March Madness bracket 2023: Upset predictions, sleepers, Final Four pick for Midwest Region

Does it matter being “battle hardened”?

It’s something coaches love to talk about — especially at the nation’s power conferences. However, if playing a tough conference schedule really mattered, would it be Gonzaga, who is currently riding a national-best streak of seven straight Sweet 16 appearances? Would the Zags have made it to the NCAA championship game twice in the last five tournaments?

Houston’s non-conference schedule included only three significant Tests: Alabama, Virginia and Saint Mary’s, all of which were named top 5 seeds. The American Athletic Conference produced only one other NCAA tournament team, Memphis, which the Cougars played three times.

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There were three games against eventual mid-major conference champions, including Oral Roberts and Kent State, two of the more dangerous double-figure seeds in the field.

In the remaining games, Houston had plenty of breathing room. We’ll see if they need to play more competitive games to best prepare for what lies ahead in March Madness.

Pan-Regional Team

G—Marcus Sasser, Houston

G—Souley Boum, Xavier

PF – Trayce Jackson-Davis

PG—Jalen Pickett, Penn State

PF—Kris Murray, Iowa

Best First Round Game

No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 Kent State

If you’ve watched Toledo unsuccessfully attempt to contain the Golden Flashes in Saturday night’s MAC Championship game, you’ve realized that anyone unlucky enough to draw Kent State better be prepared to score. Many of them.

This could become a real problem for IU, who has endured at least one significant goal drought in each of their recent games and could pay for it if the Hoosiers struggle to be effective against Kent and star point guard sincere carry.

Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis will be attempting to advance past the first round of the tournament for the first time, and he’s desperate to do so. And when he’s playing for something he wants, he can be one of the most entertaining players in college basketball.

EXPERT PACKAGES: DeCourcy (Alabama) | Bender (Kansas) | Fagan (Marquette) | Pohnl (Kansas)

Seeded too high

#1 Houston

Without a doubt, the Cougars deserved a regional #1, but they were named #2 overall by the selection committee despite playing in a meager American Athletic Conference that produced only one other NCAA tournament team and won just four of six games against the NCAA -Tournament teams.

This was an important decision because it meant Kansas #3 had to be shipped from a region where it could have traveled by bus — heck, it could have almost walked to Kansas City to be in the Sweet 16 and Elite to play eight when it deserved it.

KU played 22 games against opponents from the NCAA tournament field. The committee selected more than half of these teams; they must think they are good. KU won 15 of those games, a percentage of .672.

Houston played nine games against the field and won seven, a .778 percentage.

However, three of Houston’s victories were against double-digit seeds, which yielded automatic bids. Against what analysts call a “big field” — teams that would be in with or without automatic bids — Houston was just 4-2.

Talk about a small sample size.

There is no way that would justify favoritism over a team with KU’s accomplishments. The Jayhawks won eight games against teams placed in the committee’s top six lines. That’s more than Houston has won against any tournament teams.

MORE: Print your 2023 March Madness bracket here


#7 Texas A&M

Maybe it’s the vests? Maybe the selection committee just isn’t into the whole three-part deal that head coach Buzz Williams favors for his sideline. Because this is the second year in a row, the Aggies got a tough deal.

The last year was much worse; They were left out of the field even though 95 percent of the projected brackets had them in the field. This time they were a consensus no. 5 seeds, but somehow ended up here, with a possible second-round match that would reignite a rivalry so famous it made it into the lyrics of the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas musical. Most of the staple storylines happen organically, but since A&M is so far from where it should be, it feels a bit contrived.

Texas A&M was 7-6 against Quad 1; The records for the four teams seeded No. 5 by the committee were 5-6, 5-5, 5-5 and 2-3. The Aggies’ prediction metrics averaged #4, and their outcome metrics also averaged #4.

In fact, this program has made a habit of doing its best work late in the season while avoiding some inexplicable losses. But all games should count, including those played the day before Selection Sunday.

special upset

No. 12 Drake over No. 5 Miami

The Bulldogs are a terrific defensive team that excels at perimeter control, and that’s an integral part of the Hurricanes’ attack. The question is whether Drake’s exceptional D can contain a Miami team with such exceptional ability to attack from dribble.

Drake destroyed each of his three tournament opponents in Missouri Valley by double digits, including a 26-point blowout of regular-season league champion Bradley in the Arch Madness Finals in St. Louis.

Miami big man Norchad Omier injured his ankle in the Canes’ blowout loss to Duke in the ACC semifinals, giving him less than a week to heal. It’s uncertain if that will limit – or remove – him as part of the rotation.

15 against 2 | 14 against 3 | 13 against 4 | 12 against 5

Best Potential Game

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 2 Texas

The Longhorns play few boring games in the NCAA tournament. A year ago, their second-round game against Purdue was a 3-point game with 90 seconds remaining after guard Marcus Carr nailed a 3-point before the Boilers made enough free throws to make it appear as though things would have been manageable.

In 2021, it was the agonizing one-point loss to Abilene Christian in the first round. In 2018 it was an overtime loss to Nevada.

So it seems we’re saying Texas is losing a lot of close NCAA games. But that’s not really the point. It’s just to tell you that the game is likely to be entertaining, especially when Xavier’s dynamic offense comes up against the group that just hung on Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas in ’76.

Xavier has the nation’s No. 9 offense. Texas is No. 18.

Who wouldn’t want some of that?

Best Potential Player Matchup

Jalen Pickett, Penn State vs. Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M

Potential? Bloody hell. Let’s get straight to the point. These two Guardians meet in the first round and couldn’t be more different. In fact, one of Williams’ most important roles this game could be making sure Taylor isn’t the one tasked with defending Pickett while he retreats into the center post.

Pickett is a truly unique player who is at his best with his back to goal and scanning the perimeter for options among the team’s many capable 3-point shooters. Taylor is becoming more and more dynamic on offense, having scored 20 or more points seven times in the last 10 games.

Get to know

Texas A&M guard sophomore Wade Taylor IV

Taylor became a unanimous All-SEC pick just two years after leaving high school at No. 119 in the nation, which says something about his overwhelming confidence as a player.

He was a star at Lancaster High in Dallas and scored over 2,000 points in high school. His 6-0 size might have been a hindrance to a more accurate prospect ranking, but it hasn’t stopped him from standing out as a peer.

It also didn’t stop him from making a damn game. As the Aggies earned a spot in the SEC Tournament title game for the second straight season, Taylor declared it was “just another chance to make history” and hinted that A&M would “win and win another game” on Sunday afternoon .

It didn’t work out that way, but what do you want to bet he’s determined to conquer the Midwest region?

Don’t be surprised if…

Houston is having a hell of a time escaping his second-round game.

No one knows if their second-round opponent will be Iowa or Auburn, but the Hawkeyes have the nation’s No. 3 offense and Auburn has tournament expert Bruce Pearl on the bench. And we don’t know if the Cougars will have full access to Sasser by then.

Without him, Houston looked lost to Memphis. That’s the best word for it. They still have plenty of talent but the confidence that has carried them through the few difficult moments they have endured this season seems to have been replaced by a sense of unease.

It’s pretty obvious they need him to be great. But do they only need it to reach the “very good” level they would need to achieve to win a game in the second round?

sleeper team

No. 13 State of Kent

The Mid-American Conference had three great teams this season: Kent, Toledo, Akron, and it seemed likely that one of them would end up here. The Golden Flashes had to scrape through the other two in the MAC tournament to reach the NCAAs and they were sensational at the tournament played in Cleveland.

In the final, they scored 58 points in the second half of a game that was only a point clear at halftime. They shot 10 of 24 from 3-point range and 55.7 percent overall.

The 13-over-4 excitement isn’t as common as the almost-clichéd 12-over-5, but Indiana will discover the need to take the challenges the Blitzes bring extremely seriously.

Final Four Pick


In a region where the best team is struggling with a serious injury, the third best team is struggling on defense, the fourth best team is inconsistent within games, and the fifth best team is going to have a tough time, the first round, the process , escaping the elimination takes us to Texas.

Winning the Big 12 tournament was like winning a mini NCAA. The Longhorns had to defeat a No. 1 seed, a No. 6 seed and a team that narrowly missed the field in three days. They’ve done this before and then flopped into March Madness. And they have it tough: possibly A&M, Xavier and Houston. That’s no fun at all.

However, it will be for us.

And for the Horns, when they return to the Final Four for the first time in – my goodness, TJ Ford, has it been that long? – 20 years, that will be very funny.

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