Expert Jake Fuller’s March Madness Preview



2023 official March Madness bracket

Jake Fuller, Staff Writer

South Region 

The top four: 

Overall, one-seed Alabama has landed in a quadrant of the bracket that seems to be tailored to them, but with the chaos emeralds in play for the entire month of March, how likely are they to cruise through to their first ever Final Four? 

Despite recent controversy surrounding star player Brandon Miller, the Crimson Tide have not faltered, winning a heavily competitive SEC tournament and taking the number one spot in the big dance. 

One team that could stand in their way are the PAC-12 champions Arizona Wildcats. Led by All-American Azuolas Tubelis, the Cats will be fighting to make it out of their region for the first time since 2001, when they lost in the national championship to Duke. 

Three seed Baylor has shown streaks of talent all year, playing extremely competitive basketball in a very talented Big 12. Look for them to fight into the Elite 8 if they can turn on the deep ball. 

The Virginia Cavaliers, the four seed, have been consistent, but in a down year for the ACC, it’s hard to tell whether that will translate into competitive March play. The only thing that they truly have going for them is that they drew Furman in the first round. 

The 5-12 matchup: 

College of Charleston finished 31-3 to win the Colonial and looks to take on a San Diego State Aztecs team who relies heavily on their defense to make up for an often-lacking offense. The Cougars, on the other hand, rank 10th in the nation from beyond the arc. If CofC can get hot with the three ball, the Aztecs may lose another first round, and we may witness the 54th 12 over 5 victory in tournament history. 

Upset potential: 

NC State, Missouri, and College of Charleston all have paths towards deep runs. 

 East Region: 

The top four: 

Purdue is led by Zach Edey, one of the top big men in the nation. However, they have had their struggles against defensive minded teams, and will be playing in a region full of them. They have no issues scoring at will but have been roughed up by ball disruptors all season, and Indiana showed the world that the key to beating Purdue lies in their tendency to turn the ball over under pressure. Though potentially the most vulnerable one seed, Purdue should still battle through to at least the Sweet 16. 

Marquette has been one of the top ten scoring teams all season, and their three-point potential in the tournament makes them a very scary two seed. After winning the Big East, Marquette will look to replicate their Elite 8 trip a decade ago. 

Jerome Tang has turned Kansas State into a scary program, one that may soon challenge Kansas for the best team in the state. For now, though, his Wildcats will look to stay alive with their shorter guards matching up in a very defensive region. 

Tennessee was arguably the hottest team in the country until February, when they lost on two straight buzzer beaters and never fully recovered. Santiago Vescovi will look to lead one of the best defensive teams in college basketball into the late rounds, but if Tennessee can’t turn their offense around, they’ll fizzle out of this tournament just like they did the SEC. 

The 5-12 Matchup: 

A Krzyzweski-less Duke team will look to step up and stay safe against an Oral Roberts team that seems primed to make another low-seeded deep run. Max Abmas is hungry in his senior year, but if ORU continues to struggle with rebounding, Duke’s deep bench will make quick work of them in the second half. Expect a close battle, but this is still Duke’s game to lose. 

Upset potential: 

Providence has a solid first two rounds against some Wildcats, Kentucky and Kansas State. At least one 11 seed has made it to the Sweet 16 each of the last ten years, and if the Friars can manage the paint like they did late in the regular season, it could be them. 

 Midwest Region: 

The top four: 

Houston is hoping that the injury sustained by star Marcus Sasser against Cincinatti won’t affect him headed into the big dance, but without any certainty, may be relying on a more defensive strategy headed into the tournament. Changing the way they run their rotation is bold but may be the necessary move if Sasser can not return. 

Texas just catapulted their expectations with a decimation of Kansas in the Big 12 championship game, and expect to keep the train rolling as they take on the Midwest region. The high chance of a Texas-Texas A&M matchup in the second round makes this a fun team to watch. 

Xavier shouldn’t run into any issues until the sweet 16, as they will go through first time dancers Kennesaw State and the winner of a very unthreatening Iowa State and Pittsburgh matchup. If they do struggle, it will likely be a result of their inability to create turnovers. 

Indiana put themselves on a long-term map with their regular season sweep of Purdue, but their inconsistencies in scoring could leave them hanging if Trayce Jackson-Davis had an off game. 

The 5-12 Matchup: 

Miami shouldn’t have any issues handling the auto-qualifying Missouri Valley champions from Drake, a team simply unprepared to face an opponent that puts so much pressure on the primary ball handler. 

Upset potential: 

Indiana and Texas A&M could both make their way to the Final Four if they play the way they did through their respective regular seasons. Pittsburgh will also have a shot to beat an Iowa State team that has struggled in important matchups all season. 

 West Region: 

The top four: 

Kansas has been of the most consistent teams all year, but their lackluster effort at the end of the Big 12 tournament casts doubts on how much energy they have left to burn. They were killed by Texas in both the regular season finale and conference championship, and if other teams can exploit the same weaknesses that the Longhorns did, the Jayhawks will become a whole lot more vulnerable. 

UCLA looks like a scary team for the long run, just as they have the last two years. Despite the loss of Johnny Juzang to the NBA, the UCLA team has brought in  

Gonzaga never seems to disappoint in energy, but in their third straight year as the nation’s top offense will leave them with no room for error. Expect high scoring games, but their inconsistent defense could cause them problems against more evenly matched scorers in the later rounds. 

The UConn Huskies are statistically outmatched in nearly every category by their first-round matchup, the Iona Gaels, but you can never count out the powerful duo of Big East first-teamers Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo 

The 5-12 Matchup: 

VCU gives Saint Mary’s a scary first round matchup, as the Rams are an extremely scary defensive team, matched very well against the playmakers for the Gaels. 

Upset potential: 

VCU and Iona are 12 and 13 seeds, respectively, but Mike Rhoades for the VCU Rams and Rick Pitino for the Iona Gaels have been inspiring coaches all season. Two teams with the potential to rally and meet each other in the second round, this is definitely a part of the bracket to keep an eye on.