Three days. Just three days separates us from Selection Sunday, where the full 68-team field for the 2023 NCAA Tournament will finally be set. College basketball conference tournaments are taking place all over the country as we speak and from now until Sunday, some tourney dreams will be realized while others will be dashed.
Analysts are regularly updating their projected field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament and going over where the top programs will end up come mid-March. Today, we’ll take a look at the latest brackets of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, CBS’ Jerry Palm, Blogging the Bracket’s Chris Dobbertean, and the USA Today team of Eddie Timanus, Paul Myerberg, and Erick Smith to see what they are projecting as we barrel towards Sunday.
No. 1 seeds
As has been the case for most of the year, Alabama, Houston, and Kansas are locks for one-seeds in the eyes of bracket experts heading into this critical weekend. All of them are current betting favorites to win their respective tournaments at DraftKings Sportsbook and how they perform will determine who gets the No. 1 overall seed in the big dance. It should once again be noted that Kansas leads the nation in Quad 1 victories at 15. The Jayhawks have the chance to pick up a few more victories to bolster its case should it cut down the nets in the Big 12 tourney.
The fourth No. 1 seed is up for debate as Palm and Dobbertean has Purdue occupying the final spot while Lunardi and the USA Today crew has UCLA slotted in. At one point in the regular season, Purdue looked like it was barreling towards the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. However, a late-season stretch where the Boilermakers lost four of six contests damaged their claim to that achievement. Meanwhile, UCLA handled its business in what was a down Pac-12 this season. The metrics back up the Bruins’ claim to a one-seed as they are a top-four squad in both KenPom and NET rankings.
The time of judgement has come for several bubble teams and like a student cramming for their final exams, they can ill afford a bad performance at this time of the year.
As of right now, North Carolina is out of NCAA Tournament field in the eyes of the bracket experts and that would make it the first AP preseason No. 1 team to miss the tourney. The Tar Heels squandered numerous opportunities to pick up quality victories in a down ACC and ended the regular season with just one Quad 1 victories on their resume. That means Hubert Davis’ crew would have to outright win the league tournament in Greensboro, NC, this weekend to steal the league’s automatic bid. UNC advanced in the ACC tourney with a blowout victory over Boston College on Wednesday and has a tough quarterfinal matchup against Virginia on Thursday.
Other high profile power league-teams currently on the outs with bracket experts include Arizona State and Clemson. The Sun Devils were inconsistent in a down Pac-12 this year and needs a surprise run through the league tournament in Las Vegas to have a shot. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ regular season resume was unimpressive and that’s even with them sitting atop the ACC standings for much of January. Michigan is another power program who needs a strong showing in the conference tourney this weekend to receive consideration for the big dance. However, Palm is the holdout who has the Wolverines sneaking into his field of 68.
If you’re a fan of either Mississippi State or Penn State, don’t fret, you’re most likely in according to the experts. The Bulldogs were able to grab their fourth Quad 1 victory in a late-season win over Texas A&M a few weeks back and a victory or two in the SEC Tournament would put to bed any doubts of them making it. The Nittany Lions should also feel confident as they held their own in the battle royal that was the Big Ten and finished the season with five Quad 1 victories. A victory or two in the Big Ten tourney should also stamp them for a ticket to the big dance.
Oklahoma State teeters in the middle as Palm and the USA Today crew has the Cowboys missing the cut while Lunardi and Dobbertean has them in the field. With an 18-14 record, heading into the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, their chances will most likely come down to how much the committee credits them for surviving the toughest conference in the nation.
Projected bids per conference
ACC - 5 (Dobbertean, Lunardi, Palm, USA Today)
Big East - 5 (Dobbertean, Lunardi, Palm, USA Today)
Big Ten - 10 (USA Today), 9 (Dobbertean, Lunardi, Palm)
Big 12 - 8 (Lunardi, Dobbertean), 7 (Palm, USA Today)
Pac-12 - 3 (Dobbertean, Lunardi, Palm, USA Today)
SEC - 8 (Dobbertean, Lunardi, Palm, USA Today)
AAC - 2 (Dobbertean, Lunardi, Palm, USA Today)
MWC - 4 (Palm) 3 (Dobbertean, Lunardi, USA Today)
WCC - 2 (Dobbertean, Lunardi, Palm, USA Today)