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The Obvious, and Not So Obvious, Title Contenders

Obvious, and Not So Obvious, Title Contenders | Tipico
Obvious, and Not So Obvious, Title Contenders | Tipico
Alex Valdes
Published: 2023-03-14

In our series Tipico Edge, we work with both our internal analysts and external experts to provide you with betting insights and tips on key games or tournaments.

By Grant Leonard

It’s that magical time of year. Buzzer beaters. Upsets. Unknown names becoming stars. Stars turning super. Confetti. Net cutting. This one shining moment is the majesty we call March Madness. The field for the 2023 NCAA men’s college basketball tournament and the madness is officially tipping off this week. Here are the teams to keep an eye on when filling out your bracket and making your bets.


A 1-seed has won the last 5 tournaments, so if that trend holds this year, then one of the following will cut down the nets in Houston:


Alabama earned the number 1 overall seed in the tournament, which is a major victory in itself sitting atop a bracket of over 300 Division 1 teams. They went 29-5 on the season and won the SEC championship. Freshman star Brandon Miller is a projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft for a reason and he’s surrounded by talented weapons on every part of the floor.

If you watched ESPN’s Bracketology on Selection Sunday, you’d have seen most of the expert panel pick Bama as its winner. There are some off-the-court questions for this team, but their talent on the hardwood cannot be doubted.


Houston entered the AAC Tournament Final against Memphis on a 13-game win streak. The underdog Tigers upset the Cougars, who played without star Marcus Sasser, who suffered a groin injury during the tournament.

Still, coach Kelvin Sampson’s squad opens as the betting favorite after a 31-3 record and last year’s run to the Elite Eight. They have the pedigree to go the distance and would have the opportunity to essentially play two home games with the Final Four taking place in Houston. But will leading scorer Sasser be healthy enough to help them get there?


This Boilermakers bunch is highlighted by 7-foot-4 goliath Zach Edey and earned victories over Duke, Gonzaga, and Marquette this year. Despite a 4-4 record across their final eight games heading into the Big 10 tournament, they still managed to take home the crown with a narrow two-point victory over Penn State in the final.

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The East is fully loaded with contenders though, and it’ll be tough sledding when ACC champion Duke is a 5-seed. This is the least exciting 1-seed in my book.


The defending national champs look like they have all the tools to repeat, despite getting absolutely humbled in a 20-point blowout loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game. The Longhorns beat the Jayhawks twice in their previous 11 games, but coach Bill Self’s team comes into the tournament with arguably the best resume in all the land.

Self might be the most pressing question mark this team has since a health issue forced him to miss the Big 12 title game. If the bench boss can get back in action, Jalen Wilson has the star power to carry his squad on the court and has plenty of help with the likes of Gradey Dick and Kevin McCullar Jr. They’ll face a tough Round of 32 matchup against the winner of the 8/9 matchup with Arkansas and Illinois both being worthy adversaries.



Coach Shaka Smart’s Golden Eagles pose a serious threat in the East. They won the Big East and notched victories over Xavier and UConn to do so. They have a top-10 offense as measured by offensive efficiency, but can their defense stay stout?


Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Big 12 tournament winners. Two blowout wins over Kansas. Star power in Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen. The Longhorns have a lot going in their favor but face a tough path out of the Midwest.


Coach Danny Hurley’s team is ranked top-15 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency and has wins over Alabama, Creighton, and Marquette. They may only be a 4 seed, but these Huskies look like they can compete with anyone.


Arguably the best defense in the country paired with a top-25 offense.



No second seed has reached the title since 2016. If Arizona can play its run-and-gun style of play that resembles video games, then it has a chance to change that.


Watch out for Duke. The Blue Devils are on a 9-game winning streak after winning the ACC tournament and just seem to have that swagger you’d expect from a blue blood program. Jeremy Roach is a steady floor general who can lead his team with poise while also hitting big shots. Freshman Kyle Filipowski is a matchup nightmare, and Dereck Lively II is one of the fiercest big men in the country. That’s a scary five seed.

Kansas State

The Wildcats stunned many in college basketball for being such a force this year. They snapped a 7-game losing streak against Kansas and also beat Texas and Baylor (twice). They’ve got upperclassmen leadership and experience and seem to have a chip on their shoulder given that most of the contributors are transfers. Let’s see if that chip can get them to Houston.


Credit to coach Mark Few, we basically know what we’re getting with Gonzaga every year. Tons of wins, tons of stats, and Drew Timme. But they’ll be a darkhorse until they can actually prove that they have what it takes to summit the college basketball mountain.


Can big man Norchad Omier get healthy after his ankle injury in the ACC tournament derailed the Canes’ hopes of capturing a league title? If he can, this team with veteran guards and a top-15 adjusted offensive efficiency is dangerous.

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Coach Sean Miller’s squad won the NIT last year and returned most of that same roster this season. The Musketeers have wins over UConn twice plus Marquette and Creighton. Their offense can compete with the best of the bunch, but can their defense hold up against some tough Midwest matchups?


South winner Alabama vs East winner Duke; Duke wins

Midwest winner Texas vs West winner UConn; UConn wins

A team that received an at-large bid has won 6 of the last 8 championships. Giving this metric extra weight in my decision, Duke’s automatic qualifier as ACC champ actually hurts them.

The Huskies cut down the nets in Houston!

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Obvious, and Not So Obvious, Title Contenders | Tipico


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