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A First Look At The Bracket

Lots of teams, lots of reading to do.

Duke v North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, NC - MARCH 04: Duke Blue Devils guard Tyrese Proctor #5 talks to teammate guard Jeremy Roach #3 during a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels on March 04, 2023 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Duke won 62-57.
Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images

On Sunday, the committee released the brackets for this year’s tournament and in a few days, the whole Game of Thrones mentality will kick in as we see shocking upsets, thrilling comebacks and heroes made.

We always try to keep some principles around to break down the odds for everyone. It evolves but here's our current thinking:

  1. Bet on coaching. Some guys can do it, some can’t.
  2. Bet on guards. No one goes far without good guard play.
  3. Look for experience. Teams that know what to do and have been together for a while have a big advantage.
  4. Only a few teams have a serious chance to win the whole thing.

So here’s our first look at some highlight games. As always and like everyone, we’ll review and revise until the games start.

Alabama is going to be tough to stop but it’s possible that West Virginia could just mug them.

We’re really curious about Charleston but not 100 percent sold yet. Virginia is limited without Ben Vander Plas. We’re not sure how far they can get without him but we’ll see.

Kind of doubt that State will beat Creighton but it’s not impossible.

We know Baylor is not as great as they have been lately but that team fits what we look for.

No idea yet about Missouri and Utah State.

Princeton’s classic system endures but Arizona is very, very good.

Turning to the East, where Duke landed, Purdue looks great but keep this in mind: Matt Painter has been at Purdue for nearly 20 years and has never gotten past the Sweet Sixteen. For that matter, Purdue, which is a great basketball school, has only made the Final Four twice, and not since 1980. They’re really good but they’ve been really good before too, so caveat emptor. Then again, Maryland managed to win a national title so anything is possible.

Memphis really killed Houston but Houston was missing Marcus Sasser, out with an injury. Florida Atlantic is really, really good. This one will take some thought.

We never bet against Duke so Duke over Oral Roberts.

We like Tennessee over Louisiana, but keep in mind that point guard Zakai Zeigler is out with an ACL injury.

Kentucky vs. Providence is really intriguing but we need to know more about PC. We could see Kentucky imploding.

We’ll come back to K-State vs. Montana State.

Michigan State and Southern Cal? We’ll go with Izzo here and Vermont beating Marquette would be amazing but we can’t see it.

Houston is missing Sasser, as we said, and we think Northern Kentucky has been pretty good. Again, some of the smaller teams everyone is going to have to read up on.

Auburn and Iowa should be a lot of fun. Keep in mind that Fran McCaffery is one of those guys who has never had a decent March, never having made it out of the first weekend. Yet Auburn is a bit fraudulent this year. Tough call.

With Norchad Omier, we’d take Miami for sure over Drake. Without? We’ll read up on Drake first.

As of Monday, we’ll take Indiana over Kent State, pending more research.

Pitt is in a play-in game with Mississippi State and we like the Panthers there. The winner gets Iowa State. Right now we’d go with ISU but that’s subject to revision.

Kennesaw State is really intriguing and has a rising star in coach in Amir Abdur-Rahim. Xavier is without Zach Freeman and that will take a toll eventually.

Texas A&M, with former Blue Devil Henry Coleman, gets Penn State. No strong feeling here yet but if the Aggies win, we could see a Texas vs. Texas A&M in the second round.

That assumes Texas beats Colgate, which seems like a reasonable assumption.

In the West, Kenny Blakeney takes his Howard team against Kansas but that won’t work out well.

Arkansas and Illinois have both been all over the place all year. That’s such a weird pairing.

We know VCU has been pretty good but Saint Mary’s is tough. Right now, we’ll take the Gaels.

For the high risk lovers out there, we’d say look at Iona over UConn. UConn is better, to be sure, but Rick Pitino has been down this road before. Nothing he does surprises us one bit.

Bobby Hurley’s Arizona State and Nevada square off for a crack at TCU. In the former, it’s Bobby Hurley vs. Steve Alford and Alford has steadily worked his way down. ASU vs. TCU is interesting but it’d be hard to take out TCU. Keep in mind though that those games are in Denver and altitude could be an issue. That would clearly favor Nevada, as Reno’s elevation is 4,505 compared to 5,280 for Denver.

Gonzaga is getting in gear and while Grand Canyon has built a solid program, we’re not sure they can pull this off.

We mentioned Boise State a few weeks ago as someone you should keep an eye on. They’ll be playing Chris Collins’ Northwestern team. We like the Wildcats as of now.

Finally, Asheville gets UCLA and in Sacramento. That would be a stunner if Asheville could pull it off, but the bet here is that they can’t.

That’s what we see now. It’ll change as we get closer.