Men’s NCAA Tournament 2023: Buying or Selling Top Contenders

Men’s NCAA Tournament 2023: Buying or Selling Top Contenders

Joel ReuterMarch 14, 2023


Men’s NCAA Tournament 2023: Buying or Selling Top Contenders

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    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 12: Nick Pringle #23, Noah Gurley #4, and Rylan Griffen #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrate the win against the Texas A&M Aggies during the 2023 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament Championship game at Bridgestone Arena on March 12, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images)

    Carly Mackler/Getty Images

    Now that the 2023 NCAA men’s tournament bracket is set, it’s time to start digging into this year’s top contenders for the national championship.

    An underdog could always emerge from the field, and plenty of words will be dedicated to Cinderella picks and teams on upset alert in the days to come. But for now, we’re focused on the 10 best teams in this year’s tournament, based on the full 68-team seed list released by the selection committee following the bracket announcement.

    Each team’s strengths and weaknesses, current momentum based on recent performance and path through the bracket were taken into account before an ultimate determination of buy or sell was made on its chances of winning it all this year.

    Let’s dive right in.

    Teams listed alphabetically.

    Make your picks: Play the NCAA March Madness Men’s Bracket Challenge and Tournament Run.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Brandon Miller

    Brandon MillerAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 1

    The Alabama Crimson Tide secured the top overall spot on the seeding list by taking care of business in the SEC tournament, rattling off convincing wins against tournament-bound teams in Mississippi State (72-49), Missouri (72-61) and Texas A&M (82-63).

    Freshman Brandon Miller has been the focal point of the offense all season, averaging 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds while knocking down 40.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

    Mark Sears (12.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG) and Noah Clowney (10.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG) provide secondary scoring, while SEC Sixth Man of the Year Jahvon Quinerly (8.1 PPG, 3.8 APG) is a terrific floor general.

    The Crimson Tide also rank third in KenPom‘s adjusted defensive efficiency, and they lead the nation with 44.4 rebounds per game.

    Their well-rounded roster makes them one of the clear favorites to win it all this year.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

Arizona Wildcats

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    Ąžuolas Tubelis

    Ąžuolas TubelisEthan Miller/Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 7

    The good: The Arizona Wildcats had a 9-2 record in Quad 1 games, including two wins against Pac-12 rival UCLA, a home win over Tennessee, and neutral-site victories over San Diego State, Creighton and Indiana.

    The bad: The Wildcats had four Quad 2 losses, and four of their six losses on the season were against teams that missed the NCAA tournament.

    They went just 3-5 in games when they allowed more than 80 points, so while they have one of the best offenses in the country, the key to their success will be holding their own on the defensive end of the floor.

    From a matchup standpoint, 6’11” Ąžuolas Tubelis (19.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG) and 7’0″ Oumar Ballo (14.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG) can be a tough draw for undersized teams, and they limit opponents to just 45.9 percent shooting on two-point attempts thanks in large part to their size advantage.

    This might be the most inconsistent second seed in the field, but it would be foolish to say they are not a legitimate title contender if everything is clicking and they are engaged on the defensive end.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

Baylor Bears

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    Keyonte George

    Keyonte GeorgeMatthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 9

    The Baylor Bears are not playing their best basketball right now.

    They have gone just 2-4 in their last six games, including a 78-72 loss to Iowa State in opening-round action of the Big 12 tournament, and this is simply not the same defensive team we’ve seen in recent years.

    They enter the NCAA tournament ranked outside the top 100 nationally in KenPom‘s adjusted defensive efficiency, and that’s a tough red flag to overlook when it comes time to fill out your bracket.

    The offense is still potent, led by freshman star Keyonte George (15.8 PPG), Adam Flagler (15.5 PPG) and LJ Cryer (14.5 PPG), and they shoot 37.2 percent from beyond the arc with nearly 10 made threes per game. They also have an 11-10 record in Quad 1 games and are as battled-tested as any team in the country.

    That said, their recent performance and defensive shortcomings make it difficult to call them a bona fide title contender.

    Buy or Sell: Sell

Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    Drew Timme

    Drew TimmeRyan Brennecke/University of Montana/Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 10

    This is not the same top-tier Gonzaga Bulldogs team that has earned a No. 1 seed in each of the past three NCAA tournaments, even if there is a familiar face in Drew Timme leading the way inside.

    The 6’10” senior is one of the top players in the country, averaging 20.9 points and 7.3 rebounds on an uber-efficient 62.4 percent shooting. That has helped the Bulldogs lead the nation with 52.9 percent shooting from the floor, but those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt given their quality of opponent in the West Coast Conference.

    Blowout losses to Purdue (84-66) and Texas (93-74) in non-conference play also don’t inspire much confidence that this is indeed an elite-level team, though they did go 6-4 overall in Quad 1 games.

    It would be ironic if this year’s Gonzaga team finally won the title after multiple times coming up short as a No. 1 seed. However, the ceiling for this group might be the Sweet 16, with UCLA awaiting as the second seed in the West Region, and that’s assuming they survive a tough potential matchup with TCU in the second round.

    Buy or Sell: Sell

Houston Cougars

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    Marcus Sasser

    Marcus SasserMatthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 2

    Is Marcus Sasser healthy?

    That’s going to be the X-factor for the Houston Cougars, as their star guard suffered a groin injury during the AAC tournament semifinals and then watched from the sidelines of a 75-65 loss to Memphis in the title game.

    The senior guard averages 17.1 points and 3.2 assists per game, and he is also an integral part of one of the best defenses in the country, with 56 steals on the year.

    A weak overall year from the AAC also raises some questions about their resume. They went 7-2 in Quad 1 games but only played nine games all season against teams in the NCAA tournament, three of which were against Memphis.

    This is still an extremely talented team, and they have to be viewed as a viable title contender assuming Sasser is a full go by the weekend.

    If he’s not, then they immediately become the No. 1 seed most likely to be bounced before the Sweet 16.

    Buy or Sell: Buy, assuming Sasser is healthy

Kansas Jayhawks

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    Jalen Wilson

    Jalen WilsonNick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 3

    Hot take: The Kansas Jayhawks should have been the top overall No. 1 seed, even after they lost by 20 points to Texas in the Big 12 tournament title game.

    No team has faced a more grueling schedule this season, and the 17-7 record in Quad 1 games speaks for itself, as the worst of their seven losses was a home game against a very good TCU team that is a sixth seed in the West Region.

    Jalen Wilson (20.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG) gives the team a go-to scorer with NCAA tournament experience, and senior point guard Dajuan Harris (8.7 PPG, 6.2 APG) is one of the best floor generals and on-ball defenders in the nation.

    Throw in the dynamic duo of Gradey Dick (14.1 PPG, 39.9 3PT%) and KJ Adams (10.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG) with their elite athleticism and Dick’s elite outside shooting, and this is a well-rounded group that can beat you in a variety of ways.

    Will this be the first team since the 2006-07 Florida Gators to repeat?

    Buy or Sell: Buy

Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Tyler Kolek

    Tyler KolekPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 8

    The Marquette Golden Eagles might be the hottest team in the country right now.

    They enter the NCAA tournament riding a nine-game winning streak after winning the Big East tournament, and they’ve gone 14-1 overall in their last 15 games while picking up wins over Xavier (third seed), UConn (fourth seed), Creighton (sixth seed) and Providence (11th seed).

    Junior Tyler Kolek might be the best point guard in the country, and he earned Big East Player of the Year honors by averaging 13.3 points and 7.7 assists against just 2.4 turnovers per game.

    This is not the best defense in the country by any means, but their offensive firepower and considerable momentum might be enough to make them the favorites in a loaded East Region that features top-seeded Purdue, third-seeded Kansas State, fourth-seeded Tennessee and fifth-seeded Duke.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

Purdue Boilermakers

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    Zach Edey

    Zach EdeyAaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 4

    The Purdue Boilermakers are beatable.

    They nearly squandered a 17-point lead in the Big Ten tournament title game when they couldn’t figure out Penn State’s press, and they went 3-4 in February after climbing to No. 1 in the AP poll in January.

    They also have arguably the most dominant player in the country in 7’4″ center Zach Edey, who averages 22.3 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 60.6 percent from the floor.

    With a pace of play that ranks 322nd in KenPom‘s adjusted tempo, they like to wear opponents down, but if they’re forced to run, they could be in serious trouble as they lack the outside shooting and perimeter presence to play an up-and-down game.

    Their most likely Sweet 16 matchup is either No. 4 seed Tennessee or No. 5 seed Duke, and if they survive that game, a streaking Marquette team awaits as the No. 2 seed at the bottom of the bracket, so the Boilermakers have a tough road ahead.

    Buy or Sell: Sell

Texas Longhorns

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    Marcus Carr

    Marcus CarrScott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 6

    The Texas Longhorns cemented their place on the No. 2 seed line with a convincing 76-56 victory over Kansas in the Big 12 tournament title game.

    They pulled off that win despite shooting just 4-of-17 from beyond the arc, and the key to their success all season has been their ability to move the ball and attack the basket, with Marcus Carr (15.9 PPG, 4.1 APG) leading four players who average double-figures.

    If there’s an immediate red flag, it’s their middling 9-7 record away from home this year, and they actually lost their last four road games during the regular season before running the table in the Big 12 tournament.

    On the flip side, their 12-6 record overall in an extremely difficult Big 12 conference and a stellar 14-8 record in Quad 1 games is difficult to ignore. Blowout wins over Kansas (twice), Gonzaga, Iowa State and West Virginia are a good indication of just how good the Longhorns can be when they’re on their game.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

UCLA Bruins

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    Jaime Jaquez

    Jaime JaquezEthan Miller/Getty Images

    Seed List Ranking: 5

    Is the Jaylen Clark injury enough to remove the UCLA Bruins from the national title conversation?

    Losing the junior guard for the year to an Achilles injury just before the Pac-12 tournament was a major blow, as he was averaging 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but the Bruins cruised to victories over Colorado (80-69) and Oregon (75-56) without him before losing by just two points to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game.

    Freshman Amari Bailey had a season-high 26 points in the Colorado game and added 19 points against Arizona, so he could be the X-factor in replacing Clark’s production during the NCAA tournament.

    If he can play up to his vast potential alongside the seasoned duo of Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell, the Bruins will give Kansas a serious run for its money in the West Region.

    Buy or Sell: Buy

    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.

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