It’s that time of year: top five storylines to follow for March Madness 2023

64 teams, six rounds, four weeks, one champion. March Madness 2023 is underway, and this year is full of things to watch, including teams like Alabama, Houston, and Kansas and players like Zach Edey, Brandon Miller, and Trayce Jackson-Davis. So, as the madness begins, here are the top five storylines to follow.

5. Life post-Coach K

At the end of last season, Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski retired after 47 seasons with the team. Krzyzewski racked up 1202 wins in his time at Duke, the most by any head coach by over 200. This year, the spotlight was on 35-year-old Jon Scheyer, Duke’s new head coach, who was able to push the Blue Devils to the five seed in the East in his first year at the helm. They will face 12-seeded Oral Roberts, who went 18—0 in in-league play (the only team in the nation to go undefeated in their league this season) and 30—4 overall. They were the Cinderella story in 2021 after making it to the Sweet Sixteen as a 15 seed, and will be a dangerous opponent for the Blue Devils. 

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4. Tough road to repeat

The Kansas Jayhawks won last year’s tournament after coming back from down 15 points at halftime in the championship game. However, on top of losing two of their star seniors from last year, Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, the bracket selection committee didn’t do them any favors. They have a tough road to return to the Final Four in the Western division: two-seeded UCLA has experienced seniors like Tyger Campbell (13.6 points per game [PPG], 4.7 assists per game [APS]) and Jaime Jaquez Jr. (17.3 PPG, 8.1 rebounds per game [RPG], Pac-12 Player of the Year) with Final Four experience leading the way, and three-seeded Gonzaga, led by Drew Timme (21.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, WCC Player of the Year), has caught their stride over the last month (63% from two, 38% from three, No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency).   

3. Upset watch

Every tournament there is usually at least one team that makes a Cinderella run, beating teams far higher seeded than themselves and going farther than anyone expected. This year should be no different, and there are a few teams to watch out for as potential Cinderella candidates. 12-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a tough, gritty squad looking to take down No. 5 St. Mary’s in the first round, and No. 9 FAU, who ran the Conference USA with a in-league record of 18—2, will look to take down No. 8 Memphis and make a deep run in the tournament. However, the number one Cinderella squad to watch is the 13 seed down south, the Furman Paladins. The Paladins won their 15 conference games by an average margin of 16 points, and senior Jalen Slawson (15.7 ppg, 55.6% from the field) is one of four players on the squad averaging double-digit points. 

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2. Questions for the Cougs

The Houston Cougars took the No. 2 overall seed in this year’s bracket, and they have a very serious shot at that title. The big question for them, though, surrounds their All-American senior Marcus Sasser, who suffered a non-contact groin injury in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) tournament semifinals. Houston has been quiet about Sasser’s availability leading up to the tournament, so the question looms: will Sasser be able to suit up, and if not, will the Cougars be able to survive down an All-American?

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1. Top seed riddled with controversy

Alabama earned the number one overall seed in this year’s tournament after a 29—5 regular season record and a Southeastern Conference (SEC) tournament championship. However, their on-court success has been mixed with some off-court drama. In January, now-former Crimson Tide junior Darius Miles was tied to a fatal shooting near Alabama’s campus. It was then later revealed that Bama’s standout freshman and projected top 10 NBA draft pick Brandon Miller may have been the one to supply Miles with the gun. Something to watch as the Tide make their push to the Final Four.