The brackets for the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments were revealed Sunday night and SEC teams grabbed the top spots in both events. Alabama is the top seed in the men’s tournament while South Carolina is the No. 1 overall seed in the women’s tournament.
As they do every year, the bracket reveals included a few surprises and intriguing matchups. Here are the teams that benefitted and lost the most when the fields for each tournament were released.
Alabama is the top team
The Crimson Tide’s convincing win in the SEC tournament title game Sunday solidified their status as the top seed in the men’s NCAA tournament and it’s hard not to like the draw Alabama was given as a result.
Alabama should have more than enough shooting and athleticism to get past either Maryland or West Virginia in the second round and it’s hard to see San Diego State or Virginia as a candidate to take down Alabama in the Sweet 16.
Alabama was going to be the story of the NCAA tournament whether or not it was the No. 1 overall seed because of the way it’s handled Brandon Miller’s alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of Jamea Harris by former Alabama player Darius Miles. And the Tide’s status as the top team entering the tournament only heightens that focus.
Alabama is more than capable of winning it all. And it’s going to face a lot of scrutiny as it advances.
Marquette soars to a No. 2 seed
It has been an incredible season for Shaka Smart and Marquette. The Golden Eagles lost three of their top four scorers from the 2022 team and somehow massively improved. Marquette is 28-6 overall and won both the Big East regular-season and tournament titles for the first time. As a result, the Golden Eagles are now a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. It’s the best seed in program history.
Point guard Tyler Kolek has blossomed into one of the best players in the country and his efficiency operating out of the pick-and-roll makes Marquette an incredibly tough team to defend. Marquette will face No. 15 Vermont in the East region. It’s the first time Marquette is making back-to-back tournament appearances since 2013.
Mountain West scores 4 bids
Nevada was the last at-large team into the field and squeezed out teams like Rutgers, Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt in the process. The Wolf Pack have to get past Arizona State in a First Four game to play TCU in the first round. Nevada ranks No. 43 in KenPom.com’s rankings and ahead of the five other teams seeded at No. 11 ahead of the play-in games.
The four bids for the MWC are the same number that the Pac-12 received. While Arizona and UCLA got No. 2 seeds from the committee, the lack of depth in the conference showed with USC getting a No. 10 seed and Arizona State sneaking its way into the play-in. The gap between the MWC and the Pac-12 this season wasn’t all that big.
Kentucky gets a No. 6 seed
Kentucky (21-11) ended up with a top-six seed on Selection Sunday despite an up-and-down season.
It wasn’t going to be surprising to see the Wildcats as a No. 7 or 8 seed on Sunday after losing to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament. And while the Commodores missed out on the tournament entirely, UK found itself as one of the top 24 teams in the tournament and ahead of fellow SEC teams Texas A&M and Missouri. Both the Aggies and Tigers finished ahead of the Wildcats in the SEC and the Aggies were also ahead of Kentucky in the NET rankings.
Kentucky also has a manageable path for a deep tournament run — assuming the team plays to its potential. That has been a big assumption over the course of the season, but with a big man like Oscar Tshiebwe and a talented roster around him, this is a UK team capable of knocking off both Kansas State and Marquette if it plays at its best.
The Big 12's high seeds
Seven of the Big 12’s 10 teams made the NCAA tournament field Sunday and six of those seven teams are seeded at No. 6 or higher.
Kansas won the regular-season title and got the No. 3 overall seed as the top seed in the West. Texas is a No. 2 seed in the Midwest while Kansas State and Baylor each grabbed No. 3 seeds. TCU and Iowa State are each No. 6 seeds while West Virginia is the only team not in the top half of its region as a No. 9 seed in the South.
The Big 12’s seedings are further proof of how good the conference has been over the course of the 2022-23 season. The Big 12 was the best conference in the country all season long and it’s fair to wonder if Oklahoma State and even Oklahoma and Texas Tech make the tournament if they didn’t have to run through the gauntlet that was the Big 12 this season.
We’ve been blessed with an incredibly intriguing Round 1 game in the West region as UConn will take on none other than Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels in the 4 vs. 13 matchup in beautiful Albany, New York. That’s just a two-hour drive for both fan bases, and you know it’s an opportunity Pitino will relish.
Pitino’s career took a hard left turn following the tumultuous end of his tenure at Louisville. He spent time coaching in Greece before landing at Iona. He’s coached the Gaels to two NCAA tournaments in three seasons and will seemingly be on the move to a bigger job in short order — possibly in the Big East.
Pitino has been connected mainly to the vacancy at St. John’s. Before he makes that potential move, he’ll get a taste of Big East competition in the NCAA tournament.
Creighton’s strong finish earns a No. 6 seed
The selection committee was impressed with the way the Bluejays ended the season. Creighton went 14-3 to end the season at 22-8 and grab the No. 6 seed in the Greenville 1 Region. The Bluejays will face the winner of the Illinois vs. Mississippi State play-in game in the first round.
Creighton ended the season outside the AP Top 25 but ranked 18th in the NCAA’s NET rankings. The Bluejays were a sparkling 12-3 on the road as their only losses since Jan. 4 came to UConn and Villanova.
The Bluejays were the darlings of the tournament a season ago as a 10 seed with an upset win over Iowa in the second round and a convincing win over Iowa State in the Sweet 16 before losing to South Carolina in the Elite Eight. Creighton is once again in South Carolina’s region but could be a popular upset pick over Notre Dame in the second round.
Indiana, Virginia Tech earn No. 1 seeds for first time
Both Indiana and Virginia Tech made history Sunday. The Hoosiers and Hokies were both selected as No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament for the first time in the history of their respective programs.
IU has had a tremendous season, going through the Big Ten nearly unscathed at 16-2 to win its first outright regular-season title since 1983. The Hoosiers were upset in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, but that did not keep them off the No. 1 line.
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, finished a game out of first in the ACC standings but won the conference tournament. The Hokies enter the NCAA tournament on an 11-game winning streak with nine of those victories coming by double-digit margins.
Notre Dame gets a 3 seed
The Fighting Irish scored a No. 3 seed in the Greenville 1 Region despite Olivia Miles’ absence in the ACC tournament.
It’s unclear if Miles will be available for the NCAA tournament and it’s fair to question Notre Dame’s chances of advancing to the second weekend if she can't play. Miles averages 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists a game and is one of the most impactful players in the country when she’s on the court.
Seeding criteria can include the availability of key players; perhaps Miles will be able to return for the tournament. If she isn’t, Notre Dame may be overseeded at No. 3 and don’t be surprised if Creighton is favored to win in the second round.
State of Iowa
If you’re a fan of a Division I program from the state of Iowa, chances are you had a smile on your face Sunday. Iowa, Iowa State and Drake all made the NCAA tournament in men’s and women’s basketball. That’s three of the four D-I programs in the state (sorry, Northern Iowa). On the women’s side there are some real contenders with Iowa as a No. 2 seed and ISU as a No. 5 seed. Drake, meanwhile, is a No. 12 seed.
ACC leads the way with 8 bids
For the fifth consecutive women’s tournament, the ACC received the most bids of any conference. The ACC has put exactly eight teams in the tournament in five consecutive seasons.
In 2022, the ACC tied with the SEC but that mark was the best of any league in the other four seasons — the current one included. Showing the depth of the conference, there was no seed lower than Miami as a No. 9 seed.
Additionally, the other seeds ranged from Virginia Tech at No. 1 to Florida State and NC State at No. 7. There were also Duke and Notre Dame as No. 3 seeds, Louisville as a 5 seed and North Carolina as a 6.
Monmouth ends 40-year drought
For the first time in 40 years, Monmouth is headed to the NCAA tournament. It took an improbable run through the CAA tournament to get there. The Hawks were just 14-15 overall and 9-9 in conference play when the regular season ended. Monmouth was the No. 7 seed in the conference tournament and proceeded to win four games in four days to clinch the league’s automatic berth. That run was capped off by an 80-55 beatdown of Towson, the CAA’s top seed. That’s the magic of March.
— Monmouth Hawks (@MonmouthHawks) March 13, 2023
Kansas loses out on a trip to Kansas City
The biggest surprise of the men's bracket reveal might have been Kansas missing out on the Midwest Region. The committee made it clear it liked Houston more than it did the Jayhawks and pushed Kansas to the West Region and gave Houston the top seed in the Midwest.
That’s huge for both teams. The Midwest Regional will be played in Kansas City, just 45 minutes from KU’s campus. It would have been a massive home-court advantage. Instead, Kansas now goes out to Las Vegas and could play in front of a crowd dominated by Gonzaga and UCLA fans.
Houston lost just three times all season and didn’t have Marcus Sasser in its AAC title game loss to Memphis on Sunday. Kansas, meanwhile, lost by 20 to Texas on Saturday in the Big 12 title game and was beaten soundly by the Longhorns the week before. Were those two losses the difference between Las Vegas and Kansas City? It’s easy to see that they were.
Tennessee’s rough finish to the season relegated it to a No. 4 seed Sunday.
The Volunteers went 5-7 over the final 12 games of the season and lost to Missouri in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament. Tennessee also played the final three games of the season without point guard Zakai Zeigler after he suffered a torn ACL in a win over Arkansas.
It’s easy to envision Tennessee as a No. 3 seed with a healthy Zeigler and he could have made a difference against Mizzou in the SEC tournament. But with Zeigler out for the rest of the season, Tennessee dropped to the No. 4 line and drew a potential matchup with arguably the toughest No. 5 seed in the second round in Duke. The Blue Devils ended the season as ACC tournament champions on a nine-game win streak.
The ACC's milquetoast year
The mediocrity of a conference can be spelled out when the NCAA tournament bracket is unveiled. Entering Selection Sunday, the ACC had three locks to make the NCAA tournament — Virginia, Miami and Duke. Virginia ended up as the conference’s highest-seeded team as the No. 4 seed in the South while Miami and Duke both ended up as No. 5 seeds, Duke in the East and Miami in the Midwest. Beyond that, it was nothing but bubble teams and teams with no shot whatsoever.
Two of those bubble teams made it in, but barely. NC State came in as an 11 seed while Pitt was one of the last four in. Pitt had a chance to tie for the regular-season title on the last day of the season, yet barely made it into the field. North Carolina and Clemson ended up as two of the first four out, meaning the ACC had just five tournament teams for the second consecutive season. Before these past two seasons, the ACC hadn’t had fewer than six teams in the tournament since 2013 when just four made it
North Carolina misses out
Speaking of the ACC, North Carolina remarkably ended up on the outside looking in after opening the season as the No. 1 team in the country. The Tar Heels made an epic run to the national championship game last year before falling short against Kansas. But Hubert Davis’ team never recaptured that magic. UNC’s season was a slog. There was a four-game non-conference losing streak and then a stretch where it lost five of six in ACC play.
The Heels ended up 19-12 (11-9 ACC) in the regular season before falling to Virginia in the ACC tournament. It wasn’t good enough to earn an at-large berth. Once UNC’s tournament fate was sealed, the school quickly announced it would not participate in the NIT and its season was over. It was an ugly year in Chapel Hill.
Texas A&M is underseeded
Last season, Texas A&M head coach Buzz Williams was furious that his team did not make it to the NCAA tournament. The Aggies were one of the first four teams left out of the field despite an excellent run in the SEC tournament that culminated in a loss to Tennessee in the final. After his team’s opening-round NIT game, Williams went on an eight-minute rant lamenting the process of the selection committee. This season, Texas A&M did not have to sweat things out on Selection Sunday.
The Aggies, who made another run to the conference tournament championship game, were clearly in the field. But there still ended up being some room for discontent. The Aggies were surprisingly a No. 7 seed when most bracket prognosticators had them as high as a No. 4 or 5 seed. Perhaps the committee had Williams’ 2022 rant in mind when it arranged the bracket.
Penn State drew the Aggies
Any time a team like Texas A&M gets underseeded, there’s another team that has to pay the price with a brutal first-round matchup. This year, it’s Penn State.
PSU made an epic run to the Big Ten tournament final and nearly upset Purdue on Sunday. In a matter of weeks, PSU went from the bubble to a sure thing to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
The reward for the Nittany Lions was a brutal draw. As the No. 10 seed in the Midwest, PSU will face Texas A&M in the first round. If PSU can spur the upset, Texas likely awaits. Texas had a legitimate argument to be a No. 1 seed, but ended up on the 2 line. That’s a tough draw for PSU, one of the best outside-shooting teams in the field.
Florida Atlantic is also underseeded
Another team that has a legitimate gripe about its seeding is Florida Atlantic. FAU won Conference USA’s regular season and tournament titles in dominant fashion and enters the NCAA tournament with a sparkling 31-3 record. FAU is all the way up at No. 13 in the NET rankings yet is just a No. 9 seed.
The Owls will meet Memphis in the first round and would have to go up against mighty Purdue with a win. FAU is currently riding a seven-game winning streak after going on a sizzling 20-game streak earlier this season. This is a team that can compete with anybody.
Rutgers and Oklahoma State left out
Rutgers struggled over the past month, losing six of its final eight regular-season Big Ten games. It looked like RU may sneak into the field when it beat Michigan in the Big Ten tournament, but it wasn’t enough. The Scarlet Knights, who were the second team out of the field, struggled once forward Mawot Mag went down with a season-ending knee injury, and selection committee chair Chris Reynolds referenced Mag’s injury in explaining why RU was left out of the field.
Rutgers has a road win over Purdue on its résumé, but had just a 2-4 record in Quad 3 games. A late-season collapse at last place Minnesota also hurt RU’s chances.
Oklahoma State, meanwhile, was the first team out according to the official seeding distributed by the NCAA. The Cowboys battled their way through a brutal Big 12 schedule, but were 0-9 against the league’s top four teams and had a 6-12 record vs. Quad 1 opponents. That’s a lot of missed opportunities. Missing out on a bid was a tough pill to swallow for Mike Boynton’s program, especially on the heels of being controversially ineligible to play in the postseason last year.
Chris Reynolds explains why Oklahoma State was the First Team Out.
"When you look at their resume, they had 18 opportunities in the Quad 1 and they won only six games." pic.twitter.com/elGH3irTgY
— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 12, 2023
Those three teams were behind the Jayhawks in the NET rankings and Oklahoma even scored a No. 5 seed. Granted, the Sooners had five fewer losses than the Jayhawks at 25-6, but Kansas has a legitimate case to consider itself one of the biggest snubs of the women’s bracket reveal.
The Big 12 was one of the better conferences in women’s college basketball this season and KU finished 9-9 in the conference. But the Jayhawks hurt their chances at making the tournament by losing to TCU in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. TCU went 1-17 in Big 12 play in 2022-23 and beat KU by five after losing by 23 to end the regular season.
North Carolina falls to a No. 6 seed
It was a surprise to see North Carolina as a No. 6 seed. UNC started 8-3 in ACC play but dropped a few close games late in the season at a time when it was dealing with injuries to key players. UNC beat Duke on the road to end the regular season but ended up losing to the Blue Devils in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
With six wins over Top 25 teams and being ranked No. 21 in the NET, it seemed like a 4 seed was possible. Instead, UNC will open tournament play in Columbus before potentially having to make a trip to Seattle if it reaches the Sweet 16.
South Florida and Marquette draw South Carolina
USF won the regular-season AAC title with a 15-1 conference record while the Golden Eagles went 13-7 and finished fourth in a very good Big East. Their 8-9 game in the first round of the tournament could be extremely competitive.
And the winner gets to face South Carolina.
Sure, the winner of their matchup could pull one of the biggest upsets in recent women’s college basketball history, but it has to be deflating to see your name called as a possible second-round opponent for the most dominant team in college basketball. The Gamecocks are 32-0 in 2022-23 and have outscored opponents by an average of 30 points per game. None of South Carolina’s SEC tournament games were within 15 points and the team has just four single-digit wins all season long.
USC draws a tough mid-major foe
Southern Cal finished No. 31 in the NET rankings and a spot behind Washington State. The Cougars got a No. 5 seed thanks to their Pac-12 tournament title. USC got a No. 8 seed even though it had one fewer loss.
That 8 seed means USC will take on South Dakota State in the first round of the tournament. The Jackrabbits went 28-5 on the way to the Summit League title and are at No. 34 in the NET rankings.
That’s a tough matchup, especially considering Oklahoma was also a No. 5 seed and the Sooners were at No. 38 in the NET standings.
SDSU went 18-0 in the Summit League before winning the conference tournament title. The Jackrabbits score nearly 80 points per game and have the seventh-best offensive rating in the country. That will be a fascinating matchup for a USC team that allows just 55 points per game and has the 13th-best defensive rating.