2023 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVDecember 6, 2022

2023 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

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    Marcus Carr and the Texas Longhorns are the projected No. 1 overall seed.
    AP Photo/Eric Gay

    The first NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings of the 2022-23 men's college basketball season were released Monday morning. And as is always the case four weeks into the campaign, there are some wild data points, like Sam Houston State at No. 7 and Louisville at No. 361.

    To celebrate the annual debut of the NCAA tournament selection committee's primary sorting metric, we've got a brand-new projected 2023 bracket for you.

    It's our first bracket since Nov. 22, and a lot has changed since that pre-Feast Week projection. Perhaps most notable is North Carolina plummeting from the projected No. 1 seed line to...well, you'll just have to read to find out.

    For each of the four regions, we will discuss one team that's new to the field, one in better shape than it was one week ago, and another that—though still in position to dance—perhaps isn't as safe as we thought.

    Before that, we will start with the bubble. After the region-by-region breakdowns, there will be an explanation of why the No. 1 seeds are ranked in the order they are. At the end is a list of seeds by conference as a handy reference guide.

    One quick "glossary" note: When we take deeper looks at specific teams' resumes, you'll see NET, RES and QUAL. NET is the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the primary sorting metric used by the selection committee and the metric from which quadrant records are derived. RES is the average of the team's resume metrics (Kevin Pauga Index and Strength of Record). QUAL is the average of the quality metrics (ESPN's BPI, KenPom.com and Sagarin).

    At this still early stage in the season, the quality/predictive metrics are the most important in our projection. But the resume metrics are gaining significance by the day and will become indispensable in the selection process by mid-January, once everyone has played about half of its schedule. We'll present them all, though, so you know where teams stand in the respective hierarchies.

    NET rankings are updated daily here. The others are masterfully aggregated by Bart Torvik. All data is current through the start of play on Monday, Dec. 5.

Last 5 In

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    Utah's Rollie Worster
    AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

    Last Team In: St. John's Red Storm
    8-1, NET: 71, RES: 39.5, QUAL: 50.7

    The Johnnies have a couple of decent wins over Nebraska, Syracuse and Temple. However, they lost their only nonconference game of any real value (at Iowa State), so they'll need to bring the noise in Big East play to remain in the projected field. Sure is fun to watch this team run, though.

    Second-to-Last In: Penn State Nittany Lions
    6-2, NET: 51, RES: 54.5, QUAL: 44.3

    There have already been two heartbreaking losses for the Nittany Lions, who fell by two to Virginia Tech in the Charleston Classic semis and in double overtime at Clemson in the ACC/B1G Challenge. Like St. John's, those were Penn State's two best chances to show anything in nonconference play, so they'll probably need to go at least 11-9 in a mighty strong Big Ten to earn a bid. Might be a season-long tightrope walk for what has been an excellent perimeter offense thus far.

    Third-to-Last In: Oklahoma Sooners
    6-2, NET: 46, RES: 44.5, QUAL: 35.3

    After opening the season with a home loss to Sam Houston State, Oklahoma rallied to win the ESPN Events Invitational, besting each of Nebraska, Seton Hall and Ole Miss in Orlando. The Big 12 grind may chew up and spit out this team, but things are looking promising for now.

    Fourth-to-Last In: Utah Utes
    7-2, NET: 19, RES: 44.0, QUAL: 46.3

    Speaking of teams that have recovered from a home loss to Sam Houston State, Utah pulled off one of the biggest stunners of the season to date, smoking Arizona by a 15-point margin. The Utes also won in overtime at Washington State on Sunday to earn a spot in the projected field. There are big games coming up against BYU and TCU before they dive fully into Pac-12 play.

    Fifth-to-Last In: Marquette Golden Eagles
    6-3, NET: 37, RES: 63.5, QUAL: 38.7

    Marquette has gone 1-3 against KenPom Top 100 foes, but, like, it was a really impressive 1-3. The Golden Eagles destroyed Baylor by 26, almost won at Purdue before wilting in the final five minutes, lost in overtime to Wisconsin and lost by three to still-undefeated Mississippi State. Shaka Smart has lost in the first round in each of his last six trips to the NCAA tournament, but he might have another tourney team on his hands.

First 5 Out

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    Oklahoma State's Moussa Cisse
    AP Photo/Jessica Hill

    First Team Out: Oklahoma State Cowboys
    5-3, NET: 74, RES: 113.5, QUAL: 32.7

    The QUAL metrics love the Cowboys, who are ranked top 40 in each of KenPom, BPI and Sagarin. But wake us up when they actually beat somebody. They blew double-digit leads in losses to Southern Illinois (led by as many as 13) and UCF (led by as many as 17), and they were on the wrong end of a 26-3 UConn run on Thursday.

    Second Team Out: LSU Tigers
    7-1, NET: 83, RES: 76.0, QUAL: 53.7

    The 7-1 record looks nice at a passing glance, but the Tigers lost to Kansas State in their only game against anything close to an at-large candidate. As mentioned in our previous projection, we'll have to wait until the start of SEC play to get any sort of legitimate read on LSU. And it might be an ugly read, as they'll face Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas (twice) within their first eight league games.

    Third Team Out: New Mexico Lobos
    7-0, NET: 27, RES: 21.5, QUAL: 68.7

    Fourth Team Out: UNLV Rebels
    8-0, NET: 44, RES: 15.5, QUAL: 72.7

    Who could have guessed that the Mountain West would have three of the final 12 remaining unbeaten teams? The Rebels have scored wins over Dayton, Southern Illinois and Minnesota, while New Mexico has road victories over Saint Mary's and SMU. And if the Lobos can beat San Francisco on Monday, it's likely that Richard Pitino's team will have a 10-0 record when his dad, Rick, brings Iona out to The Pit for an intriguing mid-major affair Dec. 18.

    Fifth Team Out: North Carolina State Wolfpack
    7-2, NET: 55, RES: 71.0, QUAL: 46.3

    The home loss to Pittsburgh on Friday was a bad look in the Wolfpack's ACC opener, but they gave Kansas quite the battle in the Battle 4 Atlantis opener before beating Dayton and Butler in the consolation bracket. It's hard to believe after last year's 11-21 train wreck, but NC State might have some potential.

East Region (New York City)

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    Arizona State's Frankie Collins
    Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Columbus, Ohio
    No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 16 Montana State
    No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 Saint Mary's

    Sacramento, California
    No. 4 Baylor vs. No. 13 Iona
    No. 5 Illinois vs. No. 12 Kent State

    Des Moines, Iowa
    No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 14 College of Charleston
    No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Saint Louis

    Greensboro, North Carolina
    No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 15 Colgate
    No. 7 Mississippi State vs. No. 10 Arizona State

    New to the Field: Arizona State Sun Devils
    8-1, NET: 35, RES: 29.0, QUAL: 46.7

    Since losing at Texas Southern in the opening week of the season, Arizona State has gone on an impressive run. The Sun Devils went to Brooklyn to defeat VCU and to annihilate Michigan. They've also jumped out to a 2-0 start in Pac-12 play with a road win over Colorado and a home win over Stanford. Though we currently have none of those four teams projected to dance, that's how you bounce back from an early disaster. Monday's game against Creighton in Las Vegas is a colossal opportunity for ASU to prove it belongs in the field.

    Movin' On Up: Memphis Tigers (Up Two Seed Lines)
    6-2, NET: 38, RES: 28.5, QUAL: 29.3

    Since our last projection, Memphis did lose in excruciating fashion to Seton Hall on a banked-in three at the buzzer. But while the Pirates have gone 0-3 since that game, the Tigers have rallied to win four in a row, besting each of Nebraska, Stanford and Ole Miss along the way. As with Arizona State, no individual marquee victories there, but that's a nice little stockpile of respectable wins. The Tigers face Auburn in Atlanta this Saturday and play at Alabama on the 13th. A split of those two games would be swell.

    Fading Fast: Saint Mary's Gaels (Down Four Seed Lines)
    6-3, NET: 16, RES: 73.5, QUAL: 29.7

    It has been a rough stretch of close defeats for the Gaels. They lost in overtime to Washington in the Wooden Legacy championship, lost by four at home to unbeaten New Mexico and then came up short in a 53-48 defensive grind in Fort Worth against an outstanding Houston squad. Saint Mary's looks the part of a tournament team, but if the Gaels are unable to beat San Diego State in Phoenix on Saturday, their best nonconference win of the season is going to be a home game against North Texas. And that might mean they can't afford to lose to anyone aside from Gonzaga in WCC play if they want an at-large bid.

Midwest Region (Kansas City)

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    Rutgers celebrates a big early victory over Indiana
    Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    Birmingham, Alabama
    No. 1 Texas vs. No. 16 Wagner/Norfolk State
    No. 8 Xavier vs. No. 9 Rutgers

    Orlando, Florida
    No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Yale
    No. 5 Duke vs. No. 12 Penn State/St. John's

    Albany, New York
    No. 3 Maryland vs. No. 14 Liberty
    No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 Oklahoma/Utah

    Greensboro, North Carolina
    No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 15 UMass Lowell
    No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Michigan State

    New to the Field: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
    6-2, NET: 30, RES: 60.5, QUAL: 27.0

    Nothing like a 15-point victory over Indiana in your Big Ten opener to make a big impression. The Hoosiers were without star freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino in that one, but it probably wasn't going to make a difference. They ran into a defensive buzzsaw that is going to claim a lot of victims on its home floor, per usual. Rutgers lost at Miami and lost to Temple in Connecticut, but it is 6-0 at the arena formerly known as the RAC.

    Movin' On Up: Maryland Terrapins (Up Three Seed Lines)
    8-0, NET: 6, RES: 5.0, QUAL: 17.3

    After winning each of their first seven games by at least 16 points—including impressive neutral-site victories over Saint Louis and Miami—the Terrapins finally faced a challenge against Illinois on Friday. And they passed it, emerging with a 71-66 victory in spite of lackluster performances from both Julian Reese and Donta Scott. This team did not receive a single vote in the preseason poll, but it deserves consideration for a spot in the Top 10 at this point.

    Fading Fast: Michigan State Spartans (Down Four Seed Lines)
    5-4, NET: 92, RES: 72.0, QUAL: 57.0

    Might as well dedicate this entire region's talking points to the Big Ten. We've got to acknowledge the injuries here. Jaden Akins (left foot) missed four games and just returned to the lineup Sunday, while Malik Hall (left foot) has missed each of the past five games. Those are major absences for the Spartans. Still, Michigan State is now 5-4 overall, including a blowout loss at Notre Dame and a rough home loss to Northwestern. Sparty has given back all the goodwill it gained from that early double-OT victory over Kentucky.

South Region (Louisville)

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    Missouri's Kobe Brown (24), Tre Gomillion (2) and D'Moi Hodge (5)
    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Birmingham, Alabama
    No. 1 Houston vs. No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
    No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Missouri

    Denver, Colorado
    No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 13 UC Irvine
    No. 5 UCLA vs. No. 12 Drake

    Columbus, Ohio
    No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 14 Furman
    No. 6 Iowa vs. No. 11 Marquette

    Des Moines, Iowa
    No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Youngstown State
    No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 10 UAB

    New to the Field: Missouri Tigers
    9-0, NET: 34, RES: 33.5, QUAL: 58.7

    Save for the road game against Wichita State (which Mizzou needed a late comeback and OT to win), the competition has been lacking, to say the least. Nevertheless, Missouri is 9-0 and averaging a staggering 93 points per game while leading the nation in steal percentage. Games against Kansas (Dec. 10) and Illinois (Dec. 22) in the coming weeks should give us a good indication as to whether the Tigers are a real candidate in the SEC. Hard to complain with the early returns, though.

    Movin' On Up: Kentucky Wildcats (Up One Seed Line)
    6-2, NET: 42, RES: 71.0, QUAL: 8.7

    We dropped Kentucky from No. 1 overall to No. 16 overall after the early losses to Michigan State and Gonzaga, but they're back into the top 10 on the seed list after blowout wins over North Florida and Bellarmine—though the Bellarmine game was close until midway through the second half—and a nice win over Michigan in London. A big game against UCLA in Madison Square Garden is coming up on Dec. 17 as the Wildcats attempt to further salvage their nonconference schedule.

    Fading Fast: North Carolina Tar Heels (Down Seven Seed Lines)
    5-4, NET: 39, RES: 53.5, QUAL: 30.7

    Four straight defeats to Iowa State, Alabama, Indiana and Virginia Tech. None of the losses was individually bad. The ones in Portland against the Cyclones and the Crimson Tide each could have gone either way. The Tar Heels didn't have Armando Bacot (shoulder) for the game against the Hokies. And they've actually only dropped five spots on KenPom from No. 19 to No. 24 since the beginning of this skid. All the same, four straight losses is an emphatic fall from grace for the preseason AP No. 1 team. This 5-4 resume devoid of quality wins is an embarrassment, and it was a little tempting to drop UNC straight from a projected No. 1 seed to the wrong side of the bubble.

West Region (Las Vegas)

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    Iowa State's Jaren Holmes and T.J. Otzelberger
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    Albany, New York
    No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 16 Southern/SIU-Edwardsville
    No. 8 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Miami

    Sacramento, California
    No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 Sam Houston State
    No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 James Madison

    Orlando, Florida
    No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 14 Oral Roberts
    No. 6 Virginia vs. No. 11 Wisconsin

    Denver, Colorado
    No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 Longwood
    No. 7 TCU vs. No. 10 Utah State

    New to the Field: Iowa State Cyclones
    7-1, NET: 22, RES: 28.0, QUAL: 35.3

    Iowa State was our Second Team Out after early wins over IUPUI, NC A&T and Milwaukee, which didn't amount to much. But what a two-week stretch for the Cyclones, who beat both Villanova and North Carolina in the Phil Knight Invitational and picked up a solid home win over St. John's on Sunday. Despite losing 62 percent of the scoring from last season, head coach T.J. Otzelberger impressively has this team looking like a threat for another Sweet 16 run.

    Movin' On Up: TCU Horned Frogs (Up Three Seed Lines)
    6-1, NET: 81, RES: 59.5, QUAL: 41.0

    We gave the Horned Frogs a stern slap on the wrist in our last projection, dropping them from a preseason No. 5 seed to a No. 10 seed for the loss to Northwestern State and the poor showing in the opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But they've bounced back considerably with convincing wins over Iowa and Providence, leading almost wire-to-wire in both of those by double digits. TCU might be one of the Big 12's many contenders after all.

    Fading Fast: Gonzaga Bulldogs (Down Three Seed Lines)
    6-3, NET: 29, RES: 27.0, QUAL: 7.0

    In due time, Gonzaga will probably find its way back up to at least the No. 2 seed line, because after playing six KenPom Top 50 teams within its first eight games, it only has three such contests left on the docket. But because the Zags lost three of those six games—two of them in blowout fashion against Texas and Purdue—they're going to need to re-earn that "upper echelon" status. Blowing that late five-point lead against Baylor on Friday was a major missed opportunity.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    Purdue's Zach Edey
    AP Photo/Doug McSchooler

    No. 4: Connecticut Huskies
    9-0, NET: 2, RES: 2.5, QUAL: 6.0

    Not only is Connecticut 9-0 with victories over Alabama, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Oregon, but all nine of the Huskies' wins have come by double digits. And in each of those four noteworthy wins, a different player led the team in scoring. This nine-man rotation is scary good, especially if Joey Calcaterra keeps slinging long-range arrows off the bench. (He's 17-of-29 from downtown thus far.)

    No. 3: Purdue Boilermakers
    8-0, NET: 3, RES: 1.0, QUAL: 7.0

    It's pretty hard to argue with Purdue's resume after it defeated each of West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke by double digits en route to winning the Phil Knight Legacy. Zach Edey is straight-up dominating, averaging 23.3 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. And the freshman tandem of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer has been outstanding in the backcourt. Though the Boilermakers didn't quite jump all the way to No. 1, their ascension from No. 27 to No. 3 on the seed list in two weeks' time is absurd.

    No. 2: Houston Cougars
    8-0, NET: 1, RES: 6.5, QUAL: 1.0

    Houston's offense has had some serious clunkers already this season, including a 49-44 victory over Kent State in a 70-possession game. But this Cougars defense continually leaves opponents grasping at straws, allowing a nation-best 48.0 points per game. There's a big one coming up against Alabama on Saturday followed by a road game against Virginia the following Saturday. If Houston can survive those two tests, it might carry an undefeated record into the NCAA tournament.

    No. 1: Texas Longhorns
    6-0, NET: 12, RES: 8.0, QUAL: 3.3

    Texas won't play a true road game until opening Big 12 play at Oklahoma on New Year's Eve, but the Longhorns do face Illinois at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. That's a good opportunity to prove that early wins over Gonzaga and Creighton weren't just a product of a raucous crowd at the Moody Center. Like Connecticut, Texas goes nine deep without any drop in potency. And like Houston, the Longhorns are doggone good on defense.

Seeding by Conference

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    Connecticut's Adama Sanogo and Iowa State's Tamin Lipsey
    AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

    In case seeded regions aren't enough and you want to know where the "top" 68 teams stand in relation to one another, here is a list of each squad's overall seed, broken down by conference. "First Five Out" are listed in italics.

    American (2): 2. Houston; 29. Memphis

    ACC (5): 5. Virginia; 18. Duke; 23. Virginia Tech; 32. North Carolina; 35. Miami; 73. NC State

    Big 12 (8): 1. Texas; 8. Kansas; 15. Baylor; 19. Iowa State; 26. TCU; 28. West Virginia; 31. Texas Tech; 45. Oklahoma; 69. Oklahoma State

    Big East (5): 4. Connecticut; 21. Creighton; 30. Xavier; 43. Marquette; 47. St. John's

    Big Ten (10): 3. Purdue; 12. Maryland; 14. Indiana; 20. Illinois; 22. Iowa; 27. Ohio State; 36. Rutgers; 38. Michigan State; 42. Wisconsin; 46. Penn State

    Mountain West (2): 24. San Diego State; 40. Utah State; 71. New Mexico; 72. UNLV

    Pac-12 (4): 6. Arizona; 17. UCLA; 37. Arizona State; 44. Utah

    SEC (7): 7. Tennessee; 9. Kentucky; 10. Arkansas; 11. Alabama; 13. Auburn; 25. Mississippi State; 34. Missouri; 70. LSU

    West Coast (2): 16. Gonzaga; 33. Saint Mary's

    Other (23): 39. UAB; 41. Saint Louis; 48. Drake; 49. Kent State; 50. James Madison; 51. Yale; 52. Sam Houston State; 53. UC Irvine; 54. Iona; 55. College of Charleston; 56. Furman; 57. Liberty; 58. Oral Roberts; 59. UMass Lowell; 60. Colgate; 61. Youngstown State; 62. Longwood; 63. Montana State; 64. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; 65. Southern; 66. SIU-Edwardsville; 67. Norfolk State; 68. Wagner

    Statistics courtesy of Sports Reference and KenPom unless otherwise noted.

    Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.