in the ACC in cleaning the defensive glass. If Pitt can survive in the rebounding battle, the Panthers should score on Mississippi State and advance. But that’s a lot easier said than done.

— Shane McNichol


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12

Arizona State

12

Nevada

Arizona State snuck into the tournament, and now is the time to jump on it after opening as one-point favorites against Nevada. Looking to capitalize on the NCAA Tournament bid, I expect the Sun Devils to be ready for an impressive showing in Dayton.

Head coach Bobby Hurley has taken Arizona State to the Big Dance twice before and should be extremely prepared heading into the play-in game early this week.

The Sun Devils racked up five Quad 1 wins this season with a buzzer-beater over Arizona — one of the best finishes of the season — serving as a feather in their cap. Now, Arizona State will look to rely on its pesky defense to advance to the Round of 64.

Like Arizona State, Nevada is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. The Wolf Pack have been extremely efficient this season, finishing fourth in the Mountain West in both scoring offense (72.6) and scoring defense (66.9).

Look for Arizona State’s defense to be the difference-maker in this game. The Sun Devils have been a shutdown defense inside the arc, ranking sixth in the nation in 2-point defense.

I like Arizona State at -1 and would play this all the way to -3.5.

— Patrick Strollo


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16

Texas Southern

16

Fairleigh Dickinson

Texas Southern is smoking hot at the exact right time. After winning the SWAC Tournament as a No. 8 seed, the Tigers will look to continue the good fortune in a play-in game.

Head coach Johnny Jones led Texas Southern to its third straight SWAC Tournament title after a tough stretch in January and February. No stranger to play-in games, Texas Southern has won these matchups in consecutive years and will now look for its third in as many years.

Fairleigh Dickinson, the NEC representative, will be making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2019.

The Knights relied on outstanding offense this season, leading the conference in scoring offense with an average of 77.8 points per game. Fairleigh Dickinson has struggled defensively, finishing the season as the 361st-ranked defense in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings.

This will be the first-ever meeting between these two programs. Look for Texas Southern to be a slight favorite in Dayton.

My initial inclination is to take the over in this game at 139 or better and to lean on Texas Southern’s Big Dance experience at -3.5 or better.

— Patrick Strollo


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West Region

1
Kansas
16
Howard
8
Arkansas
9
Illinois
5
Saint Mary's
12
VCU
4
UConn
13
Iona
6
TCU
11
Arizona State / Nevada
3
Gonzaga
14
Grand Canyon
7
Northwestern
10
Boise State
2
UCLA
15
UNC Asheville

The committee certainly didn’t look kindly upon the Jayhawks here. Not only did they bump Kansas behind Houston on the top-seed line — critically sending the Cougars to Kansas City for second weekend games, should they advance — but then the committee loaded up Kansas’ region with Final Four-caliber opponents.

Analytics guru Bart Torvik was quick to point out that the Jayhawks are the fifth-ranked team in the West Region by his model.

Factoid: By my ratings, Kansas is the fifth best team in the West. pic.twitter.com/alnr6kynmz

— Bart T🏀rvik (@totally_t_bomb) March 12, 2023

Despite the Jayhawks’ 18 Quad 1 wins this season, they arguably got the roughest draw of any top seed. A potential second weekend of UConn and the winner of UCLA-Gonzaga, played out West in Vegas, is a gauntlet that even these Jayhawks might not be built to overcome.

— Shane McNichol


1

Kansas

16

Howard

As the betting market begins to open up first round spreads, the number on this one is sure to open and steam through the Jayhawks -20. The better bet in this game may be on the Over, as Howard has the sixth-fastest defensive tempo, per Ken Pom. For comparison, the Jayhawks have a much faster tempo with possession, ranking 54th in tempo on offense.

The Bison have two methods of offense, finishing at the rim and off-dribble 3-pointers. The Jayhawks are excellent in defending both areas. Look for the Jayhawks to have no resistance in running screens and finishing at the rim, in a game that should have a bountiful number of points.

— Collin Wilson


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8

Arkansas

9

Illinois

Any Arkansas alumni, fan or investor is breathing a sigh of relief with a draw that includes Illinois and potentially Kansas.

The Razorbacks have lost four of five by blowing leads. Eric Musselman challenged the roster in Nashville, calling the players soft in regard to not finishing games. The Razorbacks stepped up against Auburn, but a massive collapse against Texas A&M should have the Hogs driving up I-35 with heated intentions.

The biggest struggle for Arkansas’ defense is defending the perimeter. Specifically, the Razorbacks rank 254th against off-the-dribble 3-pointers. Illinois is 331st nationally from beyond the arc and 218th in off dribble 3s. On the flip side, ShotQuality ranks Illinois as the top defense in the country at defending the rim. The Razorbacks have one mode of attack offensively, transition and finishing at the rim. Look for a tough fought game that goes under the total, while Arkansas advances thanks to a cold effort from Illinois at the arc.

— Collin Wilson


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5

Saint Mary's

12

VCU

Bettors are immediately going to turn their eyes to the total here. Saint Mary’s plays at a glacially slow pace with an active defense that allowed just 60.1 points per game – fifth fewest in the nation.

VCU’s pace is quicker (147th in tempo), but the Rams defensive intensity is on par with anyone. VCU’s opponents scored only 63.1 points per game this season – 25th best in the nation.

Books should set the total somewhere around 120, but I’d encourage you to look beyond that number and consider the Rams as an upset candidate. Saint Mary’s looks to run its offense through two guards, Aidan Mahaney and Logan Johnson. VCU makes offenses uncomfortable and nothing comes easy off the bounce.

In a grind-it-out brawl, the Rams are ready for the fight.

— Shane McNichol


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4

UConn

13

Iona

There have been a lot of Iona tickets written from my accounts throughout March, but that will come to a halt against UConn. The Gaels specialize in transition offense with plenty of pick and roll. The Huskies are one of the best defensive teams in the nation, ranking 41st in transition and 56th against the pick and roll.

More importantly, Iona will have a steep climb keeping up on the defensive glass. UConn is the top offensive rebounding team in the nation, putting the spotlight on an Iona defense that struggles massively against isolation and pick and roll.

— Collin Wilson


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6

TCU

11

Arizona State / Nevada

While the play-in matchup between the Sun Devils and Wolfpack will be tightly contested, the winner will have a tough task ahead of them. TCU is a team I targeted in its conference tournament as the Horned Frogs have the upside to tackle giants.

They finished 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency and have an offensive star in Mike Miles Jr., who has the ability to get hot and carry this team. TCU’s only issue in this tournament is its rebounding. The Horned Frogs will miss Eddie Lampkin Jr. dearly.

However, they have enough to get past whichever team they draw here.

— Doug Ziefel


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3

Gonzaga

14

Grand Canyon

It is hard to envision a scenario where a team without a defensive-heavy approach beats Gonzaga. Grand Canyon drew one of the toughest No. 3 seeds in this field, and is playing them at the wrong time.

The Bulldogs have the best Adjusted Offensive Efficiency in the country and rank 76th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. Grand Canyon does have the 54th-ranked offense, per KenPom, but its defense is 198th and one of the weakest in the field.

Gonzaga will likely come away with a victory in this game. GCU will be able to exploit the Bulldogs’ weaknesses on the defensive end if it can just hit some 3s early, and that’s what the Antelopes do. GCU ranks 84th in 3-point attempt rate and hits nearly 38% from deep. The Zags are allowing teams to shoot 35% from 3-point distance and rank 331st in open-3 rate, per Shot Quality.

Since GCU only shoots around 50% from inside the arc, a 3-point barrage will be its only path to a win.

The Zags will attack the Antelopes defense inside, so this could be a close first half with the experienced Bulldogs pulling away in the second half to get to the Round of 32.

— D.J. James


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7

Northwestern

10

Boise State

Boise State should be favored in this game. Don’t be fooled by Northwestern finishing second in the Big Ten because if things broke differently on the final day, the Wildcats could have dropped all the way to the nine seed.

This is going to be a rock fight and a real struggle for Northwestern, a team that is 320th in the country in effective field goal percentage. Meanwhile, Boise State is top 15 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom and top 50 in effective field goal percentage allowed.

Boise State is also one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country and doesn’t allow a high free-throw rate either. It’s going to be a long game for Northwestern’s offense if the jump shots aren’t falling.

One thing to look out for is the fact that Boise State runs a ton of pick-and-rolls and is top 100 in the country off those sets, per ShotQuality. Northwestern is 212th in the country in PPP allowed off of the pick-and-roll.

So, this is a really good matchup for the Broncos.

— BJ Cunningham


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2

UCLA

15

UNC Asheville

UCLA probably drew the toughest 15-seed in this bracket, and it might be due to the injury to Jaylen Clark. Clark ranked third on the Bruins in scoring and second in rebounds while averaging nearly three steals per game.

They may be able to replace his offensive production, but he was responsible for much of the Bruins’ defensive success.

The Bruins are the second-ranked team on KenPom, but dropping their game to the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship did not help their case.

UCLA is as sound of a team as they come. The Bruins lost only four games on the season, and they all came against viable opponents.

That said, UNC Asheville has Drew Pember and Tajion Jones, who can get hot from 3 and get to the free-throw line. UCLA ranks just 339th in getting to the strike on offense, so UNC Asheville could hold an edge here.

The Bruins also rank 316th in offensive 3-point attempt rate, while the Bulldogs shoot around 39% from 3-point distance.

Fans will see if the Bruins can move past Clark’s injury, but this will not be a classic 2-15 game blowout. It might be tight and worth a look at the Bulldogs spread upon lines dropping.

— D.J. James


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South Region

1
Alabama
16
TXAM-CC / SEMO
8
Maryland
9
West Virginia
5
San Diego State
12
Charleston
4
Virginia
13
Furman
6
Creighton
11
NC State
3
Baylor
14
UCSB
7
Missouri
10
Utah State
2
Arizona
15
Princeton

If you’re comparing the number of Final Four threats in each region, the South feels a little slimmer than others.

Alabama, ranked atop the entire bracket, certainly is strong. Arizona is a compelling two-seed, as well.

Beyond that, it gets a little trickier to convince yourself of the ceiling for teams in the South.

Baylor’s defense has been a major issue and could be the Bears’ undoing.

Virginia played a stretch of bad basketball in late February and lost starter Ben Vander Plas to a broken hand.

San Diego State has a little juice, but will need to see it come to life. The Aztecs were 2-5 against teams that were worthy of an at-large bid other than Utah State, which SDSU swept in three meetings.

If there’s a hope for stopping an Alabama-Arizona Elite Eight game, it may come from Creighton, which has played like a top-five team at times this season, but disappointed at others.

— Shane McNichol


1

Alabama

16

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi / SEMO

Alabama is known for a few stylistic choices in the Nate Oats era. Each of these possible opponents would accentuate one of those quirks.

If the Crimson Tide play Southeast Missouri State, Alabama’s pace will come to the forefront. The Redhawks play at the seventh-fastest pace in the country. Alabama is even quicker, ranking fourth nationally in tempo. The total on this game would be sky high and would really only come down to when Oats steps off the gas. Alabama beat LSU by 50 earlier this year. I’m not sure Oats knows how to hit the brakes.

If it’s Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, then we’ll see Alabama’s love of the long ball. The Tide famously practice with a 4-point line and Oats empowers his guys to launch threes nonstop. Bama shot threes at a higher rate than all but seven teams in the country.

The Islanders allowed their Southland Conference opponents to shoot behind the arc at the highest rate in the league. The Tide would be licking their chops, once again, making this look like a sure-fire over.

— Shane McNichol


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8

Maryland

9

West Virginia

Bob Huggins is one of the better coaching chameleons in college basketball. His documented stylistic switches on a year-to-year basis over the last decade underpin his consistent success.

This year, the Mountaineers defense is “statistically sound.” Per ShotQuality, the ‘Eers excel at both keeping drivers and cutters away from the rim, and defending the 3-point line, as measured by the quality of threes they allow.

However, their offense can fall into the same trap as their opponents. Oftentimes, WVU can be seduced into settling for mid-range jumpers. Still, relentless work on the glass often negates that, which will put the onus on the Terps to secure the boards. Kevin Willard’s team isn’t as big as their Big Ten brethren, but they gang rebound effectively.

Of note: Huggins is 13-10 against the number in the NCAA Tournament, but four of those victories came during the 2010 Final Four run.

— Matt Cox


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5

San Diego State

12

Charleston

This is a brutal travel for the Mountain West regular-season and tournament champs. San Diego State will travel cross-country to the Sunshine State to take on a lethal Cougar offense.

An ominous storyline here is the Mountain West’s recent NCAA Tournament trip-ups — though, not nearly as publicized as the Big Ten’s tournament woes. Per ActionLabs, the MWC is 3-11 against the number since 2016.

The Aztecs are one of the bigger culprits, and represent a microcosm of the league’s fundamental flaw: a propensity to go through long scoring droughts.

However, that paradigm may be shifting. The Aztecs, unlike prior renditions, bring multiple speed demons to the table in Darrion Trammell and Lamont Butler. Collectively, their burst may be a lot for the Cougars’ backcourt to handle.

Charleston’s shot making and ability to execute in the half-court will be tested against the Aztecs’ vaunted defense.

— Matt Cox


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4

Virginia

13

Furman

Bob Richey has publicly given the player acquisition philosophy of “can’t shoot, won’t recruit.” That’s crucial in this matchup with the Virginia pack line defense, which forces opponents to beat it over the top. Furman ranks 13th nationally in 3-point attempt rate, fully willing to launch from downtown.

Furman’s biggest weakness is a lack of true size and elite athleticism. Teams that hammer the offensive glass or pound the paint can take advantage of those flaws, but that’s not Virginia. The Hoos rank 270th nationally in offensive rebound rate and vastly prefer to set up their transition defense.

— Jim Root


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6

Creighton

11

NC State

NC State looked like one of the hotter teams on the bubble, until Clemson ran circles around the Wolfpack in the ACC Tournament. A 26-point throttling may not be the ideal way to tiptoe into the tournament, but history is shockingly on the Pack’s side.

Per BetLabs, NCAA Tournament teams who lost their last game by 20 or more points are 21-12 against the number dating back to 2007. It’s not often a team gets completely obliterated entering the big dance, but perhaps there’s a real psychological response to that angle.

Still, that won’t be enough to thwart Ryan Kalkbrenner at the rim, where the Pack are vulnerable defensively. The recent return of Swiss Army knife Jack Clark is a boon, but he alone isn't enough to stop Kalkbrenner.

— Matt Cox


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3

Baylor

14

UCSB

This is a dangerous matchup for Baylor here in the first round because of how bad the Bears have been at defending the rim. Baylor is allowing the highest field goal percentage at the rim at a whopping 72.6%, per Hoop-Math. UC Santa Barbara, meanwhile, has the 41st-highest frequency on those shot attempts.

Baylor is second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, but just 268th in PPP in half-court sets. On the other side, UC Santa Barbara ranks 30th in the country in PPP allowed in the half-court.

UC Santa Barbara also gets to the free-throw line at a top 75 rate in the country, which is an area that Baylor struggles defensively, ranking outside the top 80.

Additionally, Langston Love is questionable to play in the NCAA Tournament after missing the Big 12 Tournament with an eye injury, which gives a Baylor team that’s already 186th in bench minute less depth.

The Bears are without a doubt on upset watch.

— BJ Cunningham


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7

Missouri

10

Utah State

If you like scoring, this is the game for you. The Missouri Tigers surprised in the SEC and earned a number of high-profile wins along the way. However, they are susceptible from the perimeter defensively, and that could be their kryptonite against Utah State.

The Aggies are another prolific offensive team that shot the lights out in the MWC this season. They finished 13th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 11th in 3-point percentage. Utah State also has a significant size advantage in this matchup, which may help it contain Missouri’s Kobe Brown.

— Doug Ziefel

Shootout. Scoring, scoring and more scoring. Both teams love to shoot the long-ball and do it well. This game should be up and down, as both teams love to run, each finishing in the top three of their respective conferences in offensive tempo.

From a side perspective, Utah State can’t really take advantage of Mizzou’s biggest weaknesses: rebounding and defending the paint.

While Dan Akin is a beast on the boards, he’s not a guy USU will play through in the post, nor a guy that can punish the Tigers on the scoreboard. Forward Taylor Funk is a stretch-four, which Mizzou is more than capable of matching up with via a litany of versatile wings and combo forwards.

The Tigers’ athleticism edge is significant. Lean Tigers.

— Ky McKeon


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2

Arizona

15

Princeton

Though Ivy League teams have been feisty in the NCAA Tournament this century, this matchup makes life a lot more difficult for the Princeton Tigers. The Ivy League champs run their offense through Tosan Evbuomwan, who may be the most athletic player in their conference.

Arizona, however, has tons of high-level athletes to throw at Evbuomwan, with Oumar Ballo as a rim protector behind whichever Wildcats are tasked with guarding the one-time Ivy League Player of the Year. The Tigers lack secondary offensive creation options and will struggle to find open looks. Princeton doesn’t shoot the 3 quite well enough or often enough to offset that issue.

On the other end of the floor, the Wildcats will simply be too big and too quick for Princeton. It’s hard to say with certainty that Princeton can’t hang with elite level talent, since the Tigers didn’t meet a single power conference team this season. They did, however, go 0-4 against top 100 competition in the regular season, before beating Yale in the Ivy Tournament title game.

— Shane McNichol


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Midwest Region

1
Houston
16
Northern Kentucky
8
Iowa
9
Auburn
5
Miami
12
Drake
4
Indiana
13
Kent State
6
Iowa State
11
Mississippi State / Pitt
3
Xavier
14
Kennesaw State
7
Texas A&M
10
Penn State
2
Texas
15
Colgate

I’m sure Kansas fans are livid. Many probably already planned their hotel rooms for the tournament’s second weekend in Kansas City. Instead, Houston slid above the Jayhawks on the seed line and will head north to KC if they advance.

That possibility may depend on the health of leading scorer Marcus Sasser. You hope he sat out the AAC title game as a precaution, but a groin strain could grow more serious.

If Houston isn’t going to punch a ticket to a Final Four in its home city, Texas, Xavier, Texas A&M, Miami and Indiana all have the firepower to win this region.

— Shane McNichol


1

Houston

16

Northern Kentucky

Good luck, NKU! You are going to get absolutely brutalized on the boards by Houston. The Cougars are nation’s fourth-best offensive rebounding team by rate and practice with freaking lids on the rim in practice all season long. They live for second-chance opportunities.

The Norse rank 333rd nationally in defensive rebounding, and their little funky zone is going to give up a boatload of caroms to an opponent that dwarfs them in size, athleticism and physicality.

— Ky McKeon


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8

Iowa

9

Auburn

This is a brutal draw for Iowa — not because of any matchup issues with Auburn, but because this game is slated to be played in Birmingham. That will turn it into a de facto home game for the Tigers despite being the lower seed here.

That is particularly concerning considering Iowa’s home and road splits this season. The Hawkeyes were 13-4 against the spread at home this season, 4-7 on the road and 0-4 at neutral sites.

Auburn also should feel good about big man Johni Broome’s chances to slow down Iowa star Kris Murray.

If you’re a Hawkeye fan hoping to see Fran McCaffrey’s first ever trip to the Sweet 16, this draw doesn’t help.

— Shane McNichol


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5

Miami

12

Drake

This matchup features two efficient offenses that play at contrasting tempos. Miami plays at a faster pace, while Drake would prefer if the game is played in the half-court.

Bulldogs point guard Roman Penn does a great job of controlling the game and averages 5.4 assists to just 1.9 turnovers. He sets the tone for a Drake team that’s 29th nationally in turnover percentage.

Drake shoots the 3-ball well, led by sophomore guard Tucker Devries. He will be able to shoot over the smaller Miami guards, and he may go for 30 points in this matchup.

Miami will counter with guards Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack, who are threats to pull up once they cross half court, particularly Pack. However, the status of sophomore big man Norchad Omier will be important to monitor. He left early in the first half of Miami’s ACC Tournament semifinal loss to Duke.

Other than Omier, Miami is a guard-heavy team. Drake forward Darnell Brodie is an imposing 6-foot-10 and 275 pounds, and he will be a double-double threat in this matchup.

It should be an entertaining and high scoring matchup. However, don’t be surprised if Drake becomes a trendy upset pick by tip.

— Alex Hinton


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4

Indiana

13

Kent State

Woof, brutal draw for the resurgent Indiana Hoosiers. Kent State isn’t the cliche overhyped mid-major — the Flashes are a legitimate giant-killer threat.

Their frontline may not look intimidating on paper but there’s enough physicality up front to keep Trayce Jackson-Davis from going bananas. Per ShotQuality, Kent ranks as the 50th-best team nationally in defending post ups. It held its own against Houston on the glass, but Drew Timme had a field day a week later with 29 points and seven offensive rebounds. TJD and Timme are not carbon copies of each other but it’s a relevant proxy for another impending dominant interior scorer.

Look out for Chris Payton. The former Pitt transfer is an athletic specimen. His activity around the glass — along with his uncanny finishing instincts in pick-and-roll — have lifted Kent’s ceiling on both ends. The steady force is Sincere Carry, a two-way stalwart who will likely be tasked with shadowing Jalen Hood-Schifino.

— Matt Cox


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6

Iowa State

11

Mississippi State / Pitt

If Mississippi State wins the First Four matchup with Pittsburgh, the total in the following game against Iowa State may be one of the lowest of the first round.

For starters, both squads are elite defensively, ranking inside the top 10 in AdjD, according to BartTorvik. The Bulldogs are also in the top 40 in effective field goal percentage (20th), forcing turnovers (23rd) and opponents’ 2-point (34th) and 3-point shooting (28th).

The pace will also aide to a very slow, grinding game, with both programs outside the top 325 in tempo, according to KenPom. Once you add in the fact that MSU would have the short turnaround on tired legs, head coach Chris Jans’ offense is not going to be a pretty.

This also could be a great spot to play a first-half under, as both teams are in the top 20 in scoring defense in the opening half of games. Meanwhile, they’re also outside the top 190 in first-half scoring offense.

— Brett Pund


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3

Xavier

14

Kennesaw State

To compete with Xavier, you have to be able to score with its elite offense. These Owls are capable of that, featuring a bevy of shooters and a true interior threat in Demond Robinson.

The Musketeers have tightened up defensively since Zach Freemantle got hurt, but handling Kennesaw’s slash-and-kick dribble drive attack will be a nightmare.

The Owls’ defense is surprisingly stout, but it has not seen an attack like Xavier’s. Per KenPom, the best offense Kennesaw has faced all year was Indiana’s, which ranks 27th. Xavier is a top-10 unit on that end, which could be a shock to the Kennesaw system.

— Jim Root


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7

Texas A&M

10

Penn State

This is going to be a really weird game with two completely different styles of offense. Penn State hardly ever turns the ball over and is a very good jump-shooting team, but it’s dead last in the Power Five in both offensive rebounding percentage and free-throw rate. So, the Nittany Lions are pretty much entirely reliant on jump shooting.

Texas A&M, meanwhile, is a very below average jump-shooting team. However, it’s almost entirely reliant on offensive rebounds and getting to the free-throw line, which it does at a top-10 level in the country.

Defensively, Penn State is top-50 in both defensive rebounding percentage and free-throw rate allowed, so this could be a really bad matchup for Texas A&M’s offense.

On the flip side, Texas A&M’s two main weaknesses on defense are rebounding and allowing teams to go to the free-throw line.

So, depending on the total, I would be targeting an under in this game.

— BJ Cunningham


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2

Texas

15

Colgate

Normally, Colgate is a team that profiles as an upset specialist. The Raiders are the best pure shooting team in the nation, finishing first in 3-point percentage and effective field goal percentage.

However, they got a rough draw in Texas. The Longhorns have to be considered one of the hotter teams coming into the tournament. They tore through the Big 12 Tournament and cemented it with a dominant victory over the defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks.

From a matchup perspective, the Longhorns are more than capable of closing out on Colgate’s shooters. Just 28 percent of the points they allowed this season came from beyond the arc, which is one of the better marks in the nation.

On the other end of the court, Texas should get whatever it wants inside against the Raiders as veteran big man Timmy Allen will be healthy for this opening round matchup.

— Doug Ziefel

The Texas Longhorns are the second seed in the Midwest Region in the NCAA Tournament.

The Horns go nine deep with a mixture of (super) senior leadership and young talent. Marcus Carr, Sir’Jabari Rice and Timmy Allen are the three most key players for Texas. However, Carr and Rice failed to play up to their standards in the Big 12 Tournament, while Allen was sidelined with a foot injury. Yet, the Longhorns still won the tournament thanks to their tremendous depth, with Dylan Disu leading the way off the bench.

The Horns get a relatively tough draw with the 15-seed Colgate Raiders in the first round. The Raiders have the top effective field goal percentage (58.6%) in the nation as they lead the country in 3-point percentage (40.9%) and are seventh in 2-point field goal percentage (57.1%).

If the Longhorns win that first-round game, they will face the winner of Texas A&M and Penn State. Texas should be more concerned about a potential matchup with the Nittany Lions because their offense’s ceiling is significantly higher than that of the Aggies.

Penn State is led by explosive guard Jalen Pickett, who averaged 18.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game is season. Like Colgate, Penn State also ranks among the top 10 in the country in 3-point percentage. But unlike the Raiders, who rank outside the top 250 in 3-point frequency, the Nittany Lions take the 10th-most 3s per possession in the nation.

If the Longhorns can get into Kansas City for the second weekend of the tournament, I like their chances of reaching the Final Four. First, they would likely face Xavier or Iowa State (for a third time). Xavier and Iowa State each have glaring weaknesses, as the Musketeers defense ranks 70th in the nation, while the Cyclones are 95th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency.

A potential matchup with the Houston Cougars looms in the Elite Eight if the chalk holds, and this game would be national-title worthy. Both have tremendous experienced guard play and talent throughout their rosters, but the Horns are more battle-tested and have better depth.

— Roberto Arguello


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East Region

1
Purdue
16
Texas Southern / Fairleigh Dickinson
8
Memphis
9
Florida Atlantic
5
Duke
12
Oral Roberts
4
Tennessee
13
Louisiana
6
Kentucky
11
Providence
3
Kansas State
14
Montana State
7
Michigan State
10
USC
2
Marquette
15
Vermont

Whether it’s the Big East Tournament or the Big Dance, Madison Square Garden seems to manifest great college basketball games. The committee certainly didn’t intend to set up big-name matchups at the world’s most famous arena, yet we have a chance for some classics.

Potential appearances in the Big Apple by Duke, Purdue, Kentucky, Michigan State, Marquette, Memphis and more all could lead to three massively watched and enjoyed games in the tourney’s second weekend.

There are, however, Cinderellas lurking. Don’t let Max Abmas and his Oral Roberts teammates hear you sliding Duke into the next round so fast. Florida Atlantic and Montana State have a chance to be plenty feisty as well.

If one region is going to descend into chaos, I like the South.

— Shane McNichol


1

Purdue

16

Texas Southern / Fairleigh Dickinson

Any 16-seed is going to have an uphill climb against one of the top teams in the country, but if Fairleigh Dickinson were to advance, it’s hard to picture a team less suited to beat Purdue.

The Boilermakers have shown a real Achilles’ heel in attempting to break a full-court press over recent weeks. Surely the Knights would try, but with both starting guards for FDU standing 5-foot-9 or shorter, Purdue should be able to see passing lanes and escape pressure.

Plus, if the Boilers do break the press, no one in the Knights’ rotation is taller than 6-foot-6. Zach Edey will stand nearly a foot taller than whoever guards him.

If Texas Southern advances, the Tigers don’t score enough to hang around against a team like Purdue. Texas Southern ranks 330th in offensive efficiency and shot the third-worst mark from 3-point land this season.

Maybe there’s some regression magic coming, but that’s more likely in play in Dayton, facing FDU and the 360th-ranked defense in the nation.

— Shane McNichol


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8

Memphis

9

Florida Atlantic

Purdue faces one of two potential monsters in the second round, assuming it marches on against the play-in winner.

Memphis just took Houston, the best team in America, to the woodshed. Led by maestro Kendric Davis, the Tigers boast one of the highest ceilings in the country. Remember, they nearly took down Gonzaga last season, and while the roster looks vastly different, the same defensive tenacity remains.

On the other side, Florida Atlantic is a mismatch nightmare for any power-conference opponent. Not only can the Owls spread and shoot you to death, but big man Vladislav Goldin is the ultimate neutralizer to elite postmen.

He’s not just a garbage man, though. Goldin’s refined post game gives the Owls a reliable counter attack to their bread-and-butter perimeter shot-making.

If there’s a crack in FAU’s defensive armor, it’s on the wing, specifically a power wing who can post up the Owls’ guards.

Louisiana Tech’s Isaiah Crawford is a prime example of this kryptonite. He feasted down low against FAU in both meetings. Can Memphis follow a similar blueprint with DeAndre Williams or Chandler Lawson?

— Matt Cox


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5

Duke

12

Oral Roberts

The Duke Blue Devils drew one of the most experienced mid-major programs in the country in the Round of 64.

Max Abmas and the Golden Eagles have one of the best setups for an upset in this game. They currently maintain a nation-leading 17-game winning streak, while boasting the 23rd-ranked Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, per KenPom.

The Golden Eagles can be dangerous because they rank first in the nation in offensive turnover rate, while hitting 37% from 3 and over 56% from 2-point range.

Duke can hold teams in check from deep, but Oral Roberts has multiple threats from beyond the arc outside of Abmas.

If the Golden Eagles are able to escape the Blue Devils, they would likely match up with the Tennessee Volunteers, barring an upset. Tennessee yields a 3-point attempt rate of 41.6%, which ranks 316th in the country.

Oral Roberts can prove the weaknesses of the ACC that have persisted all year long are true. It also has a reasonable route to the Sweet 16 for a 12-seed.

— D.J. James


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4

Tennessee

13

Louisiana

The Tennessee Volunteers getting a four-seed was yet another example of the SEC catching the brunt of some bad luck.

Louisiana is a fair enough draw for the first round, as is Duke if the Volunteers get to the Round of 32.

Louisiana can get to the free-throw line. It ranks 36th in offensive free-throw attempt rate while Tennessee fouls often. The Volunteers rank 245th in this metric on defense. This will not bode well in the first round if the Volunteers do not get hot from deep.

The Volunteers rank 26th in attacking the rim, per ShotQuality, so this is one apparent hindrance for an upset in this matchup. Louisiana is much more of an offensive threat than defensive, so the Ragin’ Cajuns have to be the beneficiary of some calls to own the free-throw line.

Finally, Louisiana is a decent rebounding team, ranking 31st on offense and 86th on defense. This could cut into Tennessee’s usual edge over opponents, as the Vols rank fifth in offensive rebounding. The Volunteers will be limited in second scoring chances.

Tennessee likely wins a tight one here and advances into a potential matchup with Oral Roberts. It will not be an easy road to the Sweet 16 for the Vols, as these mid-majors are not slouches.
.

— D.J. James


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6

Kentucky

11

Providence

The transfer portal has made a major impact on the NCAA tournament, but this game includes one of its unintended consequences: revenge game storylines!

Providence leading scorer Bryce Hopkins spent his freshman year at Kentucky, played less than he’d hoped, and transferred to Providence. He blossomed into one of the premier players in the Big East, averaging 16.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for the Friars this season.

He’ll have his hands full playing against his former coach and many former teammates. Hopkins is a tweener who uses his size to back down smaller guards and his speed to blow by bigger defenders.

Kentucky is not the kind of team susceptible to mismatches. The Wildcat wings are versatile, long, and athletic, which should give Hopkins trouble.

On the interior, Providence big man Ed Croswell will have the difficult task of keeping Oscar Tshiebwe out of the paint and off the glass. That may prove impossible, especially if Tshiebwe can get Croswell into foul trouble.

Despite Kentucky’s up-and-down season, I think John Calipari will be pleased to see a back-sliding Providence team in the first round.

— Shane McNichol


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3

Kansas State

14

Montana State

Montana State is a team that not a lot of people are going to be talking about, but the Bobcats are an incredibly dangerous team for Kansas State in the first round.

Montana State finished the season winning 14 of its final 15 games in the Big Sky.
It is an incredibly experienced team with four upperclassmen in the starting five, including a dynamic scorer in former Washington guard RaQuan Battle, who is fourth in the country in percentage of shots taken when he’s on the floor. The Bobcats also get to the free throw line at a top 10 rate in the nation, while Kansas State is 298th in free throw rate allowed.

The biggest part of this matchup, though, is the fact that Kansas State attacks the rim at the third highest frequency in the country, but Montana State is sixth in the nation in PPP allowed at the rim.

Kansas State has a really good 3-point defense, but that’s not going to matter in this game as Montana State doesn’t take a high number of 3-point shots.

The Wildcats are without a doubt on upset watch.

— BJ Cunningham


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7

Michigan State

10

USC

There will not be an abundance of Big Ten teams on my betting card after a 17-18 straight-up record the past two seasons.

If there was a team the Spartans did not want to draw, it may be USC.

The Trojans have one of the highest “Kill Shot” rates in the nation, as a 10-0 scoring run could spurt at any moment. USC lives in transition in offense, an area the Spartans are 190th in defending.

A bigger problem for Michgian State is a rank of 320th against catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, while USC is 57th nationally in hitting those perimeter shots.

— Collin Wilson


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2

Marquette

15

Vermont

What a draw for Vermont on the offensive side of the ball.

The Catamounts rely on running a half-court set with isolation as the plan of attack. When the isolation doesn’t result in a high-percentage shot, Vermont has pivoted to a high number of catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. All of these offensive sets are issues for Marquette, which ranks 321st in half-court defensive efficiency and 309th against isolation.

Marquette has plenty of offensive weapons with the goal of finishing at the rim. Vermont is a top-100 defense not just in rim protection but also in transition and against screens.

Look for the Catamounts to keep this within the number.

— Collin Wilson


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