Who will win the men’s 2023 NCAA Basketball Tournament? Get your bracket on. And make sure to strap in, because this tourney will have us spinning with snarling  underdogs, upsets, and fallen giants. There are no dominant teams. If you’re looking for a sure thing, forget about it. Just make sure to order good pizza and enjoy the show.

As Pat Forde noted at SI.com: “As has been chronicled all season, the sport’s top tier is thin and fickle. No teams from Power 6 conferences have lost fewer than five games; the AP No. 1 ranking changed hands seven times and 14 different teams have been ranked in the top five; only three teams among the top 12 seeds won both their regular-season and postseason championships (Alabama, Purdue and Marquette).”

Ken Pomeroy (aka KenPom) gives these five teams the best chance to win it all: Houston (15%), Alabama (13.5%), UCLA (10.6%), Purdue (6.3%) and Texas (6.0%).

Houston is a logical choice. The Cougars are 31-3 overall, ranked 11th nationally by KenPom in offensive efficiency, and are 4th in defensive efficiency. They’re great at defending 3s and attacking the boards for offensive rebounds that lead to second-chance points. My only hesitation: Can Houston’s Marcus Sasser – the superb all-around guard and senior leader – play well, or play much at all, with a groin injury? If he’s compromised and rendered ineffective, that’s a significant blow to Houston’s hopes.

Who makes the Final Four? I’ll give it a shot.

Alabama, Duke, Houston, Connecticut.

National Champ: Connecticut.

Why go with UConn? As Jay Bilas wrote at ESPN.com: “Size, depth, athleticism, rim protection, offensive rebounding. The metrics love UConn, and rightfully so. Early in the season, UConn was a clear Final Four favorite but fell off for a time. Now, the Huskies are back, and in a big way.

“UConn is rated at a top-10 offense and a top-25 defense. Behind All-Big East big man Adama Sanogo, freshman center Donovan Clingan and the super athletic and versatile Andre Jackson, the Huskies can crash the offensive glass and have a 39% offensive rebounding rate, best in the country.

“On the defensive end, UConn gets out and guards the 3-point line, in large part to Sanogo and Clingan protecting the lane and the rim. Wing shooter Jordan Hawkins, All-Big East First Team, is one of the best long-range marksmen in the country and can make challenged shots. Point guard Tristen Newton has triple-double ability and leads UConn in assists, free throw attempts and steals. UConn also has solid free throw shooting, which will be key late in games.”

Underdogs: According to the KenPom model, which is loaded with insightful metrics, here are the underdogs with the best chance to get through the first round. And I’m only going with teams seeded No. 10 or worse. There’s no such thing as an upset when a No. 9 defeats a No. 8 seed.

Utah State, 10th seed in the West, with a 62.4 percent chance of knocking out 7-seed Missouri.

Drake, 12th seed in the Midwest, a 44.1 percent chance to wreck 5-seed Miami (Fla.).

Oral Roberts, 12th seed in the East, has a 37.3% chance to topple 5-seed Duke.

Kent State, 13th seed in the Midwest, has a 36.6% crack at dooming 4-seed Indiana

Furman, 13th seed in the South, has a 30% possibility of wiping out 4-seed Virginia.

Charleston, 12th seed in the South, has a 30% chance to banish 5-seed San Diego State.

Nevada, 11th seed in the East, has a 23.4% chance to bounce 6-seed Arizona State out of the dance.

Use Pomeroy As a Guide: I realize that you’re probably tired of me going on and on and on about KenPom. But in this instance it makes sense because his model for the NCAA Tournament has produced an impressive set of results through the years.

Here are a few examples:

In the past 14 NCAA tourneys, only five of 56 teams (8.9%) rated outside of the KenPom Top 20 reached the Final Four.

Eight of the past 14 NCAA champions were rated No. 1 by KenPom. Two other Top 20 teams – Gonzaga (twice) and Kentucky advanced made it to the Final Four or competed in the title game.

Since 2002, 19 of 20 national champions were rated among the top 25 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. In this year’s field, only Houston, Alabama, Texas, UConn and UCLA came into the NCAA met this criteria coming into the tournament.

Good luck!

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.

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