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Bracketology: Gonzaga enters season as top seed of 2023 NCAA Tournament; Houston, UNC, Kentucky also No. 1s

November means that college football is in the home stretch, but it also means basketball season is right around the corner. We are four days from the season officially tipping off. There’s no time like the present for preseason Bracketology and a projection of the 2023 NCAA Tournament bracket.

There are some familiar names at the top of the bracket, but also one that we are not used to seeing in this position. 

Here is a look at the top overall national seeds and top teams on the No. 1 line in this bracket.

No. 1 seed overall Gonzaga (West) — The Bulldogs played an exhibition game against Tennessee last month that did not go well, but exhibition games do not mean much to me. Gonzaga has been a top seed in four of the last five tournaments and I expect they will do so again. Drew Timme  leads a strong returning core that includes six of their top eight scorers from last season. They have also added the 2022 SoCon player of the year Malachi Smith from Chattanooga.

No. 2 overall Houston (Midwest) — Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, who missed the latter part of last season with injuries, return to lead the Cougars to what they hope will be a national championship. Last season, Houston almost made the Final Four without them. Coach Kelvin Sampson’s teams are always one of the toughest on the defensive end of the floor, but they are potent offensively as well. The Cougars should have some good momentum as they join the Big 12 next season.

No. 3 overall North Carolina (East) — The Tar Heels made a remarkable run at the end of the season just to make the NCAA Tournament and continued it all the way to the final game. Almost everyone is back, led by preseason All-American Armando Bacot, to try to finish the job this season. I tend to be no better than cautiously optimistic about teams that made big tournament runs from low seeds, even if many players return. UCLA went from the First Four to the Final Four in 2021 and was in everyone’s preseason top four the following season. That was too optimistic as the Bruins ended up a No. 4 seed, which is a pretty respectable improvement from the previous season. North Carolina should move up pretty far from last season as well, but I would not be surprised if the Tar Heels are not a No. 1 at the end.

No. 4 overall Kentucky (South) —  Oscar Tshiebwe, the reigning Naismith National Player of the Year, is recovering from offseason knee surgery but is expected to be ready to go when the season starts. Sahvir Wheeler is also back and coach John Calipari has added a top five recruiting class, which is par for the course. Sophomore Daimion Collins and senior Jacob Toppin will likely play more of a role this season as well.

Bracketology top seeds

Check out Palm’s latest bracket, full field of 68 and all the teams on the bubble on the Bracketology hub.

Big Ten looks strong

The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC each have seven teams in this bracket. The Big Ten’s highest seeded teams are Illinois and Indiana, which are No. 5 seeds. I expect the Big Ten race to be highly competitive, which could keep the top seeds down in the bracket some. Each of the other power conferences has multiple teams seeded in the top 16.

Outside the power conferences, the AAC, Atlantic 10, Mountain West and West Coast conferences each have two teams in the bracket, but two of those conferences (WCC with Gonzaga and AAC with Houston) have No. 1 seeds.

If you like star power, even if some of it is antiquated, there are a combined 18 national championships among the four higher-seeded teams in the top half of Kentucky’s bracket. The Wildcats have eight of those.

A long way from home

San Diego State, the projected Mountain West champion, gets a bit of a raw deal in this bracket by getting sent to Albany, New York, for the first two rounds. That is a trip of over 2800 miles if you drive it. Needless to say, that is the farthest site from home for the Aztecs. No other team is traveling farther than its fourth most distant site, but that’s life as the No. 16 team. You get what’s left after the top 15 go in the bracket. It is particularly unfortunate for the Aztecs because there are usually two or three western sites available to the four-seeds in a bracket, but not this one.

As usual, host schools cannot play tournament games where they are the host. This season, that list of schools includes Ohio State (Columbus), Sacramento State, Drake (Des Moines, Iowa), UCF (Orlando, Florida), Louisville, and UNLV.

The next bracket will be in mid-December and we will have actual games and data to work with.




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