With the 2023 March Madness field set, it’s a good time to look at the best players in the tournament ahead of the action. These players aren’t necessarily the top scorers or best NBA draft prospects, but they are who believe are the most important heading into the bracket.
Here’s a look at the 10 best players in the 2023 NCAA tournament.
2023 NCAA Tournament player rankings
No. 10 — Adama Sanogo, UConn Huskies
The big man was expected to be a contender for the top player in the country, and has showed some promise as a perimeter shooter. His ability to pass out of double teams has helped UConn create a lot of hockey assists. The Huskies have four rotation players shooting 36% or better from behind the arc, so Sanago has been surrounded by enough talent to help this group make a deep tournament run.
No. 9 — Nick Smith, Arkansas Razorbacks
Smith is starting to get back into form after missing about two months with an injury. He’s averaging 18.1 points per game over his last seven, and shooting 41.6% from deep. The Razorbacks have a tough draw in the 8-9 matchup but they’ve shown they can take down giants before. Smith, who is expected to be a high lottery selection in the draft, could greatly improve his stock in this tournament.
No. 8 — Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky Wildcats
The big man has been a double-double machine this season, ending the regular season with three straight. He’s a big presence in the middle for Kentucky, who will hope to erase last year’s stunning upset at the hands of St. Peter’s in the 2-15 matchup. Tshiebwe still does get into foul trouble and his free-throw shooting is lacking but he can dominate games inside if defenses don’t pressure him.
No. 7 — Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona Wildcats
After leaning on Bennedict Mathurin and Dalen Terry last year, the Wildcats needed someone to step up. Tubelis has done just that, boosting his scoring and rebounding numbers to become a force for Arizona. There’s enough experience around him for this team to make a deep tournament run but he’ll have to be at his best.
No. 6 — Marcus Sasser, Houston Cougars
This is the biggest question of the tournament, as Sasser suffered a groin injury in the AAC tournament semifinal. He didn’t play in the final and might not play in the first round with Houston being a No. 1 seed. The point guard has shot the ball much better from inside the arc, and has been a better playmaker while maintaining his scoring. Sasser is also the key for the Cougars defensively, anchoring the main point of attack. If he’s healthy, this Houston team can beat anyone in the country.
No. 5 — Jalen Wilson, Kansas Jayhawks
Everyone gets hyped about Gradey Dick, but Wilson is the engine for the Jayhawks. All he did this season was nearly double his scoring average while still being a force on the glass. Wilson is taking nearly six triples per game and he’s only connecting on 33.8% of them but his willingness to shoot does open up some holes defensively. He’s going to be important if Kansas wants to repeat as a champion.
No. 4 — Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA Bruins
Perhaps no player gained as much stock coming back to school as Jaquez. He continued to showcase his developing offensive game while also becoming a lockdown defender for the Bruins. He’s also showing great leadership skills, carrying UCLA all the way into the top 5 at one point despite serious injuries happening around him. With Jaylen Clark out for the tournament, Jaquez Jr. will be tasked with most of the scoring load for the Bruins.
No. 3 — Drew Timme, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Timme came back to Gonzaga for his senior season despite having decent draft buzz, and this was the reason why. The big man maintained his ridiculous efficiency from inside the arc and will now be tasked with getting out of a region featuring the defending national champions and a UCLA team which was once in the top 5. This is a big tournament for Timme’s draft stock, and he’ll have to show he can do everything offensively for a NBA team to take a chance on him.
No. 2 — Brandon Miller, Alabama Crimson Tide
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding Miller and Alabama. There are even questions about whether he should be playing right now. There is no denying his talent. He’s among the top prospects for the 2023 NBA Draft, and he can score at every level offensively. The Tide are the No. 1 overall seed and have a good blend of talent and experience. With Miller leading the way, this team could be cutting down the nets in Houston in the final game of the tournament.
No. 1 — Zach Edey, Purdue Boilermakers
It’s almost comical watching Edey play. He towers over everyone on the court at 7-4 and if he gets the ball within five feet of the basket, it’s a wrap. The big man is averaging a double-double this season and has boosted his shot-blocking numbers as well. Purdue doesn’t have much perimeter talent around him, so the Boilermakers will need to hope Edey can stay on the floor in the tournament. He has the talent to take this team all the way to a title.