It’s only two days before the start of the college football season and that can mean only one thing – it’s time for a never-too-early look at Bracketology. March Madness is a few months away, but we have a pre-preseason projection of the 2023 NCAA Tournament and the field of 68.
The vast majority of team schedules have not released yet, so there may be some bracketing errors based on games played against possible opponents, but I am not checking for that in this bracket. That will be resolved in the preseason bracket projection in November before the season starts.
But for now, here is a look at the top seeds in the never-too-early first bracket projection for the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
Bracketology top seeds
Check out Palm’s latest bracket, full field of 68 and all the teams on the bubble on the Bracketology hub.
No. 1 overall seed: Gonzaga (West) – The Zags will be trying to secure a No. 1 seed for the fifth time in the last six NCAA Tournaments. They are bolstered by the return of six of their top eight scorers, including 2022 second team All-American Drew Timme. They have also added the 2022 Southern Conference Player of the Year Malachi Smith from Chattanooga. Look for Gonzaga to dominate the West Coast Conference again this season.
No. 2 overall seed: Houston (Midwest) – Houston fell one win short of its second consecutive Final Four last season without the services of two of its key players, Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark. They will return this season to bolster another strong lineup that will be a difficult matchup for everyone. Kelvin Sampson has turned this program into something to be reckoned with and it will be interesting to see how the Cougars fare when they join the Big 12.
No. 3 overall seed: North Carolina (East) – The Tar Heels had to get hot at the end of the regular season just to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They entered as a No. 8 seed and stayed hot, falling just short of the national championship in a loss to Kansas in the title game. Almost everyone is back to give it another go. I’m a little leery of teams that made big 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 top four the following season. The Bruins ended up a No. 4 seed, which is a pretty reasonable jump. North Carolina should move up pretty far from last season as well.
No. 4 overall seed: Kentucky (South) – Naismith National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe returns along with Sahvir Wheeler to give coach John Calipari a good base to build around. Sophomore Daimion Collins and senior Jacob Toppin should play more of a role this season and as usual, another top five recruiting class will arrive.
Kentucky brings back its strongest roster in years, can the Wildcats finally make it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast as Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander discuss UK in our Summer Shootaround series.
Big Ten leads pack
The Big Ten has eight teams in this bracket, the most of any conference, but none are seeded higher than fourth. Rutgers is projected to a second consecutive First Four appearance. Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois and Purdue are all bunched together in the bracket in what is expected to be a crowded race for the regular season title.
The ACC, Big 12 and SEC each have seven teams in this bracket. Of course, for the Big 12, that is a greater percentage of its membership than for the others.
Aztecs head across the country
San Diego State 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 2,800 miles. 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.
As usual, 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), UCF (Orlando), Louisville, and UNLV.
Now, let’s get ready for kickoff with tipoff not far behind!