March Madness Preview


Image courtesy of Flickr.

March Madness is here, and that means that college basketball fans around the country are gearing up for a month of high octane basketball and nerve wracking matchups. On Selection Sunday, the NCAA committee announced the men’s field of 64 teams that will compete for the national championship. This preview will break down the men’s bracket, profiling big matchups and overall themes. 

First of all, Santa Barbara fans will be most excited about UC Santa Barbara making the tournament. UCSB is returning to the tourney after missing the cut in 2022. In 2021, they lost in the first round against Creighton in a heartbreaking one point loss. This year, after winning the Big West tournament to earn an automatic bid and finishing the season with a seven game winning streak, they are slotted in at a No. 14 seed in the South region. The Gauchos will play No. 3 seed Baylor, who is coming off of a few rough losses in the Big 12 conference. Baylor won the tourney in 2021, and will be a tough matchup for UCSB. 

UCLA also made the tournament, as a No. 2 seed in the West region. They finished the season with a run to the Pac-12 tournament championship game, where they came up two points short to Arizona. However, the Bruins will likely be missing two key players,  Jaylen Clark and Adem Bona,  from their lineup due to injuries. Additionally, the West region looks to be the toughest region in the bracket this year, with Kansas and Gonzaga both haunting the road to the Final Four. UCLA will play their first round game against UNC Asheville in Sacramento.   

The top overall seed this year is Alabama, led by star freshman Brandon Miller, who is embroiled in controversy for his alleged role in a fatal shooting that took place in January. Authorities say he delivered the gun before the shooting. He is not considered a suspect in the case, and Alabama and the NCAA have decided to allow him to continue to play. He leads the team in scoring this season, and helped Alabama win the SEC championship game on Saturday against Missouri. 

KU, the defending champions, return this year as a No. 1 seed after battling out the hardest regular season schedule in college basketball this year. They finished 27–7, with 17 Quad 1 wins, the most in the NCAA. Despite losing three starters from last year’s championship team, Naismith Coach of the Year finalist Bill Self has his team knocking on the door to repeat titles. The Jayhawks are led by Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson, who is averaging over 20 points per game this season. 

Thursday and Friday will be full of exciting games, and here are some matchups to look out for: Arkansas vs. Illinois on Thursday is the classic meeting of the 8-9 seeds, and this game features two very similar teams. Both have elite defenses, who both only allow opposing teams an avg. of 67 points per game. Both teams can struggle from beyond the arc, so a defensive slugfest looks to be in order. No. 9 seed Illinois arguably has the more impressive record, with three more wins against ranked teams and four fewer losses to ranked teams. 

On Friday, USC plays Michigan St., in a 7-10 seed matchup that is sure to throw sparks. No. 7 seed Michigan St. relies on a high-powered offense to blow past opponents, and finished the regular season with a record of 19-12. USC is led by senior guard Boogie Ellis, who is averaging over 18 points per game this season. USC will have to rely on their defense to keep themselves in the game. 

These are just a few of the interesting matchups this year, so tune in on Thursday and Friday to catch all the first round action live. It’s the best time of the year to be a college basketball fan!