March Madness predictions 2023: Ryan Fagan’s expert NCAA Tournament bracket picks

The beauty of March Madness Cinderella’s most breathtaking moments and runs is how they come out of nowhere. It’s the shock that intoxicates.

Like last year at St. Peter? Even now it’s hard to believe that happened. And UMBC as the 16th seed over Virginia not long ago – I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to have that one spot – still boggles the mind.

So I’m crossing my fingers for everyone for another shocking moment or two, but looking at this year’s bracket I’m just not sure if that’s going to happen. Oh, there will be excitement and there will be buzzers and unforgettable moments. But a 14 or 15 seed in the Sweet 16?

I just don’t see it, although I’d love to be wrong. And luckily for fans of NCAA tournament chaos, I’m often wrong.

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March Madness Bracket Predictions 2023

Selection from the South region


1 Alabama over 16 Southeast Missouri State
8 Maryland over 9 West Virginia
12 Charleston over 5 State of San Diego
4 Virginia over 13 Furman
6 Creighton over 11 NC State
3 Baylor over 14 UC Santa Barbara
7 Missouri over 10 State of Utah
2 Arizona over 15 Princeton


1 Alabama over 8 Maryland
12 Charleston over 4 Virginia
6 Creighton via 3 Baylor
2 Arizona over 7 Missouri


1 Alabama over 12 Charleston
2 Arizona over 6 Creighton


1 Alabama over 2 Arizona

The best game of this whole region? This is the potential second-round matchup of 2-seed Arizona and 7-seed Mizzou. When the Tigers hit from the outside — five players have hit at least 30 and two others have hit at least 15 — they can beat just about anyone in the country (except for Alabama or Kansas). Wouldn’t be shocked to see her in the Elite Eight. But while “making a lot of 3-pointers” is a great way to pull off an upset like hitting a 2-seeded position, it’s difficult to use to predict an elite eight-run, you know?

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Pat Kelsey’s Charleston team is tough. I immediately inked this Sweet 16 pick. However, Alabama is too damn tough to let them go any deeper.

The Southern Games played in Denver are… uninspiring.

PRINTABLE: Download a blank March Madness bracket here

Selection from the East region


1 Purdue over 16 Texas Southern
8 Memphis via 9 Florida Atlantic
12 Oral Roberts over 5 Duke
13. Louisiana via 4 Tennessee
11 Providence over 6 Kentucky
3 state of Kansas over 14 state of Montana
7 Michigan State over 10 USC
2 Marquette over 15 Vermont


1 Purdue over 8 Memphis
12 verbal Roberts over 13 Louisiana
3 State of Kansas via 11 Providence
2 Marquette over 7 Michigan State


1 Purdue over 12 Oral Roberts
2 Marquette over 3 Kansas State


2 Marquette via Purdue

I love what Oral Roberts has and there’s something to be said for a team that does nothing but win all season, especially in conference games and tricky street atmospheres. However, their draw gives them the toughest (in my opinion) of the #5 seeds. The winner of the Duke ORU game goes to the Sweet 16.

Tennessee is way, way strewn with 4.

Memphis is tough and this 1v8 game with Purdue should be fun, but if Zach Edey doesn’t get hurt or get into bad trouble, Purdue will keep going.

Shaka Smart’s Marquette team plays at an unreal level. I would want nothing to do with them. I expect them to cross into the Elite Eight.

Middle West


1 Houston over 16 Northern Kentucky
9 Maroon over 8 Iowa
5 Miami over 12 Drake
4 Indiana over 13 Kent State
11 Pitt over 6 states of Iowa
3 Xavier over 14 state of Kennesaw
7 Texas A&M over 10 Penn State
2 Texas over 15 Colgate

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1 Houston over 9 Auburn
4 Indiana over 5 Miami
3 Xavier over 11 Pitt
2 Texas over 7 Texas A&M


4 Indiana over 1 Houston
2 Texas over 3 Xavier


2 Texas over 4 Indiana

What is the status of Marcus Sasser? That’s the million dollar question. I love the experience and continuity Houston has — nine of the Cougars’ top-10 scorers are homegrown (they played their freshman year in Houston) — and if a team can weather the loss of a player as special as Sasser, it is it the this Houston team. I know this sounds weird, but if the Cougars get through the Sweet 16, I would expect them to win the Elite Eight no matter who they play.

Speaking of the Sweet 16… which Indiana roster will we see? If it’s the version where Jalen Hood-Schifino and Trayce Jackson-Davis both play like the best players on the team — there’s been a lot going on lately — then this is an IU team that could run deep. The opportunity is here. But what if that doesn’t happen? Kent State could be tough.

I’m not sold to Iowa State, which gives Pitt – not expecting the Panthers in the play-in game – a chance to win a few games.

Xavier is tough.

West region


1 Kansas over 16 Howard
8 Arkansas over 9 Illinois
12 VCU over 5 Saint Mary’s
4UConn over 13Iona
6 TCU over 11 states of Arizona
3 Gonzaga over 14 Grand Canyon
10 Boise State over 7 Northwest
2 UCLA over 15 Asheville


1 Kansas over 8 Arkansas
4 UConn over 12 VCU
3 Gonzaga over 6 TCU
2 UCLA over 10 Boise State

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1 Kansas over 4 UConn
3 Gonzaga over 2 UCLA


1 Kansas over 2 UCLA

It wasn’t long ago that I had UCLA set as the sleeper for a national champion depending on how the brackets — and matchups — were looking. But yeah, the end of the season was just brutal for a Bruins team that’s still going strong. I mean losing a guy like Jaylen Clark and possibly the big man Adem Bona too? It’s just not fair. Too many good teams in this bracket to pick.

Maybe this is the year Gonzaga gets it together? The Zags have had a few hiccups along the way, but it’s an experienced squad that could perhaps play better in the underdog role.

As far as surprises in this area go, I obviously like VCU more than Saint Mary’s, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Commodores hit the Sweet 16. They’ll be a handful for UConn, and that’s when UConn gets past Iona.

Everyone will be focused on Rick Pitino but this is one hell of a talented Gaels team and they will give the Huskies everything they can.

The 10-7 games aren’t exactly “exciting,” but I like Boise versus Northwestern.

The last four picks

2 Marquettes over 1 Alabama
2 Texas over 1 Kansas

2 Marquette over 2 Texas

I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to pick a National Championship game between Shaka Smart’s current team and his former team. I didn’t even think about it until I went through the brackets and thought, “Huh, this is fun.”

Each of these four teams in the Final Four is very capable of winning, as is the team (Purdue) I’m losing to Marquette in the Elite Eight.

Buckle up folks. It will be fun.

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