Anything can happen in this year's Men's March Madness

March 15, 2023
We’re breaking down everything you need to know before the bedlam — and bracket-busting — begins.
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⚙️ How it works

While the 68 Division I (DI) men’s teams were revealed on Sunday, the single-elimination (!!!) tournament officially begins tomorrow. Men’s college hoops games consist of two 20-minute halves, with a 30-second shot clock for each possession.

In terms of logistics, after ranking teams from one through 68, the selection committee then divvied them up into the bracket’s four regions: the East, West, South and Midwest.

  • When that happened, ranks one through four became the four No. 1 seeds — one for each region. Teams ranked five through eight became the No. 2 seeds, and so on.

The committee also placed teams into each region. Generally, higher-ranked programs earn the privilege of being placed in the region they’re closest to geographically, but that’s not always the case.

  • For example, if all four No. 1 seeds were located in or near the East region, the No. 1 overall seed would be given the East, while the others would get dispersed across the other three regions.

Tonight’s First Four matchups will determine the final seeds. Texas Southern and Fairleigh Dickinson will battle for the remaining No. 16 seed at 6:40 p.m. ET, and Arizona State will take on Nevada for the No. 11 seed at 9:10 p.m. ET.

  • No. 16 seed Texas A&M–Corpus Christi and No. 11 seed Pitt joined the main grid after beating Southeast Missouri State and Mississippi State, respectively, in their First Four play-in games yesterday.
  • Why the No. 11 and 16 seeds? Because the four lowest-ranked automatic bids vie for a No. 16 seed while the four lowest-ranked at-large bids fight for a No. 11 seed. Basically, the committee grants better seeding to at-large squads vs. smaller DI conference champs.

Then the real Madness begins with 63 single-elimination contests going down in the next two and a half weeks. The games tip off tomorrow and run through the round of 64, round of 32, the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight and the Final Four before concluding with the championship on Monday, April 3rd.

1️⃣ The No. 1 seeds

Before we jump into the No. 1 seeds, there’s one well-known team who won’t be dancing this year. Perennial powerhouse and last year’s runner-up UNC is stunningly the first preseason–No. 1 squad since 1985 to fail to make the tourney. The widespread parity in the men’s game has never been so stark (and fun!).

Alabama Crimson Tide (South): The Tide rolled through the SEC with just two conference losses this season, earning them the overall No. 1 seed for the first time in program history. Bama will be looking for their first-ever Final Four appearance this year, but will do so under an off-court cloud.

Houston Cougars (Midwest): Despite losing their conference tournament last weekend, the Coogs received a No. 1 seed. And although star guard Marcus Sasser seems confident he’ll be ready to play on Thursday after nursing a groin injury, a nagging injury like that could spell trouble for the Cougars if they go deep.

Kansas Jayhawks (West): Not only are the defending champ Jayhawks the only No. 1 team with an NCAA trophy, they have four of ’em. Like Houston, Kansas lost their conference tourney. But if they click their heels three times, they could Rock Chalk to become the first back-to-back champs since Florida in 2007.

Purdue Boilermakers (East): This season, much of Purdue’s success is rightfully attributed to their Canadian center, seven-foot-four superstar Zach Edey. The top National Player of the Year candidate led the Boilermakers out of their late-season stumble to take their second-ever Big Ten tourney crown last weekend. Hot stuff.

👊 The contenders

No. 2 seed UCLA Bruins (West): The 11-time champion Bruins are seeking their first natty since 1995, but after losing starting junior guard Jaylen Clark to a season-ending Achilles injury, nabbing this year’s ’ship will be hard. That said, with leading UCLA scorer Jaime Jaquez Jr. and a shut-it-down defense, don’t count the Bruins out.

No. 2 seed Texas Longhorns (Midwest): The Longhorns hooked the Big 12 tourney thanks to a dominant win over No. 1 seed Kansas last weekend. A notable dub, made all the more impressive considering interim head coach (HC) Rodney Terry’s been at the helm since then–HC Chris Beard’s December 12th arrest. This squad is tough on and off the court.

No. 2 seed Arizona Wildcats (South): Led by star forward Ąžuolas Tubelis and his nearly 20 points per game average, these ’Cats, who edged the aforementioned Bruins in the Pac-12 tournament last weekend, could claw out a national title, but they’ll have to bear down on their recently weak defense to do so.

No. 3 seed Baylor Bears (South): The 2021 national champs are seeking their second NCAA banner, but these Bears will need their stellar offense to outshine their truly dismal defense to make it happen. You know what they say…

No. 2 seed Marquette Golden Eagles (East): These Eagles were supposed to stay grounded — they were picked to finish ninth out of the 11 Big East teams this season. However, thanks to offensive power and a penchant for forcing turnovers, Marquette flew the nest and could soar to their first national title in 46 years.

🐎 The dark horses

No. 5 seed Duke Blue Devils (East): The traditional blue blood program stumbled early in the season, but found their groove in the second half. That late surge helped the Blue Devils win the ACC tournament title and a real shot at nabbing a surprise ’ship.

No. 6 seed Kentucky Wildcats (East): It’s been a rough few years for this perennial powerhouse, who won only nine games in 2020–21 and was stunningly upset by Cinderella squad Saint Peter’s in the tourney’s first-round last year. After a rocky season start, the ’Cats rebounded enough to give Big Blue Nation hope for another natty.

No. 3 seed Kansas State Wildcats (East): Kansas State’s seeding was a surprise considering the squad has struggled since February 11th. If they can recapture their early-season mojo, a Wildcat national crown could be possible.

No. 5 seed Miami Hurricanes (Midwest): The Hurricanes have been hot as of late, going 8-1 in their last nine regular-season games to claim a share of the ACC regular-season title. If forward Norchad Omier recovers well from his recent injury, good luck to Miami’s Madness foes.

No. 7 seed Texas A&M Aggies (Midwest): The almost-certainly-under-seeded Aggies finished their SEC season just behind overall No. 1 seed Alabama (who, BTW, they also defeated in their last regular-season game). Not bad for a team that hasn’t made the last three tournaments.

No. 7 seed Michigan State Spartans (East): While these Spartans have taken down some of the nation’s top teams this season, they’ve also struggled with a mediocre conference record. The key to Michigan State’s success is HC Tom Izzo, who’s famous for squeezing shockingly fantastic playoff performances out of mid-level rosters.

  • Fun fact? This year marks Izzo’s 25th straight trip to the Big Dance, which is more consecutive trips than any other DI coach in men’s hoops history. Legen — wait for it — dary.

💪 (More) players to watch

Jalen Pickett, Penn State (Midwest): What’s most shocking about the No. 10 seed Nittany Lions’ senior guard is that he wasn’t a unanimous all–Big Ten first team pick. His offensive power may be the reason the Nittany Lions — who struggle defensively — managed to advance to the tourney this year.

Drew Timme, Gonzaga (West): It’s the mustached maestro’s swan song as the ’Zags’ probable All-American takes one final stab at bringing the first national championship to the storied program. No. 3 seed Gonzaga’s hot and cold season doesn’t offer much hope for a trophy run, but the last tourney of an iconic hooper’s college career can’t be missed.

DeAndre Williams and Kendric Davis, Memphis (East): This dynamic duo has been on fire for the No. 8 seed Tigers, combining for a wild 68 of Memphis’ 81 points in their AAC tournament quarter-final win over UCF. Look for this senior combo to be chaos-makers.

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana (Midwest): In a delicious postseason intrastate rivalry, No. 4 seed Indiana’s Jackson-Davis may be the biggest challenger to Purdue star Zach Edey’s Player of the Year crown. The Hoosie will rely on their leading scorer to craft a winning streak — the squad hasn’t won back-to-back games since February 14th. Heartbreak.

📺 Tune in

Clear your cal and prep all your screens for some epic weeks of basketball, starting with tomorrow and Friday’s jam-packed first-round slate. The fun tips off at 12:15 p.m. ET tomorrow when No. 8 seed Maryland faces No. 9 seed West Virginia on CBS in the U.S. and TSN in Canada. Bring on the madness.