Super Bowl 57 is now in the rearview mirror with the Kansas City Chiefs defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 to capture the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday. With that, football season is officially over and the next major event on the sports calendar is none other than the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
That’s right, March Madness is right around the corner and the men’s college basketball regular season is beginning to wind down as we approach conference tournament. If you’re a casual observer who hasn’t paid attention until now, don’t worry. We’ll tell you what you need to know as the sport comes to the forefront.
Similar to last season, this year’s NCAA Tournament field feels wide open as any number of programs could go on a magical run to the Final Four and cut down the nets at NRG Stadium in Houston. However, there are a few programs that have stood just a step ahead of everyone else this season.
Purdue has been a dominant team throughout the season and is in line to walk into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. Led by national player of the year candidate Zach Edey, the Boilermakers have ripped through their schedule with only a few hiccups in Big Ten play. Also in the mix for the top seed are the likes of Houston and Alabama, who have also stood tall above the rest of their conference peers. The Cougars are currently the betting favorites to win the national championship with +700 odds on DraftKings Sportsbook. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide have been flawless in SEC play and has numerous double-digit victories under its belt.
There are other programs who will have a strong chance to win it all come March, most notably the likes of Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, UCLA, and reigning national champion Kansas. The Longhorns currently stand atop the extremely difficult Big 12 in the standings and have impressively maintained despite the mid-season suspension and firing of head coach Chris Beard. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have compiled an impressive resume and currently leads the nation in Quad 1 victories with 12.
Blue bloods in trouble
Notice a few familiar names missing from the above category? That’s because legacy programs like Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina find themselves on shaky ground with both the conference and NCAA tournaments fast approaching.
Kentucky in particular has had a disappointing year by its standards, and that’s even with reigning national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe back returning this season. At 16-9, the Cats own just one Quad 1 victory throughout the campaign and horrendous losses to South Carolina and Georgia may ultimately keep them out of the field of 68. That has led to growing frustration in Lexington, KY, between the fan base and head coach John Calipari, so that’s something worth keeping your eye on.
As for the Tobacco Road blue bloods, both have had ups and downs in what has been a weak ACC this season. North Carolina is 1-8 in Quad 1 games and was just on a three-game losing streak before defeating Clemson this past Saturday. Meanwhile, the results have been similar for a young Duke team under first-year head coach Jon Scheyer and it’s starting to teeter into bubble territory.
Speaking of blue blood adjacent programs, just go Google Louisville’s record under first-year head coach Kenny Payne. Yikes.
Mid-majors to keep an eye on for March Madness
A staple of the tournament are the mid-majors flying under the radar and there’s a handful of teams who could potentially do what Saint Peter’s did a year ago and stun the world. (Note: I think we can all agree that Gonzaga shouldn’t really be considered a mid-major anymore, so I won’t include them here).
Saint Mary’s is once again having a great season in the West Coast Conference and by the metrics, this could be its best team to date. The Gaels are rated sixth in NET, seventh in KenPom, and their crowning achievement so far was an overtime home victory over Gonzaga at the beginning of the month.
Other teams that could make a strong run this March includes San Diego State and Florida Atlantic. The Aztecs have stood atop a competitive Mountain West Conference that could send four teams to the big dance and is currently ranked in the top 20 of KenPom and NET rankings. Meanwhile, FAU owned the nation’s longest win streak this season at 20 and is in line to make just its second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
Also keep your eye out for strong Mountain West programs in Boise State and Utah State, as well as Oral Roberts, who is still being led by Max Abmas after its surprise run to the Sweet 16 two years ago.