NCAA Tournament bracket 2023: The best team on each of the Nos. 1-16 seed lines in March Madness
The first slate of First Four games in the 2023 NCAA Tournament has already come and gone, but for many playing bracket games, there's still time to change your picks before the ball is tipped in the First Round on Thursday. We've shared our expert brackets, ranked the games by watchability and broken down all four regions with in-depth analysis including players to watch and potential upsets.
Now we turn our attention to the entire field of 68, looking to identify the best team on all 16 seed lines.
The selection committee has already made its opinion on the matter clear, releasing its 1-68 seed list that lines up with the bracket. CBS Sports' Matt Norlander has also offered his 1-68 ranking, which you could use to reach a similar conclusion. For this exercise, we aren't going to lean quite as heavily on resume or NCAA Tournament profile like the committee does, but instead try to sort these teams based on the strength of the roster that's taking the court this week. It's not the most likely to win a game or go far in the tournament, but more of a power ranking of the four (or six) teams against each other on every seed line.
Running this exercise delivered some interesting region-by-region results, such as the West Region, perceived to be the toughest in the bracket, turning up with only three teams selected, tied with the East Region for the least top teams per seed line. Now that number does include the best No. 3 (Gonzaga), the best No. 4 (UConn) and the second-best No. 2 with a decent argument that if fully healthy UCLA would be the top 2-seed as the committee has them ranked.
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The Midwest Region stood out with six of the 16 teams picked coming from that upper right corner of the bracket with some strength in the middle of the bracket that includes the top No. 7, No. 10 and No. 13. Unfortunately for both Texas A&M and Penn State, those teams are paired against each other in what's quite clearly one of the most intriguing games in the opening round.
Here's a look at our picks for the best team on each seed line in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
Top team — Howard, West Region: Kenny Blakeney did a great job with this team, going undefeated at home in conference play and narrowly edging out NC Central for the regular-season championship before following it up with a conference tournament title to secure the MEAC's auto-bid. The Bison play fast, have a deep rotation and challenged themselves in the nonconference with games against tournament teams Kentucky and VCU.
Top team — Colgate, Midwest Region: The No. 1 3-point shooting team in the country is always going to attract some attention, and with four straight appearances in the last four NCAA Tournaments, the Raiders are a familiar name to March Madness fans. Colgate's 40.9% mark from 3-point land is the best in the country, but the offense also gets high-quality looks inside the arc (57.1% on 2-pointers, No. 7 in the country) and cleaned up on the defensive glass in conference play.
Top team — UC Santa Barbara, South Region: The Gauchos play at a snail's pace but make the most of their possessions, ranking first in the Big West in offensive efficiency and in conference play. That pace and efficiency nearly sparked an upset two years ago in the NCAA Tournament as UCSB lost to Creighton by one point as a 12-seed in the first round. Given Baylor's recent struggles, we could have an upset alert on our hands in the South Region.
Top team — Kent State, Midwest Region: I'm in line with the committee on this decision; the Golden Flashes were excellent in MAC play (15-3) and performed admirably in their most challenging nonconference games. Between Nov. 23 and Dec. 5, Kent State lost to Charleston by two points, to Houston by five points and to Gonzaga by seven points, all on the road, while squeezing a 15-point home win against a solid South Dakota State program in that run. Rob Senderoff's team is undersized but makes up for it with disciplined defense and high-level guard play from Sincere Carry.
Top team — Charleston, South Region: A blistering pace, a ton of 3-point attempts and 31 wins on the season have made Charleston an easy pick among an admittedly strong collection of 12-seeds. Charleston took two of its three losses in back-to-back fashion in early February before hitting the gas down the stretch, averaging 88.9 points per game over its final six games of the regular season.
Top team — NC State, South Region: The NCAA Tournament profile, both computer numbers and resume rankings, had the Wolfpack somewhere between the No. 40 and No. 50 team in the country. The Chip Patterson Fun Factor (CPFF) was way higher than that because Kevin Keatts' team was electric this season. The guard combo of Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner was one of the best in the ACC and the Wolfpack have a big man in DJ Burns who has the potential to be the most impactful player on the floor.
Top team — Penn State, Midwest Region: The Nittany Lions have won eight of their last 10 and just stormed back from a double-digit second half deficit to nearly take down Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament title game. The hot streak was powered by being one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country (38.5% ranks No. 9 nationally) and having a senior point guard in Jalen Pickett that can orchestrate the offense to make sure they get a good look from behind the arc. Six of those eight wins in this streak have come against tournament teams, making Penn State a potential problem in the bottom of the Midwest Region.
Top team — FAU, East Region: Catching the 9-seed has to come with some disappointment for FAU fans hoping for a run to the second weekend, a feeling that's exacerbated by drawing a Memphis team that I have as the top No. 8 seed in the First Round. The Owls are 31-3, won the regular season and conference tournament championships in Conference USA and rank No. 22 at KenPom, one spot behind 5-seed Duke and two spots ahead of 6-seed Iowa State. FAU wears down its opponents with its depth; nine players are averaging at least 15 minutes per game and six players are averaging between seven and 14 points per game.
Top team — Memphis, East Region: At peak performance, Arkansas is probably the best 8-seed, and if Maryland and Iowa got to play NCAA Tournament games on their home court, we'd have to entertain either candidacy. But the top team on the 8-line is the one that just defeated Houston in the American Athletic Conference title game. Memphis consistently gets outstanding play from its veteran duo of point guard Kendric Davis and big man DeAndre Williams, and the Tigers flashed their potential early by playing No. 1 overall seed Alabama down to the wire in a 91-88 thriller in Tuscaloosa.
Top team — Texas A&M, Midwest Region: I agree with Texas A&M fans that this seeding is a poor representation of the team that Buzz Williams is guiding into the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies have been one of the most efficient teams not just in the SEC but in the entire country since Jan. 1. The problem is the committee considers the entire season in its seeding and the season did not start on Jan. 1. Still, you just have to look at the wins against Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and a sweep of Missouri to know the Aggies are a threat to any opponent in the field.
Top team — Creighton, South Region: The Bluejays picked up some losses during the absence of star big man Ryan Kalkbrenner, but there have also been a couple head-scratching losses with him in the lineup as well. Still, Creighton anywhere close to peak efficiency plays so much better than a 6-seed. The versatile manner of scoring with this team is particularly dangerous with Trey Alexander able to score at all three levels, Baylor Scheierman serving as a knock-down 3-point threat and Kalkbrenner imposing his will down low. The team also elevated its level of play defensively in the second half of the season, ranking No. 1 in the Big East in defensive efficiency during conference play.
Top team — Duke, East Region: Carrying a nine-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament has made the Blue Devils a bit trendy when looking for teams outside the top seeds to make a deep run, and I'm right there with the masses predicting an extended stay in the Big Dance. Jon Scheyer's team has gotten healthier, its blue-chip freshmen have matured into their roles and the team has been playing really well on the defensive end. Playing your best basketball of the season heading into the tournament is always a good thing, but when you are doing that and your roster is loaded with five-star talent, it sets up for the potential of something special.
Top team — UConn, West Region: The power rankings and efficiency ratings love UConn as KenPom has the Huskies at No. 4 and BartTorvik has them at No. 5 in the entire country, a far cry from the ranking suggested by this seed. But I'm not leaning in favor of UConn just because of the computers, rather because there's a higher offensive ceiling than what we're going to get from Tennessee or Virginia and a little bit more consistency than what we saw from Indiana. UConn has great size, a versatility to its offense in terms of the different scorers who can step up and make a bucket and great coaching with Dan Hurley pushing the buttons. Of all the 4-seed teams, this is the only one I can envision making the Final Four.
Top team — Gonzaga, West Region: Similar to the 4-seed line, I reached this conclusion through process of elimination. Baylor and Kansas State have both hit some speed bumps coming down the stretch, and while Xavier has an extremely high ceiling, it's also turned in some clunkers against lesser opponents. Gonzaga, on the other hand, has been arguably the best team in the country over the past six weeks and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 19. Drew Timme has been a man on a mission and the rest of the lineup has fallen into place while taking the offense to a new gear. Gonzaga, like West Region counterpart UConn, is the only team on this line I could see making it to Houston for the Final Four.
Top team — Texas, Midwest Region: As mentioned in the introduction, a fully healthy UCLA is not only the top 2-seed but competing with Purdue for the final 1-seed. But without Jaylen Clark, UCLA's best defensive player and second-leading scorer, the Bruins have to be downgraded slightly. And that adjustment opens the door for Texas, who just beat Kansas twice in an eight-day span and rolled through the Big 12 Tournament with its deep rotation and tenacious defense. Rodney Terry has done a great job getting this team to stick together through turmoil, and that experience when the Longhorns are faced with the adversity that comes with a deep tournament run.
Top team — Alabama, South Region: Heading into Selection Sunday, I made the argument that Houston should be the No. 1 overall seed in the field because the only misstep for the Cougars throughout a 33-game campaign was one Sunday evening visit from Temple. The rest of it -- 31 wins and a six-point loss to Alabama -- was nearly flawless. Then Houston lost in the American Athletic Conference title game to Memphis. That coupled with the evidence we now have for the impact of Marcus Sasser's injury has me reversing my decision and siding with the committee. In following the SEC regular-season championship with an SEC Tournament run of three double-digit wins, the Crimson Tide have pulled ahead from their 1-seed counterparts.