The 2023 NCAA Tournament starts on Tuesday with the First Four and everybody is likely working on their bracket. If you’re doing a March Madness bracket pool, one of your biggest tasks is figuring out which teams will pull off upsets. This includes which No. 1 seeds will bow out first. We’re going to go over the No. 1 seeds and which team is most likely to lose first.
2023 March Madness bracket advice: No. 1 seeds
First, let’s go over the No. 1 seeds in order: Alabama, Kansas, Houston, Purdue.
Those are the four top teams picked by the committee, but they don’t have as much separation as No. 1 seeds of the past. Many believed that Kansas would be the top overall seed in the tournament. There was also some debate as to whether or not Texas was deserving of a No. 1 seed. UCLA also was in the conversation before Jaylen Clark got injured. Hell, we’ll throw Marquette into this group after their Big East run.
Anyway, going back to the No. 1 seeds. Alabama is supposed to have the easiest path to the Final Four. You can make the case that holds true. West Virginia could be a tough out in the second round. Other than that, things don’t get too difficult until the Elite Eight against Arizona, Baylor or Creighton. No. 4 seed UVA would be a potential Sweet 16 matchup for the Crimson Tide, which feels super easy given their style of play and history in the tournament.
Kansas similarly has a tough potential second round game against Arkansas, who made a run to the Elite Eight as a 4-seed last year, beating the top overall seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs. That is, however, a completely different team. After that, Kansas would have to make if through some sneaky teams but nothing compared to what they dealt with in the Big 12. UConn, VCU and/or Saint Mary’s would be tasked with taking down the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16 most likely.
On the bottom half of the bracket, KU would likely see No. 2 UCLA (without Jaylen Clark), No. 3 Gonzaga or No. 6 TCU. The Horned Frogs may be the toughest matchup for the Jayhawks of that group. UCLA without Clark will be vulnerable. The Bulldogs’ offense would be a tough task for Kansas’ defense. The Jayhawks should be able to make it to the Elite Eight again and have a shot at a title defense.
This brings us to Houston and Purdue. Those two appear to be the most vulnerable of the No. 1 seeds. But let’s break it down.
Houston may not have leading scorer Marcus Sasser. The Cougars are still a very capable team but struggled big time on offense against Memphis in the AAC title game on Sunday. If Sasser is out for the first few rounds and/or isn’t 100% healthy, it’s hard to see the Cougars advancing deep into the tournament. If Sasser is OK, Miami will be a tough potential matchup as a 5-seed. On the bottom half, Texas A&M got underseeded and is a sleeper. You’ve also got two Big 12 teams in Iowa State and Texas down there. Chances are Texas is favored over Houston in an Elite Eight matchup. The thing is, Houston may have a pretty easy time getting to that game outside of the U.
Ahhhh, Purdue. The Boilermakers are perhaps the weakest No. 1 seed in recent memory and have sort of been imposters most of the season. Zach Edey. That’s basically why Purdue is a 1-seed and made it this far. So the team will go as far as Edey takes them. In the Big Ten, Purdue lost games to Indiana twice, Rutgers, Northwestern and Maryland. You could argue the only reason Indiana is in the tourney is because of Purdue, which makes the Hoosiers a pretty weak No. 4 seed. In the Big Ten tourney, Purdue defeated Rutgers, Ohio State and Penn State, almost blowing a big lead in the final.
Now let’s look at their bracket. That second round matchup may be when Purdue loses. Memphis or FAU would be a very tough out for the Boilermakers. Both Memphis and FAU are top-30 teams in KenPom. The Tigers beat Houston easily without Sasser. Memphis has some bad losses this season but most were close games. Sticking in games is the key in the tourney. FAU is super hot heading into the tourney and is just one of those “nothing to lose” type of sleepers.
If Purdue makes it past the second round, you’re looking at likely Duke or Tennessee. KenPom loves the Vols. Duke has won nine in a row to win the ACC Tournament. Looking ahead, spreads for a Purdue vs. Duke/UT matchup may favor the lower seed on most books. Duke has a few 7-footers who can try and match up with Edey. The Vols have a win over top overall seed Alabama this season.
And even if Purdue makes it past that gauntlet, you’ve got Kentucky, Kansas State and Marquette on the bottom half. It would be very surprising to see Purdue make it to the Final Four, let alone the Elite Eight. For that reason, the Boilermakers feel like the most likely No. 1 seed to bow out early in the tournament.