The primary weekend of March Insanity produces some gorgeous outcomes and dramatic moments yearly, and the beginning of the 2023 males’s NCAA match was no completely different. We noticed a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed for less than second time ever when Fairleigh Dickinson did the unthinkable vs. Purdue. We noticed a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2 seed for the third yr in a row with Princeton knocking off Arizona, and the Tigers’ run isn’t achieved but. Whereas we didn’t have a real buzzer-beater, JP Pegues’ three-pointer within the ultimate seconds to assist Furman upset Virginia was shut sufficient.
We’re now left with 16 groups and eight superior video games when the match resumes on Thursday to begin the second weekend. With half of the No. 1 seeds and half the No. 2 seeds already eradicated, it actually looks like virtually anybody can win the entire thing.
Earlier than March Insanity picks up once more, right here’s how we’d rank the 16 staff nonetheless standing primarily based on their possibilities of successful the nationwide title. Every of our 5 writers ranked the groups 1-16, and the ultimate rankings have been decided by the averages.
No. 16 Princeton Tigers (15-seed)
Princeton made some historical past with Saturday’s win over Missouri to advance to the Candy 16. The Tigers turned the primary Ivy League staff to make it to the Candy 16 since Cornell again in 2010, they usually turned simply the fourth No. 15 seed in NCAA males’s match historical past to advance to the Candy 16, becoming a member of Florida Gulf Coast, Oral Roberts, and St. Peter’s. Whereas their win over Arizona on Thursday was a tight-knit affair, Saturday’s win over Missouri confirmed that Princeton can take management of a recreation. The Tigers constructed a 33-19 lead within the first half, and after Missouri closed the hole earlier than halftime, a 10-0 run within the second half noticed Princeton draw back for good. What maybe stood out most was the work the Ivy League champions did on the glass. Princeton gained the battle of second-chance factors 19-2 whereas out-rebounding Missouri 44-30. That benefit for Princeton included a 16-8 benefit in offensive rebounding. Caden Pierce led the way in which for Princeton with a career-high 16 boards, together with seven on the offensive finish. That benefit could possibly be examined within the Candy 16, as each Baylor and Creighton can also be stable on the glass. The Bluejays ranked twelfth within the nation in OR% on protection, forward of the Tigers. — Mark Schofield
No. 15 Michigan State (7-seed)
Dying, taxes, Tom Izzo in March. Certain it’s a cliche, however unbelievably correct. That is removed from Izzo’s greatest staff on paper, however that’s meaningless in moments like this. Beating No. 2 Marquette proved why Izzo is one among basketball’s biggest strategists, as he labored the whole offense via Tyson Walker, with Joey Hauser’s rebounding power shining en path to a double-double. Balanced on each side of the ball, the Spartans relish in enjoying spoiler, and that is simply a staff that would proceed to shock. Kansas State represents a severe menace within the Candy 16, however so did Marquette and we noticed how that ended up. With time to organize Izzo could have this staff able to compete, and counting out Michigan State is a idiot’s errand. Hold watching Tyson Walker on this match. Whereas he was barely flat towards USC within the opening spherical, he broke out within the large approach towards Marquette, giving the staff a headache as he used his athleticism to drive the lane and drive foul after foul, taking pictures 7-8 from the road as he completed with 23 factors. — James Dator
No. 14 Florida Atlantic Owls (9-seed)
Has it been the prettiest of wins? No, by no means. However the Owls hold dancing, and are headed to the Candy 16 for the primary time in program historical past. What’s made the Owls’ run so spectacular is that they’ve managed to show up the protection whereas the offense finds its shot. The Owls have held their opponents up to now to underneath 30% taking pictures from deep, and of their 78-70 win over Farleigh Dickinson, the Owls protection held the upstart 16-seed to 38% from the sector and compelled 11 turnovers. The Owls have additionally gotten main contributions from their greatest gamers, who’ve made robust pictures all yr. Johnell Davis poured in 29 factors to go along with 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals, the primary participant in NCAA historical past to have that statline within the match. The scariest half? FAU hasn’t discovered their shot from deep but. The Owls usually shoot virtually 37% from deep and make ten threes per recreation, however that hasn’t fallen but. When it does, be careful as a result of we may have an upstart crashing the Last 4. — JPA
No. 13 Arkansas Razorbacks (8-seed)
It’s simple to see 4 potential NBA draft picks on Arkansas’ roster headlined by arguably probably the most star-studded freshmen class within the nation and imagine these Razorbacks succeed by being a glitzy offensive powerhouse. In actuality, nothing could possibly be farther from the reality. Arkansas survived a late push from Illinois and wiped away a double-digit second half deficit towards No. 1 seed Kansas by grinding out possessions and giving up nothing simple on the defensive finish. Whereas projected lottery decide Nick Smith went scoreless towards the Jayhawks, fellow freshman studs Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh swung the sport with their super protection towards KU stars Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick. The Razorbacks have some dependable veterans, too, they usually wouldn’t nonetheless be enjoying with out Devo Davis and Ricky Council IV arising so many clutch buckets in Des Moines. Arkansas has the expertise to play with anybody, however they win as a result of they use it largely to dig deep on the defensive finish. After knocking off the defending champs, Arkansas has to imagine it might play with anybody nonetheless standing within the West. — Ricky O’Donnell
No. 12 San Diego State Aztecs (5-seed)
The Aztecs may not win within the prettiest of the way, nevertheless it’s rattling efficient. San Diego State has suffocated groups en path to the Candy 16, solely giving up 57 and 52 factors of their first two video games. With their full court docket press and the physicality they play with, they will flip any recreation right into a slugfest. Offensively, they wish to get the ball into the submit and are primarily run via their bigs, however their greatest participant up to now has been guard Matt Bradley. The 6’4, 220-pound senior is ready to create his personal shot and get robust buckets for the Aztecs when they should rating. They don’t shoot it in addition to most different groups within the tourney, but when they will proceed to get good performances from sharpshooter Micah Parrish, the Aztecs will proceed to bounce. — JPA
No. 11 Xavier Musketeers (3-seed)
A yr to the day after Sean Miller agreed to return as the top coach at Xavier, he noticed the Musketeers punch their first ticket to the Candy 16 since 2017. Xavier’s 84-73 win over Pittsburgh adopted a mannequin the Musketeers relied on all season lengthy: Unselfish play. Xavier was sixth within the nation in Help Proportion, with an help approaching 64.1% of Xavier’s baskets this season. Towards the Panthers, the Musketeers had a mixed 22 assists, with 17 approaching their first 19 baskets as they constructed a 14-point lead at halftime. Three gamers — guards Souley Boum, Colby Jones, and Adam Kunkel — averaged not less than three assists per recreation this season, they usually mixed for 15 assists towards Pittsburgh. As well as, the Musketeers obtained one other large recreation from their man within the center, as Jack Nunge led the way in which with 18 factors. It was Nunge’s important block on the finish of Xavier’s opening-round win over Kennesaw State that put Xavier into the Spherical of 32. Their robust guard play, and unselfish offensive philosophy, is a good mixture for a run to the Last 4. — Mark Schofield
No. 10 Creighton Bluejays (6-seed)
This Creighton staff at all times felt prefer it had all of the items for a deep NCAA match run relationship again to the preseason when sharpshooter Baylor Scheierman signed on as the ultimate addition from the switch portal. It was a rocky street for the Bluejays for many of the season in a tricky Large East, however now the imaginative and prescient of what this staff at all times may have been is beginning to come into focus. Creighton has ball dealing with, taking pictures, and rim safety, and every a part of the lineup made key contributions of their wins over No. 11 NC State and No. 3 Baylor. Heart Ryan Kalkbrenner is likely one of the nation’s greatest shot blockers, nevertheless it was his scoring (31 factors) that carried Creighton towards the Wolfpack. The win over an excellent Baylor squad was a real staff effort, spearheaded by level guard Ryan Nembhard’s means to get into the paint for straightforward buckets and free throws. Creighton has been a persistently good program, however they’ve by no means made an Elite Eight earlier than. With a positive matchup towards No. 15 seed Princeton arising, that is the time to do it. — ROD
No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats (3-seed)
Jerome Tang was speculated to have a multi-year rebuild on his palms when he left his assistant place at Baylor to take over Kansas State: the Wildcats have been picked to complete final within the Large 12 coming into the season with a roster largely pieced collectively within the switch portal. As an alternative, Okay-State began 15-1, rose to No. 5 within the AP Ballot at one level, and positioned top-three within the hardest convention in America. Their Candy 16 run has proved this staff isn’t any fluke: after taking out Montana State in spherical one, Kansas State gained the battle of the Wildcats by outlasting Kentucky in among the best video games of the match. At this level, it looks like Tang’s staff has the expertise to compete with anybody. The 5’8 Marquis Newell has grow to be among the best level guards within the subject, Keyontae Johnson continued his outstanding comeback story with a clutch step-back three to sink Kentucky late, and everybody else will get after it defensively. All of the sudden, the Wildcats are the very best seed nonetheless standing within the East Area. This Kansas State run feels actual, even when nobody would have believed it again in Oct. — ROD
No. 8 Miami Hurricanes (5-seed)
While you play the Hurricanes, you higher be prepared for a monitor meet. Miami performs at a frenetic tempo, getting up and down the court docket and letting their guard play dictate the sport. Guards Isaiah Wong (the ACC Participant of the 12 months) and Nigel Pack can torch defenses with their velocity and skill to get to the rim, simply as they did towards Indiana. Towards the Hoosiers, Wong, Pack and Jordan Miller mixed for 58 factors, carving the Hoosier protection up each time they went to the rim. Defensively, they play with quite a lot of exercise, however may be prone to giant scoring runs. Nonetheless, if you wish to beat Miami, you gotta catch them first, and that may be your largest subject. — JPA
No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers (4-seed)
This Tennessee basketball staff has a really particular set of expertise, one which makes them a formidable opponent in March: they play protection nearly as good as any staff that’s left within the match. With out star flooring basic Zakai Zeigler, the Vols have needed to lean on their physicality and protection much more, and it makes them a completely terrifying opponent to play towards. They don’t permit groups to make many three pointers, and their size mixed with their physicality provides quite a lot of groups issues. Offensively, they will enter lengthy intervals with out scoring factors, however they get contributions from everybody, reminiscent of seniors Santiago Vescovi and Olivier Nkamhoua. Protection is their robust go well with although, and in the event that they’re making a deep run, it’ll be due to their protection. — JPA
No. 6 Gonzaga Bulldogs (3-seed)
There’s a sure kind of faculty basketball fan that views Gonzaga as a March Insanity underachiever as a result of they haven’t gained a nationwide title, however in actuality no program within the nation succeeds at a excessive degree extra persistently. The Zags are into the Candy 16 for the eighth consecutive yr, a very outstanding accomplishment that has included two appearances within the nationwide title recreation if no championship rings. This isn’t Gonzaga’s greatest staff over that stretch, nevertheless it’s nonetheless an excellent one. The Zags at the moment have the No. 1 offense within the nation, led by the super all-around recreation of senior middle Drew Timme, who put up a heroic 28-8-3 efficiency in a decent win over TCU within the spherical of 32. Anton Watson offers extra defensive assist on the within, whereas Julian Strawther is likely one of the greatest shooters left within the subject at 6’7. The looming matchup with Gonzaga looks like the most effective of the regional semifinals. Can they get sufficient stops to make another Last 4 run with Timme? If not, we are able to’t wait to see them attempt to out-score the Bruins. — ROD
No. 5 UConn Huskies (4-seed)
UConn is again within the Candy 16 for the primary time since their inconceivable run to the 2014 nationwide championship as a No. 7 seed. This time, it doesn’t really feel so shocking. The Huskies felt severely under-seeded when the bracket listed them as No. 4 seed regardless of being top-5 in KenPom effectivity rankings and top-10 within the NET. UConn had measurement, it had taking pictures, and it had spectacular steadiness on each ends of the ground. To this point, all of these issues have shined via of their first two wins. We ranked junior large man Adama Sanogo as a top-10 participant in March Insanity coming into the match, and he proceeded to dominate the opening weekend: after dropping 28 factors and 13 rebounds on Iona, he adopted it up with 24 factors and eight rebounds throughout a win over Saint Mary’s. UConn’s shooters have been on hearth, too, hitting about 45 p.c of their threes throughout the 2 wins. The protection? Sure, that’s good, too, with each match opponents held underneath one level per possession. With prime seed Kansas out within the West Area, the Huskies can dream of one other Last 4 run. They actually do have the items to do it. — ROD
No. 4 UCLA Bruins (2-seed)
Regardless of every thing, the Bruins simply hold successful. UCLA is within the Candy Sixteen for the third consecutive season, however they’ve discovered themselves severely banged up on the trail there. Already with out Jaylen Clark, among the best defenders within the nation, the Bruins suffered one other blow when sharpshooter David Singleton crumpled to the ground with an ankle harm late of their win over Northwestern. Singleton says he’s good to go, however UCLA is skinny. It’s grow to be a theme for them: final match Jamie Jaquez Jr. sprained his ankle so unhealthy that he wanted offseason surgical procedure, and the yr earlier than it was Johnny Juzang who hobbled via the match.
The Bruins have performed dominant up to now, solely trailing for 62 seconds of recreation time at the start of their second spherical recreation. They’ve among the best backcourts within the match: Jaquez Jr. is scoring with ease, averaging 20.5 factors and eight rebounds per recreation and Tyger Campbell feasted on the free throw line (12-12) towards Northwestern. Their weak level is their lack of depth at middle, the place freshman Adem Bona is backed up by Kenneth Nwuba. If Bona or Nwuba will get into foul hassle, the Bruins could have a weak level for an opportune staff to assault. – Adam Ward
No. 3 Texas Longhorns (2-seed)
Texas was battle-tested within the nation’s hardest convention all season, and the bumps they took alongside the way in which positive appear to be serving to this staff play its greatest basketball on the proper time. The Longhorns have been dominant on their method to a Large 12 match championship, and picked up the place they left off to begin the massive dance with wins over Colgate and Penn State. This staff is beginning to really feel prefer it checks each field for a nationwide champion: they’ve two star guards who can create for themselves and others in Marcus Carr and Tyrese Hunter, they’ve a rotating forged of huge forwards who can end performs inside and defend the paint, they usually have as a lot depth as any staff nonetheless standing. Interim head coach Rodney Terry helped recruit so many of those gamers within the switch portal, and he’s pushing all the correct buttons in the mean time. Texas basketball isn’t a sleeping large anymore; they’re right here, they usually have each piece a staff must win six video games on this match. — ROD
No. 2 Alabama (1-seed)
There’s no avoiding that discussing the Crimson Tide is messy, and complex. The off-court authorized proceedings swirling across the staff will linger after the season is finished, and we don’t but know if star participant Brandon Miller can be charged in reference to the dying of Jamea Harris. Homicide costs have been filed towards former Alabama participant Darius Miles and his buddy buddy Michael Davis, and we’re but to completely understand how far out this extends.
It’s tough balancing celebrating this staff as a drive on the court docket, whereas additionally acknowledging the scenario off of it. With regards to the Candy 16 the most effective we are able to do is talk about the efficiency we’ve been introduced with. Alabama has achieved precisely what a No. 1 seed ought to. They blew out Texas A&M – CC within the first spherical, and cruised to a 22 level win over No. 8 Maryland within the second spherical, placing the hammer down within the second half and pulling away, exhibiting their depth. Miller is likely one of the greatest gamers in faculty basketball, and capable of rating in bunches when wanted, however he’s additionally keen to take a again seat and permit teammates Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears shine towards groups with stronger entrance courts. This number of methods to attain ought to propel the Crimson Tide into the Last 4, they usually’re completely a staff to favored to go all the way in which. — James Dator
No. 1 Houston Cougars (1-seed)
A shaky opening-round recreation towards Northern Kentucky had some prognosticators questioning if Houston would be capable of put collectively a deep run, however Saturday’s effort towards Auburn, notably within the second half, probably erased these fears. Regardless of trailing on the half by ten, the Cougars took over within the second half, outscoring the Tigers by 27 en path to their 81-64 victory. Houston additionally obtained some excellent news previous to tipoff concerning the well being of All-American guard Marcus Sasser. Regardless of being restricted towards Northern Kentucky, and never enjoying within the second half, Sasser performed with out limitations on Saturday and hung 22 on the Tigers. If Sasser is wholesome, and the Cougars proceed to frustrate opponents with their stifling protection, Houston may put collectively a deep, deep run. — Mark Schofield