The conference tournaments are behind us, and all eyes are now on the 64 teams – 68 teams if you count the First Four – that will be battling it out in March to see who is crowned the 2023 NCAA Men’s College Basketball champion. Our preview and ticket links for the East & Midwest regions can be found here, but this post will look at the South & West sides of the bracket.
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It would be rude to start a look at the South Retion with anyone other than Alabama. The Crimson Tide is the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, and they are in excellent form, having romped their way through the SEC Tournament. They beat Mississippi State by 23, Mizzou by 11, and crushed Texas A&M by 19 in Nashville to cement their expected place on the No. 1 line. They start their title charge playing Thursday/Saturday in Birmingham (home state) against a First Four qualifier.
The Crimson Tide will have to take down some defensively focused teams to make it to the Sweet 16 in Louisville. Virginia can stifle a team defensively, but their 2018 loss as a No. 1 seed to No. 16 seed UMBC (the only time this has ever happened) shows that they can find it hard to work their way out of an offensive funk. San Diego State is another veteran team at the tournament level, while both Baylor and NC State can score in bunches. No. 2 seed Arizona is a dangerous squad that peaked at No. 4 in the polls after winning 14 of 15 to start the season.
Kansas is looking to go back to back after winning the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Repeating has proven to be almost impossible in a sport that shows such parity – and such player turnover – year on year, with the most recent team to achieve this feat being the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007 when Joakim Noah was dominating the paint.
The Jayhawks begin their quest in Des Moines, while their Sweet 16 home would be at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. They only returned two starters, but home-state phenom Grady Dick has grown as the season has gone on into one of the most dangerous players in the sport.
No. 2 seed UCLA is a dangerous squad, though losing their best defensive player (and second-leading scorer), Jaylen Clark, for the rest of the season is a massive blow. No. 3 seed Gonzaga has Drew Timme in his 18th season of eligibility, and maybe the Bulldogs will thrive as an underdog from the three line instead of with the pressure of being a No. 1 seed this year. Also, watch out for St. Mary’s on the No. 5 line, an outstanding defensive team that shared the WCC title with the Zags this go around.