March Madness has arrived, and it is glorious.
For the time being, the brackets are pristine. That, of course, will change in a matter of days. But at the moment, your brackets are filled with hope and promise.
A weird, wonderful basketball season will reach its crescendo in the coming weeks. And to help you keep your brackets intact—and to tap into the excitement that makes this time so unique—we’re here to offer up bracket predictions and make March Madness picks.
We have a lot to get to and not much to get to it all. Here is our March Madness primer.
March Madness Expert Bracket Picks
Here is my filled-out 2023 NCAA Tournament bracket:
Please note that all CBB odds and March Madness lines are current as of Monday, March 13, at 8 a.m. ET, and courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Easiest Final Four Path: Arizona
I absolutely love how this team finished off the season, winning the Pac-12. It also feels like Arizona, the 2-seed in the South, should be able to get it done. Conquering Alabama, the No. 1 seed in the South, will be no small feat, but I love the way the Wildcats match up against the rest of these teams, including 3-seed Baylor.
Creighton could be feisty. So could San Diego State. But the path to the Final Four for a team with plenty of momentum feels strong.
Toughest Final Four Path: Kansas
The Jayhawks are the No. 1 seed in the West, although the path to the Final Four is full of landmines.
Kansas certainly has the talent necessary to overcome the draw, but it will not come easy. UCLA (No. 2), Gonzaga (No. 3), UConn (No. 4), St. Mary’s (No.5) and TCU (No. 6) will all be a threat. And outside of the opening game, the Jayhawks are likely to be challenged throughout.
Strongest Upset Pick: No. 13 Furman Over No. 4 Virginia
We head to the South Region for a delightful little 13-4 matchup.
Virginia is seasoned, although their offensive woes make this a fascinating game on a few fronts. Furman, meanwhile, is eighth in the nation in points per game, and they have won 14 of their last 15 games.
This team can score, and a strong shooting performance could put Virginia in a hole very early on.
Why Arizona Will Defeat Texas for the NCAA Tournament Championship
Momentum is real and needed, and both Arizona and Texas, winners of their conferences, have plenty of it.
The fact that both teams had to deal with elite competition down the stretch will be a boost heading into the tournament. Ultimately, the Wildcats ride a strong end of the year and their big men to another national championship.
Arizona to Win National Championship (+1600) | DraftKings Sportsbook
The pick is in, and we’re backing Arizona. At 16-to-1, the Wildcats offer some really solid value as an incredibly talented team.
I’m also putting a sprinkle on Texas to win the NCAA Tournament:
Texas to Win National Championship (+1400) | DraftKings Sportsbook
Although the Longhorns are my runner-up team, I still love the value at 14-to-1. Having closed out the year with four consecutive wins over quality teams, Texas is capable of a deep tournament run.
Now, I’ve invited my colleagues to contribute to these NCAA Tournament 2023 predictions.
March Madness Predictions
NCAA Tournament Winner
The Wildcats can do it all. They are battle-tested, with two wins over UCLA, a victory against Tennessee, plus neutral-site successes against Indiana, Creighton, and San Diego State.
Arizona can score, boasting the fifth-best offense (82.7 ppg) in the country thanks to leading scorer, junior forward Ąžuolas Tubelis (19.8 ppg). The Wildcats also finished ninth in the nation in rebounding (39.4 per game), due to Tubelis (9.3 per game) and center Oumar Ballo (14.2ppg, 8.2 rebounds).
Perhaps most importantly, they can grind out low-scoring wins if necessary. The Wildcats went 2-1 against Pac-12 regular-season champion UCLA and averaged 64 points per game in those three contests — actually scoring the most in their 82-73 loss at Pauley Pavilion on March 4. - Pat Pickens. Adam Kramer agrees.
Bill Self is back after being unable to coach in the Big 12 Tournament, and I quite like his team’s path to repeating as NCAA champions. - Garrett Chorpenning
The Bruins have the best defense in the country, according to KenPom. They also have experience, with Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell each playing on the 2021 team that went to the Final Four. UCLA has the pieces in place to cut down the nets. - Frank Ammirante.
NCAA Final Four Team Predictions
Marquette - Frank Ammirante
Kansas State: K-State earned high marks in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season, and their duo of Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell is among the most dangerous in the field. - Garrett Chorpenning. Adam Kramer agrees.
Purdue - Pat Pickens
Kansas: I picked them to win the NCAA Touranment. - Garrett Chorpenning
UCLA - Frank Ammirante & Adam Kramer
Gonzaga: The Zags are perhaps the most dangerous team in the tournament, since they are still extremely talented and, unlike 2022, there are almost no expectations this season.
Senior Drew Timme spearheads a roster that led the country in points per game (87.5) and also is battle tested, thanks largely to the highly competitive West Coast Conference. Plus, they defeated Alabama in a “neutral-site” game that actually was played in front of a highly pro-Bama crowd in Birmingham. — Pat Pickens
Houston - Frank Ammirante
Miami - Pat Pickens
Texas: The Longhorns are a fascinating team peaking at just the right moment. Texas should match up well in the Midwest, where it will likely be asked to power past teams like Houston and Xavier. They feel more than capable of doing so. - Adam Kramer
Texas A&M: The Aggies were red-hot down the stretch of the regular season and picked up a big win over No. 1 overall seed Alabama in the process. - Garrett Chorpenning
Alabama: They’ll likely have to get through a tough Arizona team to reach this spot, but the Crimson Tide have as impressive a résumé as you’ll find in the field. - Garrett Chorpenning
Arizona: If I’m picking them to win, I’m picking them to reach the Final Four. - Adam Kramer & Pat Pickens
Baylor: The Bears have an excellent backcourt, led by LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler, two players who have tournament experience. Baylor ranks second in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, per KenPom. While this squad isn’t as good as the 2021 Bears team that won the national championship, it could go deep due to its prolific offense. - Frank Ammirante
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NCAA Tournament Best Cinderella Team
The ingredients are in place for a run. If Furman gets past Virginia, it will play either San Diego State or Charleston. Eventually, it would have to match up against Alabama, which will not be easy.
Still, there is a ton to like about a 13-seed that can really score. - Adam Kramer
The Golden Flashes lost by single digits on the road to Houston and Gonzaga this season, which suggests that they have what it takes — particularly on defense — to cause some chaos. - Garrett Chorpenning
The seventh-seeded Aggies would be considered a Cinderella if they advanced to the Sweet 16 because that would mean they likely had to upset No. 2 seed Texas. Texas A&M has wins against top-seeded Alabama and No. 4 seed Tennessee under their belt in SEC play. They’re a balanced team that ranks in the top 40 on both offense and defense, per KenPom. - Frank Ammirante
The Golden Eagles wore the glass slipper in 2021 as the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 since Florida Gulf Coast did so in 2013. After a year’s absence, Oral Roberts is back in the tourney and even more talented, according to ESPN’s Jay Bilas, in 2023.
The Golden Eagles (30-4) went undefeated in Summit League play and will take the nation’s longest active win streak (17) into its opening-round game against Duke, which only adds to its Cinderella credentials. - Pat Pickens
NCAA Tournament Early Upset Losing Team
The Cougars sailed along through the AAC in the regular season, but looked lost in the conference final without leading scorer and first-team All-American Marcus Sasser, who is nursing a groin injury.
Sasser’s injury shouldn’t deter the Cougars from winning their first-round game against Northern Kentucky. However, it could be problematic in the second round if Sasser is limited, especially in a potential matchup against No. 9 Auburn in Birmingham, where the crowd could be demonstrably pro-Tigers. - Pat Pickens
There’s a lot to like about this group, and a dominant Zach Edey could propel the Boilermakers forward. But with Duke blazing hot and the winner of Memphis/FAU waiting, it could be a short run for Purdue.
The team has talent, without question. But the draw is not favorable. - Adam Kramer
The Longhorns could have a tough early-round matchup with Texas A&M, which is as good a No. 7 seed as you’ll ever find in the NCAA Tournament. - Garrett Chorpenning
The No. 3 seed Wildcats come into the tournament on the heels of consecutive double-digit losses to TCU and West Virginia. They’re 25th overall on Pomeroy’s rankings, making them the weakest three seed in the tournament. I have them losing to No. 6 Kentucky in the second round. - Frank Ammirante
NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player
Ąžuolas Tubelis, PF, Arizona
The Arizona junior is capable of dropping 40 on any given night, which he has done this year. And although he didn’t have a fabulous game against UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship, that won’t be the case moving forward.
Fellow Arizona big man Oumar Ballo was also in consideration for this honor, although we’re sticking with Tubelis. The Wildcats’ bigs are poised to have a massive impact on this tournament. - Adam Kramer
If you’re picking Arizona, there’s no real other choice. Tubelis does it all for the Wildcats and will need to lead his team for six more games through the South Region and Final Four to cut down the nets.
Other role players will make an impact, and Ballo could steal it if he averages a double-double per game over the tournament, but this is the pick if you’re betting Arizona. - Pat Pickens
Jalen Wilson, F, Kansas
Wilson’s performance in last year’s tourney was vital to the Jayhawks’ success, and after averaging career-high marks in points and rebounds this season, he could really shine in the Big Dance. - Garrett Chorpenning
Marcus Sasser, G, Houston
Houston is favored to win the national championship this season. Sasser is their best player, leading the team with 17.1 points per game this year. This award goes to a player on the winning team, so we’ll play it more conservatively by choosing the top scorer on the pre-tourney favorite. - Frank Ammirante
After filling out your bracket, keep up with the latest March Madness game odds:
Selection Sunday Bracketology Format
How NCAA Tournament Seeding Works
Once the 68 teams are decided, they begin to tediously seed each team from No. 1 - No. 68.
The committee does not have a set-in-stone algorithm or formula in its seeding, making it more of an art rather than a science. The committee will use a wide variety of factors including:
- Overall and Conference Record
- Box Scores
- Head-to-Head and Common Opponent Results
- Strength of Schedule
- Player and Coach Availability (Injuries, Suspensions, etc.)
- Computer Metrics (NET, RPI, KenPom, and more)
🖥️ Check out Kevin Davis’ March Madness simulation for insight on how to use computer metrics to make your bracket picks.
In 2018, the NCAA sought to improve its tournament selection process. It landed on the NET rankings, an algorithm that combines the key factors of the selection committee into one ranking.
It ranks teams based on an algorithm — the exact metrics used are unknown but the two main data points used are:
- Team Value Index — a model based on game results, the strength of an opponent, and the location of the game.
- Net Offensive and Defensive Efficiency
Every D1 college basketball team — from No. 1 - No. 363 — is ranked in order. The rankings are then used in both the at-large selection and seeding process.
Although the NET is both a predictive and reactive model, it will often vary heavily from the CBB National Championship odds.
NET rankings are not the end-all-be-all for seeding and deciding who’s in and who’s out, but it has been a great tool for the committee in its first four years.
All teams are arranged in four quadrants and receive wins and losses based on their opponents’ NET ranking and where the game is played:
- Quadrant 1: Home games against teams ranked 1-30, neutral games vs top-50 teams, road games against top-75 teams
- Quadrant 2: Home games against teams ranked 31-75, neutral games vs 51-100, road games vs 76-135
- Quadrant 3: Home games against teams ranked 76-160, neutral games vs 101-200, road games vs 136-240
- Quadrant 4: Home games against teams ranked 161-351, neutral games vs 201-351, road games vs 241-363
It is important to note that Quadrant records are fluid until the end of the Conference Tournaments and do not account for when the game is played, meaning No. 1 - No. 30 are the same value.
A Quadrant 2 win can become a Quadrant 1 win if that team goes on a winning streak, or a Quadrant 3 loss can become a Quadrant 4 loss if a team starts to struggle.