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How much better is your life right now with this gorgeous bracket filled once again with 68 teams? Nothing beats the NCAA Tournament. The pageantry, chaos, anticipation, glory, heartbreak and a thousand more emotions that stream through this glorious American event over three weekends. 

You haven't yet made our picks. Or maybe you have. Maybe you've got more to do. Are you a one-bracket person, or do you live your life in mayhem and fill out five brackets? Ten? Twenty??

No matter your philosophy, you've gotta sort out these teams and figure which schools are best slotted to make some runs to the second weekend and beyond. As always, I've assembled a dossier of all 68 teams and put them in order. 

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This is my annual ranking of the field of 68. I am ranking these teams not by seed, but by how good I think they are at their best. Not just that, but I am going off their depth, coaching, how advanced analytics look at them, and I'm taking into account a little bit of recency bias. By no means am I ranking based on résumé, though team quality and résumé quality often go hand-in-hand. 

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So let's have a roll call and get to it. This is your 2023 men's NCAA Tournament field ranked from best to worst. 

The Cougars have comfortably rated as the best team in advanced metrics for two-plus months. Kelvin Sampson's team is again a menace defensively, led by a pugnacious trio of guards: Jamal Shead, Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark. Here's what makes UH so dangerous: Jarace Walker, the big man, is an inevitable lottery pick. The Coogs dictate the terms under which they play, and it's up to opponents to adjust. Sampson guided this program to the Final Four two years ago and to the Elite Eight in 2022. An H-Town hometown homecoming could very well be in the offing this year -- 40 years after Olajuwon and Drexler did the same thing. Houston has a little bit of everything: size, speed, shooting, defense, experience, youthful talent, elite coaching, tremendous discipline. Powerhouse.
The Crimson Tide have a lot of talent in their program and a lot of cynicism and criticism encircling it. Brandon Miller is inarguably the nation's best freshman, but his uninterrupted eligibility has exposed Nate Oats' program to reasonable and continual criticism. As it prepares for NCAA Tournament play, the program is in a spot it's never been in until now: the No. 1 seed line. The Tide take more than 20 3-pointers per game on average but only make 34% of them. Will Oats' layup/dunk-or-3 philosophy be good enough to bring them to the Final Four? If so, it would be the first in school history. Miller is the big name, but it's another freshman, 6-10 Noah Clowney, that rounds out Bama's talent profile and makes this team such a tough matchup. Toss in a pair of steady veteran guards (Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears) and this team has a case to be the most talented set in the field.
The Boilermakers have the biggest difference-maker in college basketball: 7-foot-4 Zach Edey. But the long-established frontrunner for National Player of the Year isn't the only thing Matt Painter's team has going for itself. Far from it. Purdue has a pair of fearless freshman guards (Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer) flanked by multi-dimensional forwards (Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst, Ethan Morton) who can score in a variety of roles and do so all over the floor. Purdue hasn't made a Final Four since 1980. Painter's had some terrific teams. This group seems as well-equipped to take four wins in the Big Dance as any he's had. The Boilers have been bumpier overall in the past month, but on balance this has been a top-five team since its coming out party at the PK85 in November.
Almost a year after the Jayhawks cut down the nets in New Orleans, all Bill Self did was overcome losing nearly 70% of his production and cobble together the best team in the best conference and get another No. 1 seed. The Jayhawks have one of the five best players in college hoops (Jalen Wilson) and one of the five best freshmen (Gradey Dick). KU also has an elite, old-school pass-first point guard in Dajuan Harris, who was a key factor in last year's title run. The Jayhawks aren't deep, but if Kevin McCullar continues to be a top-five defender in the sport and KJ Adams' ascent as a small-ball big keeps rising, this team has a viable chance to repeat. It's Kansas' 33rd straight NCAA Tournament appearance, a record. Self missed the Big 12 Tournament due to a medical procedure, but the school said he will be back on the sidelines for this week. Self is arguably the greatest coach in the game, and his availability is the difference between KU and ...
The Longhorns are the narrow pick for me at No. 5. Interim head coach Rodney Terry's done a very good job the past three months. Texas is rugged defensively and loaded up with guards and wings who can score from all three levels. The two-factor dynamic that makes this team a Final Four contender: 1) Texas can push the pace, and 2) it has a lot of willing passers. On any given night, it could be Marcus Carr, Dylan Disu, Timmy Allen, Sir'Jabari Rice or Dillon Mitchell doing the most damage. Tough scout, tough team, and won't get bounced in the first round like the third-seeded group from two years ago. The Big 12 Tournament champs have beaten Kansas twice in the past four games and have held opponents to a paltry 55.5 points in that span as well. National title contender.
What a wagon this team is heading into the bracket. Marquette's 28 wins are its most since 1970-71. Shaka Smart has done wonders in two years after leaving Texas to revitalize MU basketball. Tyler Kolek looks like the next-door neighbor who gets 20 bucks a pop to mow your lawn, but don't be fooled, he's got the heart of a basketball killer and the hardware to prove it. Kolek is one of only 13 players in Big East history to win league POY and tournament MOP. The dual Big East champs might have found their toughness groove on the defensive end in the past week, which puts them firmly in the national title conversation. Marquette has ranked among the best offensive units for the past four months. Oso Ighodaro is a matchup puzzle, Kam Jones has amazing two-way capability and Olivier-Maxence Prosper is a pogo-stick defender who will run you off the floor. Do not sleep on these guys. They are feisty and ready for the fight.
Just when we thought Gonzaga might be able to swerve into the NCAAs off the radar ... not exactly. Sure, this isn't a No. 1 seed like some recent Gonzaga teams, but it's been playing better than anyone in the country in the past six weeks, according to data. The Zags beat a good Saint Mary's team by a record-setting 26 points in the WCC title game. Gonzaga's 87.5 points per game ranks No. 1 nationally, and so does its offensive rating at KenPom (124.1) and 59.2 effective field goal percentage. The centerpiece to all this is, of course, senior power forward Drew Timme, who's saved his final season to be his best: 20.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Gonzaga is well-positioned to again make a run. It's the only school to make the past seven Sweet 16s.
The Bruins are not at full strength, so I have to dock them -- even after a great push of Arizona in the Pac-12 title game. Had Jaylen Clark not suffered a season-ending Achilles injury recently, UCLA probably would've won the Pac-12 Tournament. That also could've realistically put UCLA on the top line in the West. Alas, it's still a great seed and a very good team. Adem Bona is dealing with a left shoulder issue that the school is saying will not keep him out to start the NCAAs. That's significant. The Bruins made it from the First Four to the Final Four two years ago. This group won't need so many hurdles. This is the best team Mick Cronin's ever had. Veteran leadership, starting with PG Tyger Campbell, but just as much with Jaime Jaquez and David Singleton. I get the sense these guys are going to show up pissed off and determined to make it to Houston. It UCLA is ranked eighth here, that tells you all you need to know about how deep the top of the bracket is.
The Huskies are so intriguing. They rank top-10 in every mainstream predictive metric, and they've proven their ceiling is high by beating the likes of Alabama, Marquette, Iowa State and Creighton. They're 9-2 in their past 11 games. There's immediate urgency with this team because Dan Hurley is 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament at UConn. He'll get his first win in just a few days. Where to start with this roster? The Huskies have a first-round talent in sophomore shooting guard Jordan Hawkins. They've got a top-20 player in college hoops in center Adama Sanogo, and his backup, freshman Donovan Clingan, ranks already as one of the most promising bigs in the sport. Andre Jackson is an elite athlete -- his only issue is an inconsistent jump shot. If UConn plays defense aggressively and can get consistent play at point guard, it has Final Four potential. Watch Tristen Newton at the point. He has two triple-doubles, the only UConn player to ever do that in a single season.
The only reason why I don't have Arizona higher is due to the team's bizarre string of bad losses this season. I won't get into the details in a quick capsule here, but go check it out. There's some strange stuff dotted on this resume. That aside, Arizona can play some beautiful basketball and do so in ways that are unconventional for the modern game. Tommy Lloyd tosses two bigs out there and has them gallop up and down the floor for 40 minutes. Azuolas Tubelis has been a Second Team All-American this season, Oumar Ballo a dominant interior presence right next to him. Courtney Ramey hit the 3-pointer that helped lift Arizona over UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament title game, while Pelle Larsson is one of the best role players on a title contender. Best of all: Kerr Kriisa ranks among the top trash talkers in college hoops. Folks, this is yet another team capable of cutting down the nets in Houston.
Some recent Baylor teams have been great because they've been a bear on defense. That's not this crew. Baylor has the second-ranked per-possession offense in college basketball, but is allowing opponents 70.3 points per night and giving up 101.9 points per 100 possessions, according to KenPom. Baylor enters the NCAAs as losers of four of its past six, but it remains a second-weekend threat due to a trio of guards that can light up the scoreboard. Keyonte George is the freshman future lottery pick that leads BU at 15.3 points per game. Adam Flagler is right behind, at 15.5, and L.J. Cryer is good for 14.5 points per game. There isn't another team with three guards potent in scoring than Baylor. The team struggles with defensive rebounding and sacrifices interior presence at times, using its energy to run a variety of sets that keep teams on their heels defensively.
The Musketeers took a walloping in the Big East title game to Marquette, but a tough defeat heading into the NCAA tourney doesn't always spell disaster. In fact, teams sometimes rally from a good thrashing. On balance, Xavier has definitely been one of the 15 best teams this season. Though the Musketeers lack depth, they want to push the pace, are great with their ball movement and have a formidable starting five, which begins with the speedster, Souley Boum. Future NBA player/wing Colby Jones and freshman guard Desmond Claude flank Boum, who is as slippery as any player you'll see this week. Jack Nunge is the man in the middle, Adam Kunkel the opportunistic utility player who never backs down from an assignment. Sean Miller's got Xavier back in the tournament for the first time since 2018 and has this program two years ahead of schedule.
Jerome Tang's done an unbelievable job in his first year as a head coach. Kansas State was picked last in the Big 12 in the preseason, and here it is in the top 15 of my 1-68. Tang has maybe the best transfer in the country, former Florida forward Keyontae Johnson (17.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg). The yin to Johnson's yang is diminutive K-State point guard Markquis Nowell (16.8 ppg, 7.6 apg). The Wildcats love to share the ball, are great with team and individual defensive assignments and have proven they can win a game a dozen different ways. Likely to be undervalued in your March Madness pool, even with a quality seed, so keep that in mind as you fill out your bracket.
Here. Comes. Duke. Jon Scheyer has easily passed the test in Year 1 and that's before he coaches a game on the biggest stage of all. The Blue Devils are riding a nine-game winning streak, have NBA talent, a point guard (Jeremy Roach) with Final Four experience and the desire to ruin you on the offensive glass. We don't often see Duke in this position: outside the top three seed lines, no real Final Four pressure, a house-money situation, basically. This team is without a doubt playing its best basketball of the year, and I'd like to know which opponent is going to stop that from continuing.
The Aztecs are in their 10th NCAA Tournament since 2010. Ho-hum, just another nightmare group to scout because they tear at your soul with how they grind a game defensively. Brian Dutcher's group almost never beats itself. Look out for 5-10 Seattle transfer Darion Trammell, who seldom shies away from investigating the paint and seems to compete with Lamont Butler to see who can distribute the better pass to their teammates. Elite Eight dark horse material, these Aztecs.
It's taken a minute, but Indiana basketball is fun again. Few teams have a 1-2 duo that's as dependable and ready for the big moment like Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino. The former has been one of the three best players in college hoops this season, the latter ranks among top-five freshmen. Mike Woodson has gone to two NCAA Tournaments in his first two years, and though IU has some variance to its potential, at least this team has a good seed and has demonstrated plenty over the past two months that it is second-weekend material. Indiana isn't great at one single thing, but it isn't problematic, either. (Except for how it doesn't force enough turnovers, you could argue.) Very much a team that will thrive or thrash based upon matchup.
The Hurricanes surprised a lot of people by going from the No. 10-line to the Elite Eight a year ago. Winning three more in this year's bracket wouldn't register as all that shocking, not when Miami's been logging impressive wins and beating tournament-caliber teams from early November through March. The Hurricanes are led by head-of-the-snake Isaiah Wong, and he's supplemented beautifully by Jordan Miller (who's on my All-Underrated Team) and shooting ace Nijel Pack. The question here is how dinged up big man Norchad Omier is. Omier left in Miami's semifinal loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament on Friday night. They'll need him in order to fend off oncomers this week and next.
The Aggies were the first team out of the Dance a year ago. Buzz Williams made damn sure that wouldn't be the case again. Your name to know is Wade Taylor IV, who has been on a rocket the past six weeks. Taylor's averaged better than 21 points in his last 10 games and grown into one of the top 10 lead guards in college basketball. A&M is a second-weekend threat because it has balance on both ends, makes great adjustments not just at halftime, but multiple times within a half, and wants to get feisty on the offensive glass.
The Volunteers are a polarizing team. They've been No. 7 or better all season long at KenPom, but the lack of offensive firepower is a major vibe killer. Plus, UT does not have all-important point guard Zakai Ziegler (ACL tear), which limits them even more. That said, the public sentiment is so down on Tennessee, I can't help but think that could wind up twisting things in the Volunteers' favor, you know? Sometimes sports are funny like that. Remember, this team has wins over Kansas, Alabama and Texas -- all teams in my top five. Rick Barnes in 25-25 in his career in NCAA Tournament games.
The Cavaliers' dud of an ACC title game against Duke is going to have people fading UVa in the first weekend, and I get that. This is not a great Virginia team. It is good, though, and Tony Bennett remains among the best generals in the sport. The Wahoos are a tough matchup and do not turn the ball over, which should allow them to be in every game they play. If it's an off night offensively, then it gets even uglier. That said, Kihei Clark is still running point for this team; he helped Virginia win a national title in 2019. Reece Beekman also has a future in the NBA, because he's on the short list of best defenders in college basketball. I'm interested to see how UVa shows up in its first-round matchup.
The Owls have 31 wins, a deep team, a group that's stuck together and are no joke. Dusty May will be a finalist for national coach of the year because he's done the unthinkable at one of the worst jobs in Conference USA. The Owls guard big, guard small, shoot from deep and haven't been severely outplayed once this season. They are seeded too low. You should seriously consider picking this team to win at least two games in the tournament. A cast of reliable characters that are all too willing to push you back with lineup changes like hockey shifts. Hoot hoot, here they come and they're going right for your neck.
The Horned Frogs will be a chic Elite Eight pick because they love to push the pace, have good defensive flexibility and dress one of the fiercest players in this tournament, junior shooting guard Mike Miles (17.3 ppg). Jamie Dixon's team does not have Eddie Lampkin, who has not been with the team the past two weeks; Lampkin was a revelation in last year's tournament for then-upstart TCU. The weak spot is the 3-point shooting. The Horned Frogs only shoot 30.6% from 3, which doesn't bode well over a two- or three-game stretch. This is only the second time TCU has pulled off consecutive tournament appearances; the last instance was way back in 1952-53.
Fascinating team. The Bluejays entered the season with higher expectations than any year prior, ranking top-10 back in November. Greg McDermott's squad ranks top-15 at KenPom but hasn't beaten a tournament team since Connecticut on Feb. 11. Ryan Kalkbrenner is the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and while he's the anchor in the interior, the Jays are a Final Four dark horse thanks to a quality point guard (Ryan Nembhard), a mismatch, rangy wing (Arthur Kaluma) and a lethal 3-point artist (Trey Alexander, 44%). It might come down to attrition and fouls. The Jays aren't deep, but the starting five matches up with every team in the country.
The good: Kentucky, on balance, has looked something like a top-20 team for about a month now. The bad: its three most recent losses are to Georgia and Vanderbilt twice. The only team that faced more week-over-week angst and media attention for its inconsistencies this season was North Carolina, and it's not in this tournament. Kentucky is, and Calipari's made some magic with underachieving UK teams in the past. The Wildcats have 2021-22 NPOY Oscar Tshiebwe back, and although he hasn't been a top-10 player this season, he's still in the next group. Freshman point guard Cason Wallace could be primed for a breakout performance, but it seems vital for Antonio Reeves to be the alpha for UK to make a run.
This is one of the three best Gaels teams in Randy Bennett's 22 years in charge of SMC. As usual, Saint Mary's wants to beat you 58-54 instead of heading into the 70s, even the 60s if possible. This might be Bennett's most physically admirable team he's had. That's a great juxtaposition with the awesome play of senior Logan Johnson and freshman Aidan Mahaney. Those two guards have the goods, from knacks on getting into the cracks to messing up your flow on offense. Fade the Gaels at your own risk.
One of my hardest-to-grasp teams in this year's tournament. First, credit to Kevin Willard for getting Maryland comfortably into the NCAAs. Terrapins fans are appreciative of that above all else at this moment. Now, what can Maryland do here? The Terps are a slept-on metrics darling, ranking 21st at KenPom. I've obviously got this team lower than that, but if it gets the right matchups it's going to be playing next weekend. Jahmir Young is an obvious candidate to be a buzzer-beating hero, if Maryland gets caught up in a last-second scenario. Channel those Drew Nicholas vibes, Terps fans.
For just the second time in the almost 85-year history of the NCAA Tournament, this glorious bracket will include the Northwestern Wildcats. Don't go thinking this team will merely be happy to receive the invite. Chris Collins' team rips you up, twists you into knots and bumps you around on defense. Chase Audige is the leader on that end; he might be in the five best all-around defenders college basketball has. The guy who will have the ball in his hands, should the game come down to the final possession, is one of the best-named players we've got: Boo Buie!
What's it going to be for ISU this year? The Cyclones wobbled into the bracket last year, but bruising Big 12 play prepared them for a Sweet 16 push. T.J. Otzelberger's team won two in a row against Baylor, but prior to that (impressive) two-set, it had been an up-and-down affair for a couple of months in Ames. Nevertheless, it's guaranteed to get an easier back-to-back situation than any two-game set it's played in two months. We'll see, though. The Cyclones twist teams into turnovers; their 25.1% rate is No. 2 in college hoops.
We've got multiple Aggies in this year's bracket, folks. Utah State is coached by Ryan Odom, who was last seen in this tournament in 2018 -- the year his 16th-seeded UMBC team made history by upsetting top-seed Virginia. This USU team has a quintet of 3-point shooters and just as many players who know when to make the right pass. It took too long for them to be considered a lock, but as you can see, they made it in with room to spare. The Aggies are No. 18 at KenPom! What are they doing all the way down here?!
The Tigers have mostly been overlooked this season, but they made it into the field without any trouble. They're led by one of the best guards in the country. Grad transfer Kendric Davis led the AAC in scoring (21.8) this season and will need to put on his cape again to get Memphis, minimally, where it got a year ago: the second round and pushing a higher seed to the brink. Penny Hardaway's squad plays on roller skates and has the oldest player in college basketball: DeAndre Williams is 26 and still hooping for a university. What a life!
The Hogs aren't going into this tournament playing their best ball, but they've got a shot because they've got a top-10 NBA pick on the roster in freshman Nick Smith Jr. And remember, Eric Musselman's taken Arkansas to back-to-back Elite Eights. We'll see what they've got in store. Smith can lean on Ricky Council IV, who's managed to carry an injury-affected team much of the season. And who wouldn't want a 6-7 lottery pick running their offense? Arkansas has just that in Anthony Black. Hogs will be a trendy choice to win a couple of games.
What if I told you Penn State has one of the 10 best players in college basketball? Because it just might. Senior lead guard Jalen Pickett is a STUD. Pickett does a little bit of everything for one of the hotter teams entering this bracket. The Nittany Lions have a tricky task with Texas A&M, but coach Micah Shrewsberry has proven he's a fast-riser in the industry with how he's turned this program around in two years. The Nits are top-10 in 3-point percentage and sacrifice offensive rebounds for defensive get-backs.
The Spartans are dancing for the 25th year in a row, second-longest streak out there right now to Kansas at 33. It wouldn't feel right to have a bracket without Sparty on one of the lines. This team isn't a Final Four threat, but if Tom Izzo's coaching, no one is taking Michigan State lightly in March. Keep an eye on this: Izzo knows that his team's best chance to make some noise is to hit 3-pointers. Michigan State is fourth nationally in 3-point percentage (39.5%), but it doesn't take a lot of triples. Time to give Tyson Walker, Joey Hauser and Jaden Akins the green light -- then let Malik Hall fill up the rest and hope for the best.
There's a chance I've got Oral Roberts five spots too low. The two most important factors on this year's team: head coach Paul Mills and star guard Max Abmas. They were both there two years ago, when Oral Roberts made the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed and was a few inches away from an Abmas buzzer-beater from upsetting Arkansas to make the Elite Eight. This is the best ORU team in school history; it's won 17 straight, the longest active streak, and ranks 57th at KenPom. The Eagles are good at limiting turnovers, they take good shots and they toughed up with a great nonconference schedule. Sweet 16 is on the table again, absolutely.
A mystery wrapped in an enigma tied up in a riddle. Illinois has beaten UCLA and Texas. Huge wins. It's also shifted its identity about a dozen times this season. If things are clicking, you will fall in love with this team over five-minute spurts. Terrence Shannon Jr. (17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds) is the man to know, Coleman Hawkins (9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds) is the man to watch. Seems as though how Hawkins goes, so goes this team. Illinois gets its digs in closer to the rim, but if it finds a rhythm from 3-point range, that's when it becomes dangerous enough to beat most teams in this field. Which group will show up this weekend?
The Hawkeyes still know how to score and still have a Murray on the roster, so you've gotta give 'em a shot. A year ago, Iowa rode Keegan Murray's hot hand to a Big Ten Tournament title, was a chic Final Four pick, then got upset in the first round by Richmond. This year's group won't have those expectations, but it will have Kris Murray's 20-and-8 talent -- so maybe it's the perfect time for some chaos theory. If ever there was a coach who can induce such calamity, it's the man who stared down a referee like he was in a John Wayne film, then changed the course of a season. Fran McCaffery, what do you have in store for us this week?
The Rams would've been a stinging snub had they lost in the A-10 final to Dayton, but now it's no matter. Mike Rhoades' team has won nine straight. Even better: VCU has kept teams under 70 points in 17 of their past 18 games. Per usual, the Rams pay the rent with their defense. Just flying around out there and getting into teams' jerseys. Ace Baldwin is the latest stud in a Rams uni. He leads the team in scoring, assists and steals and is the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
Pat Kelsey's team has been right there with FAU for months as the small-school darlings of college basketball. Don't let that mid-major vibe overshadow the fact this team is 31-3 heading into the NCAAs. Kelsey's got a deep roster and his guys go-go-go. Not only that, the Cougars launch 3-pointers aplenty and are one of the strongest rebounding teams in this field. You'll love watching them play.
Nice. I like seeing Missouri in the bracket. Dennis Gates wasted no time getting the Tigers back to respectability, doing it in his first season in Columbia. If you like teams who want to score 85 points, use tempo to their advantage and don't play favorites for where they take their shots, Missouri is for you. It feels inevitable that its first round game is going to be a burner.
At one point this season West Virginia was a 10-7 team that looked fated for the NIT. Many teams in that spot would've done just that. But there's a reason Bob Huggins is in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. The 19-14 record isn't eyebrow-raising, but remember that WVU had to go through 20 Big 12 opponents this season. The X-factor is Erik Stevenson, a 6-4 journeyman who has taken more than 200 3-pointers this season and must complement fellow senior Joe Touissant to give WVU's offense the lubrication needed to gallop past a team or two.
The Broncos are in back-to-back Big Dances for the second time in program history. Leon Rice's team has an infectious toughness about them that will give their opponent fits later this week. Boise State ranks in the top 15 in defense nationally, getting it done with an overload of wings. Marcus Shaver runs the point, and Max Rice, the coach's son, is a big-shot hunter. Boise State isn't deep but its stamina is remarkable.
The Trojans head into this week having won five of seven, a record that was necessary in order to keep them in good standing with the committee. Getting buckets from 15 feet and in on this team is an ordeal. Teams are shooting just 42.4% from 2-point range against Andy Enfield's club. The player who will be key is Boogie Ellis, a veteran combo guard shooting 39% from 3-point range. Any NCAA Tournament with a Boogie in it is a better NCAA Tournament.
The Friars worked their way in, and now we'll see if they can bust up their part of the bracket. This is the eighth time in a 10-year span that Ed Cooley has PC at an NCAA Tournament-level. He's done it as of late by spinning the transfer portal wheel and coming up big. Former Kentucky forward Bryce Hopkins (16.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) is one of the 5-10 most productive transfers in the sport this season. PC is stumbling into the bracket, but sometimes the shift in rhythm to tournament play can flip a team's mojo.
The Wolf Pack are staggering into the field (losers of three straight), but when you play in the Mountain West, you get in by any means necessary. This is Nevada's first appearance since Eric Musselman was there in 2019. Getting 7-footer Will Baker is paramount for Nevada's upset chances, and on the shorter side: 6-4 senior combo guard Jarod Lucas does a little bit of everything.
The Wolfpack's resume made them more vulnerable than some wanted to believe, but they are in regardless. And it's a welcomed sight for sore eyes in Raleigh. Kevin Keatts got this team to the NCAAs in Year 1, in 2017-18, and so this is his second trip to the big stage. Now that they're in, the Wolfpack's a tempting Sweet 16 dark horse due to having one of the few duos in college hoops that each averages better than 17 points: senior PG Jarkel Joiner and sophomore SG Terquavion Smith. And then there's the irresistible D.J. Burns, whose game is straight out of 1978.
A year ago, Auburn was on the No. 2 line and was viewed as a near-lock as a Sweet 16 team before it got upset in the second round by Miami. This year, Bruce Pearl's Tigers would be a surprise Sweet 16 squad, but we'll see. Pearl's team is about as unpredictable as it gets among this year's Big Dance participants. That can work for and against them, but at least they've got high-end 3-point defense (28.8%).
The Panthers are dancin' for the first time since 2016! Jeff Capel's team narrowly got in, but just getting in is a major step forward for a program that plummeted in national relevance the past six years. Senior guard Jamarius Burton (15.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.4 apg) is the star of the Panthers, who are offense-first and may well try to 3-point their way to a win or two in the bracket.
Chris Jans is one of many coaches who took their programs dancing this season in their first year at a new spot or first year as a head coach, period. The Bulldogs ugly it up, which is exactly how they like it. Mississippi State is allowing 61.0 points, top-five nationally. The reason why the Bulldogs rank so low for me: They are 363rd out of 363 teams in 3-point accuracy, connecting on just 26.6% of their triples. First to 50 wins, and they'll play in the mud the whole 40 minutes.
Turns out that the Sun Devils' win over USC in the Pac-12 quarterfinals is just what was required to get them over the bubble line. (That win at Arizona was the clincher, though.) ASU plays bigger than it looks and can induce teams into dry spells that will give them a chance, though there's an objective case (particularly looking at advanced analytics) that this team is among the 40 best in the bracket. A subplot: Is Bobby Hurley going to stay on at Arizona State after this season?
Redemption for a really good Kent State team, which fell in the MAC title game a year ago to Akron. It's the Golden Flashes' first bid since 2017. A Cinderella candidate for a few reasons, one of them being point guard Sincere Carry, who could start for just about any team in this tournament. Also: This team has been rock-solid all season long. No. 1 seed Houston, No. 3 seed Gonzaga and No. 12 seed Charleston beat this team by a combined 14 points -- and all of those were road games for KSU. Rob Senderoff's team has scored 70-plus in its last 11 games.
The Bulldogs will be a trendy pick to win one, if not two, games. That's because the Missouri Valley's top team has one of the best mid-major players in the country. Tucker DeVries (19.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 38.7% from 3-point range) has the goods. And he's only a sophomore. DeVries is facilitated by veteran point guard Roman Penn, who will be ready and anxious for his NCAA Tournament debut; Penn was injured when Drake danced two years ago.
The Gaels won their 14th MAAC Tournament title (and 14th straight game) to reach their 15th NCAA Tournament in program history. It's the second time in three years Iona has made the Big Dance, both under Rick Pitino. At 27-7, this team is one win away from its winningest season in history Pitino has been a master at getting the most out of this team. And if it's close, they'll want to send sophomore Walter Clayton to the line. His 94.2% free throw average is No. 2 in the sport. Pitino figures to be on his last run with Iona; a bigger job almost certainly awaits him later this month.
The Catamounts have been semi-regulars in NCAA tourney across John Becker's 11-year run in Burlington. This marks their fifth Big Dance under Becker, who's gone 280-112 since he started 2011-12. That .714 win percentage is tied with North Carolina for 16th best in college basketball in that span. This year's UVM team (winners of 15 straight) has great instincts for defensive rebounding (top-10 nationally) and relies on a great A/B pair of guards in Finn Sullivan and Dylan Penn.
Who are these Gauchos, amigo? They are the Big West champs and in for the second time in three years. This is the program's seventh bid in school history. Joe Pasternack's team has won seven straight and is led by Ajay Mitchell, who is good for better than 16 points and five assists per night.
The Lopes are in for the second time in school history. Bryce Drew is the coach here, and it's his fifth time dancing as a coach. He also made it multiple times as a player, including one shot you might remember. Grand Canyon hails from the WAC and is feeling itself as of late, as winners of eight of its past nine games.
Will this be the year the Raiders change from hipster upset pick to accurate upset pick? Matt Langel has Colgate as the Patriot League's best team five years running. This is the first time it's entered the tournament as the No. 1 3-point shooting team in college basketball; the Raiders sink 40.9% of their treys. Even better: they aren't foul-prone. Scouting headache.
Unquestionably good enough to get a win this week. Furman is dancing for the first time since 1980 and it's got a pair of high-major players in Jalen Slawson and Mike Bothwell. Bob Richey's team shoots an outstanding 59% from 2-point range. When you're done scrolling through this 1-68, go ahead and Google "What's a Paladin?" to make sure you're fully prepared for the tournament.
The Ragin' Cajuns! They're dancing for the first time in nine years. Coached by Bob Marlin, the Sun Belt champs have a variety of ways of getting the ball into the paint and making things work the old-style way: from the mid-range.
The Tigers took the Ivy League Tournament championship on Sunday on their home floor vs. Yale, getting them into the bracket for the first time since 2017. Princeton's coached by Mitch Henderson, and he's got a scorcher as of late: Senior Tosan Evbuomwan has averaged 19 points in his past 12 games. The last Ivy League team to win a tournament game was Yale in 2016.
One of the best stories of this year's tournament hails from greater Atlanta. The Owls are dancing for the first time, just three years after going 1-28 under Amir Abdur-Rahim. The ASUN's best team put up respectable fights vs. Florida, VCU and Indiana earlier this season.
The Bulldogs are potentially the closest analog to Saint Peter's from a year ago, in terms of potential to make the second weekend. Mike Morrell's team is 18-1 in its last 19 games. Plus, it has the Big South Player of the Year, Drew Pember, who's a former Tennessee Volunteer -- and looks like he spends his summers following Widespread Panic. We love the vibes.
Back-to-back tournament appearances for Danny Sprinkle's Bozeman Bobcats. Montana State reps the Big Sky and it's been on a tear as of late. The team has one loss since Jan. 16 and only two since the calendar flipped to 2023. A tricky team, in that they induce a lot of fouls and rank top-10 in free-throw attempts.
The Norse have been in Division I for only 11 years, but this is the fourth time NKU's won the Horizon League. Darrin Horn's team ranks dead last in defensive possession length, which is the key for any longshot upset hopes. This team is extremely disciplined when the ball isn't in its hands.
Steve Lutz has done an incredible job in two years on the job. This is the Islanders' second straight appearance in the NCAAs. They shoot 80% on their foul shots, second-best in college basketball. Senior Trevyian Tennyson is one of the sharpest shooters in the tournament: 92.4% from the foul line and 42.7% from 3-point range.
The Redhawks are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 23 years, and they are a quick crew. Brad Korn's team ranks top-10 in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. They don't shoot well, so basically what we've got here is a low-major team that embraces that chaos. Sounds good to me.
The Bison have broken through to the big bracket for the first time since 1992! Howard pulled off an unlikely comeback in the MEAC title game, overcoming a four-point deficit with 20 seconds to go vs. Norfolk State. Similar to Kennesaw State, Howard's done an incredible four-year turnaround. Kenny Blakeney went 4-29 in 2019-20, and now look at 'em. Another sweet tournament story.
The Knights are in their third Dance since 2016, and got in on a technicality. Merrimack won the NEC Tournament, but is in its final year of transition to D-I, meaning runner-up FDU got the ticket in Year 1 under Tobin Anderson.
Only the third 20-loss team to make the NCAAs, and easily the worst of the field of 68 this season. But: This is a program that is no stranger to the First Four. The Tigers are the only school with multiple First Four wins since the format began in 2011. And despite being the 8-seed in its conference tournament, TSU just won the SWAC for the seventh time in nine years. It's 6-3 in its last nine, after starting 8-17.