March Madness officially began in earnest now that the committee has revealed the 68-team bracket for the 2023 NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. Now it's time to take pen to paper (err, keyboard to website page) and get those bracket pools going.
Before you do, though, let's sort through the news of note as we bask in the presence of a fresh bracket. There were no major surprises among No. 1 seeds as Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Purdue all landed on the top line, as most expected. However, Alabama securing the No. 1 overall seed was a bit of a surprise, while Houston landed the second No. 1 seed. For the bracket nerds out there, that means Houston lands in the Midwest Region and pushes Kansas -- once thought to be a front-runner to land the No. 1 overall seed, which would have given it the option to pick its own region -- to the West Region. Purdue is the No. 1 seed in the East. The No. 2 seeds are Arizona (South), Texas (Midwest), UCLA (West) and Marquette (East).
No drama, you say? Well, at the top of the bracket, the committee left us with very few surprises. There was, however, some stunners on the bubble of the bracket as some teams got in that were thought to be out and others thought to be out snuck in. The last four teams into the field were Mississippi State, Pitt, Arizona State and Nevada, while Oklahoma State, Rutgers, North Carolina and Clemson all missed by a smidge.
Here are a few takeaways from the bracket reveal on Selection Sunday.
1. Reigning champion Kansas gets jobbed
After Kansas thumbed its nose at the NCAA throughout the FBI case investigating the program and corruption within college basketball, which was adjudicated before the season with mostly meaningless penalties, it doesn't feel like too much of a stretch here to say the committee wasn't incentivized to go out of its way to award the reigning champion Kansas Jayhawks. Maybe that's a little too tin-foil cap theory-like of me, but consider this: Kansas had 17 Quad 1 wins -- four more than No. 1 overall seed Alabama and 10 more than No. 2 overall team Houston -- and landed as the No. 3 overall team.
Kansas still landed on the No. 1 seed line, but in getting passed by as the No. 1 overall seed and getting jumped by Houston, KU did not get to land in the Midwest Region. That pushes the Jayhawks to the West, which is arguably the toughest region of them all. So not only did the Jayhawks not draw a favorable geographic spot, they got a tough region to boot.
"When you look at Houston, a combined 15-2 in Quad 1 and Quad 2, compared to Kansas, 21-7 in Quad 1 and Quad 2, and Houston, they were competitive in all the games they lost, except for [Sunday]," said NCAA selection committee chair Chris Reynolds. "For that reason, we kept Houston at No. 2."
North Carolina and second-year coach Hubert Davis made history on Sunday ... and not the type that'll earn a banner inside the Dean Dome.
UNC became the first team in the modern era of college basketball to go from preseason No. 1 to missing the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels went 20-13 on the season and bowed out in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals to Virginia. The committee had them close -- they were the third team left out of the field -- but not quite close enough to avoid infamy.
3. Alabama draws great region
The No. 1 overall seed Alabama Crimson Tide drew what I think is the most favorable region of the No. 1 seeds out of the South Region. It may have tough tests ahead if the bracket holds chalky -- No. 2 Arizona and No. 3 Baylor are not to be trifled with -- but the top of this region is a bit of a mixed bag. No. 4 seed Virginia really struggled down the stretch and feels a bit over-seeded, No. 6 seed Creighton has been hot and cold, and the winner of the No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 West Virginia doesn't feel like it can seriously threaten the Tide. Alabama locked in the No. 1 overall seed, and for my money got the draw to be considered the official favorite to win this tournament.
The No. 1 seeds are: Alabama (South), Houston (Midwest), Kansas (West), Purdue (East). Alabama is the No. 1 overall seed, Houston the No. 2 overall team, Kansas the No. 3 overall team and Purdue the No. 4 overall team.