By Hocine Loukkaf on 3/14/2023
With no clear favourite, this March Madness looks very exciting with potential surprises to come. Alabama benefits from its win in the SEC Tournament but a semi-dozen teams could end up with the college title.
Alabama Crimson Tide (29-5)
After the Miller drama, the Crimson Tide has been solid to get the SEC title with an impressive team effort. Against the Aggies, despite a struggling Miller (23pts 12rbds 4as but 5/20 FG), Quinerly (22pts on 8/14 FG and 4/8 3pt) has been clutch while Bediako and Clowney combined for 24rbds. Bediako may be the X factor as he had two 5bl games while scoring at least 10pts in each of the last three games.
Houston Cougars (31-3)
Everything seemed perfect as the Cougars were on a 13-game winning streak but they somehow fell to the Memphis Tigers, not the best way to prepare mentally for the Tournament. As Sasser was out due to a groin injury he suffered against Cincinnati, his teammates were unable to find a solution offensively, with Roberts being the only starter to shoot at least 31% from the floor.
Purdue Boilermakers (29-5)
With four of their last five games won by 5pts or less, the Boilermakers are already in clutch mode before starting their Tournament. Edey has been dominant in the two last games with at least 30pts 13rbds in each game but freshman Loyer will need to step up his game as he shot a combined 2/20 FG over the last four games.
Marquette Golden Eagles (28-6)
With nine wins in a row, including four against top 25 ranked teams, Marquette looks like the ultimate underdog entering the Tournament. Sophomore Tyler Kolek has been sensational with at least 17pts in each of his last seven games, including three point/assist double-doubles before the Big East Tournament. While Ighodaro has been underwhelming over the last two games (6 and 2pts), classmate David Joplin has made up for it with 17 and 12pts over these games.
Kansas Jayhawks (27-7)
With two tough losses against Texas, Kansas’ weaknesses have been exposed. Freshman Gradey Dick underwhelmed as he scored 6pts in each game. What could be even more worrying is the bench, as it scored 8pts in the first loss and a miserable 3pts in the Big 12 Championship game. Either Dick or the bench will need to be more impactful in the next games.
UCLA Bruins (29-5)
After losing Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark for the rest of the season, the Bruins couldn’t count on C Adem Bona for the Pac 12 Championship game against Arizona. That ended up their twelve-game winning streak but at the same time, they only lost by two despite Tubelis and Ballo combining for 32pts and 22rbds. A good test before starting the Tournament.
After losing two of their last three regular season games against Baylor and TCU, Texas went on to win the Big 12 title with an impressive 20pt win against Kansas. With the guards’ inconsistent play, Disu has become the safest player with at least 9pts 5rbds and 57% FG in each of the last four games. The bench is also important as it brings 23 and 20pts over the last two games.
Duke Blue Devils (26-8)
With nine wins in a row, including wins against Miami and Virginia, the Blue Devils have to keep that momentum to be successful in the Tournament. If we put aside the easy game against Pittsburgh, Filipowski has been the man as he had at least 17pts and 10rbds in the last two games. Less impressive statistically but important to protect the rim, Lively has averaged 8.3pts 4.7rbds and 2.3bl over the last three games. Coach Scheyer will need his guards to be good the same day, preferrably on games’ days, to go far in the Tourney.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (28-5)
With a streak of nine wins, including two against WCC archrival St Mary’s, the Bulldogs are a dangerous underdog. Timme had at least 17pts in nine of the last ten games while Watson has recorded at least 50% FG over the last twelve games and an even more astonishing 24as for 0to over the last six. Coach Few also has numerous options in the backcourt with Strawther, Hickman or solid reserve Malachi Smith.
Arizona Wildcats (28-6)
With three losses over their last nine games, the Wildcats are lucky to be in the top 10. They made it to the Pac 12 championship game and took advantage of Bona’s injury to dominate inside (32pts and 22rbds combined for Tubelis and Ballo). If the Wildcats want to reach the Final Four, they will have to count on a more consistent backcourt as freshman Boswell may have been the most consistent recently (with Larsson) in a group mostly made of upperclassmen (Kriisa, Henderson, Ramey).