Three Man Weave’s Consensus 2023 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Picks for All 63 Games

Three Man Weave’s Consensus 2023 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Picks for All 63 Games article feature image

Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Kelvin Sampson (Houston)

Welcome to the 2023 edition of the NCAA tournament, as first-round games tip-off just after Noon ET on Thursday.

With that in mind, the Three Man Weave crew (Jim Root, Ky McKeon and Matt Cox) are here to provide a full bracket to help guide you to winning your pool.

Write-ups below for specific teams/matchups represent the differing pick rather than the crew's consensus opinion.

South Region · First Round

(1) Alabama vs. (16) TAMU-CC/SEMO
3 – 0
(8) Maryland vs. (9) West Virginia
3 – 0
(5) San Diego State vs. (12) Charleston
3 – 0
(4) Virginia vs. (13) Furman
3 – 0
(6) Creighton vs. (11) NC State
2 – 1
(3) Baylor vs. (14) UC Santa Barbara
3 – 0
(7) Missouri vs. (10) Utah State
2 – 1
(2) Arizona vs. (15) Princeton
3 – 0

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 NC State

NC State could be a sleeping giant in this field. An analytical darling for most of the year, the Wolfpack took a minor hit in that department with another butt-whooping dished out by Clemson in the ACC Tournament.

However, Creighton’s drop coverage in pick-and-roll shouldn’t bother NC State the way Clemson’s gap-sealing help-side defense does.

NC State is flushed with prolific shot makers capable of hitting off the dribble.

How the Wolfpack contain Ryan Kalkbrenner on the other end is a bit of a mystery, but defensive stalwart Jack Clark could be a key counter to Baylor Scheierman on the perimeter.

At minimum, taking away Creighton’s shooters will give NC State a fighting chance to pull off the upset.

No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 Utah State

Both of these teams are poetry in motion offensively. The separator is Utah State’s defense, which I trust slightly more in what figures to be an absolute shootout.

The Aggies boast more reliable bigs than the Tigers, which may come in handy as this chess match between two brilliant offensive gurus plays out.

Also, Taylor Funk is beyond due to break out of his recent shooting slump.

South Region · Round of 32

(1) Alabama vs. (9) West Virginia
3 – 0
(5) San Diego State vs. (13) Furman
3 – 0
(3) Baylor vs. (6) Creighton
3 – 0
(2) Arizona vs. (7) Missouri
3 – 0

South Region · Sweet 16

(1) Alabama vs. (5) San Diego State
3 – 0
(2) Arizona vs. (6) Creighton
2 – 1

No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 6 Creighton

Maui rematch, anyone? Arizona took the first meeting by two on the island, but a repeat of that instant classic would benefit all viewers.

Kalkbrenner struggled in the first matchup, but he never looked right, and he ended up missing multiple games soon after with mononucleosis.

He’s back to his best form, and he can frustrate Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis at the basket.

Plus, Creighton’s young guards have grown into their bigger roles, whereas Arizona was closer to a finished product at the time.

Arizona is also a less healthy version of itself. Ballo is playing through a broken hand, while Kerr Kriisa is dealing with a shoulder issue. If those two are limited, I see Creighton exacting revenge for the Maui disappointment.

South Region · Elite 8

(1) Alabama vs. (2) Arizona
3 – 0

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Midwest Region · First Round

(1) Houston vs. (16) Northern Kentucky
3 – 0
(8) Iowa vs. (9) Auburn
2 – 1
(5) Miami (FL) vs. (12) Drake
3 – 0
(4) Indiana vs. (13) Kent State
2 – 1
(6) Iowa State vs. (11) Miss State/Pitt
2 – 1
(3) Xavier vs. (14) Kennesaw State
2 – 1
(7) Texas A&M vs. (10) Penn State
3 – 0
(2) Texas vs. (15) Colgate
3 – 0

No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Auburn

Fran McCaffery has been a head coach for 27 years and has made 11 NCAA tournaments. He has made zero Sweet 16s.

Bruce Pearl has been a head coach for 19 years and has made 11 NCAA tournaments. He has made five Sweet 16s and beyond.

Not a bad start!

That aside, this game comes down to one thing: I trust defense more than offense. Iowa’s offense is fantastic, but the Hawkeyes sport the nation’s 167th “best” defense.

Auburn is rock solid defensively and has a strong athleticism edge on Iowa.

The Tigers have plenty of long wings to throw at Iowa star Kris Murray, and center Johni Broome is the perfect counter to Iowa’s Filip Rebraca.

No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 Kent State

Full transparency. I bet on Kent State at +4.5, so I’m really threading the needle here.

That said, I really feel like this game stays hyper-competitive the whole way. Both teams are built on defense and should prevent the other’s offense from blowing the game open with an emphatic double-digit point run.

If this game hangs around a one- or two-possession game, IU boasts the two best players on the floor. Apologies to Sincere Carry, but Jalen Hood-Schifino is a pro-level star in the making.

Perhaps the elder Carry takes this assignment personally — though fellow teammate and MAC defensive player of the year Malique Jacobs likely checks JHS for most of the game.

No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 11 Miss State/Pitt

Since the First Four was introduced in 2011, a play-in team has made it to the Round of 32 in every single season except one.

Does that past hold any influence over the present? Probably not, but it might actually make some sense.

The winner of the First Four contest will have a game under its belt this week, a chance to shake off the rust while the 6-seed — in this case — stays idle.

Iowa State will be off a full week by the time this game tips off, and the Clones have yet to prove they can beat anybody but Baylor without Caleb Grill, who was recently booted from the team.

I’m more confident in a gritty defensive team like Miss State taking down ISU than a more offensive-minded team like Pitt, but I think either could cause the Clones problems.

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Kennesaw State

Going against Sean Miller in the tournament isn’t the best advice I’ve ever given, but the Owls of Kennesaw are a 12-seed masquerading as a 14.

Overlooked is how strong the ASUN was this season. Kennesaw beat Liberty twice and took care of business against the rest of the feisty field to hoist the outright regular-season title.

The Owls also proved capable of stepping up in competition against Indiana (led by four midway through second half) and VCU (lost by three) in the non-conference.

Their ability to shoot and generate steals is paramount to closing the talent gap.

Midwest Region · Round of 32

(1) Houston vs. (8) Iowa
3 – 0
(12) Drake vs. (13) Kent State
3 – 0
(3) Xavier vs. (6) Iowa State
2 – 1
(2) Texas vs. (10) Penn State
2 – 1

No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Penn State

Penn State’s deadly inverted offense — posting up through Jalen Pickett — will feel unfamiliar to Texas’ defense.

Plus, the Nittany Lions' guards are every bit as long and as strong as the Horns’ perimeter corps, and neither team fields a dominant low-post presence.

Penn State sized up down the stretch of Big Ten play to combat its big-heavy conference adversaries. Now the Nittany Lions get the option to play bigger or smaller against a team that carries similar positional size as they do.

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 6 Iowa State

Xavier’s defense improved late in the year, but Iowa State’s defense is set in stone.

Offensively, it’s not always pretty, but the Clones just need one guard to catch the hot hand.

As we witnessed last year, that was enough to carry the Cyclones to the Sweet 16 on the back of their sturdy defense.

Midwest Region · Sweet 16

(1) Houston vs. (12) Drake
3 – 0
(2) Texas vs. (3) Xavier
3 – 0

Midwest Region · Elite 8

(1) Houston vs. (2) Texas
3 – 0

West Region · First Round

(1) Kansas vs. (16) Howard
3 – 0
(8) Arkansas vs. (9) Illinois
2 – 1
(5) Saint Mary's vs. (12) VCU
2 – 1
(4) UConn vs. (13) Iona
3 – 0
(6) TCU vs. (11) Arizona State/Nevada
3 – 0
(3) Gonzaga vs. (14) Grand Canyon
3 – 0
(7) Northwestern vs. (10) Boise State
2 – 1
(2) UCLA vs. (15) UNC Asheville
3 – 0

No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Illinois

Brad Underwood assembled this team differently this season. This rendition is more versatile than the conventional Kofi Cockburn-led squads that faltered in the dance before.

However, I’ll concede this pick is a rather large leap of faith that the Illini can simply flip the switch back to who they were at their best.

The stellar non-conference MTE performances give me partial reassurance that this tournament stage won’t be too bright for this young Illini backcourt, midseason and late turbulence notwithstanding.

No. 5 Saint Mary's vs. No. 12 VCU

The Gaels are defined by the motto “gritty not pretty," but VCU’s been operating on that MO for nearly a decade — at least since Mike Rhoades took over as full-time head honcho.

The notable counterpoint is VCU’s recent surge is tarnished by a watered down A-10 field.

Fair, but to flip that back on the Gaels, have they seen a defense of this caliber since November?

No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Boise State

In what should be a grinding half-court game between two top-shelf defenses, I’m backing the team with more shooting.

Northwestern has an elite interior defense led by Matthew Nicholson (aka Journalism Mutombo), so Boise’s ability to hit jumpers will be pivotal. The Broncos rank 81st nationally in 3P%, whereas the Purple Cats trail behind at 281st.

I also trust Leon Rice more than Chris Collins at this stage. I will not quibble with the job Collins has done this year — finishing second in the Big Ten is no joke — but Rice has been through the wars at Boise.

Rice is 0-3 in the NCAA tournament, but this is a matchup where he can get that coveted first victory.

Sure, there is some poor history for the MWC in the Big Dance, but it’s not like Northwestern or the Big Ten have been ultra-successful recently either.

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West Region · Round of 32

(1) Kansas vs. (8) Arkansas
3 – 0
(4) UConn vs. (5) Saint Mary's
3 – 0
(3) Gonzaga vs. (6) TCU
2 – 1
(2) UCLA vs. (7) Northwestern
3 – 0

No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 TCU

I’m sticking to my guns here, and my guns have been firing for TCU all season.

Gonzaga’s offense has been an inferno for more than a month, but the defense is still leaky. The WCC lacks a team with the balance to hold up against that kind of onslaught (apologies to Saint Mary’s), but TCU is a worthy foe.

This would be one of the tournament’s most entertaining matchups. Both teams are lethal in transition, and I’d expect this game to get into the mid-to-upper 70s in possession count.

TCU’s lack of shooting will be less noticeable in such a track meet, and Gonzaga’s rim defense might be its weakest aspect. That’s a serious problem against this TCU squad.

Admittedly, no Eddie Lampkin Jr. is a concern. He would be the primary defender against Drew Timme, and the Frogs will miss his offensive rebounding.

But Xavier Cork, Souleymane Doumbia and TCU’s army of 6-foot-7 forwards give the Frogs adequate replacements for Lampkin’s minutes.

Plus, the Frogs have played plenty of games without him at this stage.

West Region · Sweet 16

(1) Kansas vs. (4) UConn
2 – 1
(2) UCLA vs. (3) Gonzaga
2 – 1

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 UConn

Why yes, I would like to take Bill Self over Dan Hurley in a tournament setting! Thank you for asking!

The Jayhawks may not have the ideal frontcourt to combat Adama Sanogo, but K.J. Adams Jr. relishes being overlooked.

KU’s trio of dynamic wings can also give UConn problems. Expect Self to run actions specifically designed to pick on Alex Karaban’s defense in space.

Plus, Dajuan Harris Jr.’s ball pressure could completely disrupt UConn’s offensive attack. I still do not trust the Huskies’ lead guards at all.

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 3 Gonzaga

Once again, I’m digging in against my compatriots and their Gonzaga affection.

UCLA has several critical ingredients necessary to frustrate the Zags: multiple perimeter playmakers, an elite transition defense that will slow the pace and a matchup problem in Jaime Jaquez Jr. that embodies the type of player Gonzaga struggles to stop.

Add in the extra motivation for Jaquez and Tyger Campbell of having lost to the Zags in the 2021 Final Four, and I think they get it done.

Side note: I really hope Adem Bona is healthy enough by this stage of the tournament to provide 20+ minutes. UCLA will need him to duke it out with Timme in the paint.

West Region · Elite 8

(3) Gonzaga vs. (4) UConn
2 – 1

Are you sensing a theme here? I’m simply too skeptical of Gonzaga’s defense to advance it against high-level foes.

The interior defense is the biggest problem, and Sanogo is likely drooling at the possibility of racking up buckets against Timme and Anton Watson. Donovan Clingan’s immense length could give Timme issues in the post, as well.

Gonzaga’s perimeter defense also lacks a true wing stopper, which means Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. could score at will. Jackson, in particular, can get to the rim against the smaller Gonzaga guards.

Gonzaga’s perimeter group has evolved to the point where it might actually own an edge against UConn’s. If Nolan Hickman, Rasir Bolton and Malachi Smith resoundingly outplay Tristen Newton and Nahiem Alleyne, I will be eating crow here.

East Region · First Round

(1) Purdue vs. (16) Texas Southern/FDU
3 – 0
(8) Memphis vs. (9) FAU
2 – 1
(5) Duke vs. (12) Oral Roberts
2 – 1
(4) Tennessee vs. (13) Louisiana
3 – 0
(6) Kentucky vs. (11) Providence
2 – 1
(3) Kansas State vs. (14) Montana State
3 – 0
(7) Michigan State vs. (10) USC
2 – 1
(2) Marquette vs. (15) Vermont
3 – 0

No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 FAU

It brings me no joy to go against the bracket’s best true mid-major. I had fully planned on backing both of these teams in Round 1. Seeing them pitted against each other broke my heart.

Memphis is an uber-athletic machine that is trending up right now, and Kendric Davis will be the best player on the floor.

FAU could absolutely torch Memphis from beyond the arc — the Tigers surrender a ton of 3s, and FAU is loaded with gunners — but I think the size and athleticism edge wears FAU down.

No. 5 Duke vs. No. 12 Oral Roberts

I’m a hater! Yes, yes, Duke is very good and playing its best basketball right now.

Let’s look at Duke’s recent nine-game winning streak, though: Notre Dame by four (weak), Syracuse (weak), Louisville (weak), Virginia Tech (weak), NC State (ok, solid, but at home), UNC (ok, solid, but not a tourney team), Pitt (ok, solid, I’ll give you this), Miami (FL) (good win) and Virginia (not impressed).

Is that a murderer’s row of teams? Not by any standard.

Oral Roberts is arguably the best true mid-major outside of FAU in this field. It has a 7-foot-5 freak in Connor Vanover, who will really test Duke’s pick-and-pop defense and pull Dereck Lively II away from the hoop.

It also has the better backcourt. The Max Abmas (about to be 3x honorable mention All-American) and Issac McBride (former Vandy recruit) combo is better than Duke’s best two-guard combo.

ORU is old, physical and well-coached. The Golden Eagles will give the Green Devils (because they’re young and unproven — it’s a good nickname) all they can handle and more.

No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Providence

No team feeds on narratives like Providence. Ed Cooley relishes the "Providence luck" tag that’s been slapped on the Friars over the last two years.

Moreover, Bryce Hopkins will feed off his own hunger for revenge against his prior team. Hopkins might be the best player on the floor in this matchup (too far?), and Cooley as an underdog is an angle worth riding.

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 USC

Fading Andy Enfield in the NCAA tournament feels somewhat misguided at this stage. You don’t get to be 10-2 ATS in the Big Dance by mistake.

But his teams have failed to cover their last two outings, so the money train may finally be off the tracks.

Against a Michigan State team with two quality guards in A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker — plus a matchup problem in Joey Hauser — I’m willing to fight the data here.

Tom Izzo’s March dominance is nowhere near what it was, but I like the experience of this Spartans roster as well as the matchup against USC.

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East Region · Round of 32

(1) Purdue vs. (9) FAU
3 – 0
(4) Tennessee vs. (5) Duke
3 – 0
(3) Kansas State vs. (6) Kentucky
3 – 0
(2) Marquette vs. (7) USC
3 – 0

East Region · Sweet 16

(5) Duke vs. (9) FAU
2 – 1
(2) Marquette vs. (3) Kansas State
3 – 0

No. 5 Duke vs. No. 9 FAU

I already bashed Duke in the Oral Roberts section, so I won’t beat a dead horse.

Instead, I’ll wax poetic about FAU.

FAU should not be a nine-seed. The Owls rank 26th in KenPom and sport a 31-3 record with a win at Florida and two against North Texas and UAB.

One of the deepest teams in the country and a squad that brought back nearly everyone from last season, FAU can beat you in a multitude of ways.

Five guys average over seven points per game, five guys shoot over 36% from deep and 7-foot-1 center Vladislav Goldin is a legit post scorer, rebounder and rim protector.

The Owls will not be intimidated by high-level physicality or athleticism; they’ve seen plenty of it and have plenty of it of their own.

Head coach Dusty May has built this program from the ground up and has proven to be an elite clipboard carrier. These Owls wear glass slippers.

East Region · Elite 8

(2) Marquette vs. (5) Duke
2 – 1

Marquette didn’t look mortal until Big East opponents got to see it for a second time in conference play.

That doesn’t bode well for Duke running into the Marquette buzzsaw for the first time in a potential Elite 8 showdown.

Still, Duke’s talent in its current form is too much to handle over 40 minutes, especially over the number of possessions Marquette wants to play at.

Frankly, there’s no holes on this Duke roster, and the youth and veteran mix is starting to look eerily similar to the 2015 National Championship recipe.

Final Four

(1) Alabama vs. (2) Marquette
3 – 0
(1) Houston vs. (3) Gonzaga
3 – 0

2023 National Championship

(1) Alabama vs. (1) Houston
3 – 0

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