2023 NCAA Tournament winners, losers: North Carolina leads by notable team variances on Selection Sunday

The The 2023 NCAA Tournament field has been announcedbut before you grab that printable and start breaking down all the possible twists and cinderella runs, we need to set the stage with what we just learned from the reveal of the bracket on Selection Sunday.

Seeding decisions lead to matchups and determine the path — in terms of locations — for each team’s NCAA Tournament trip. How the committee places these teams against each other has tremendous implications for how the tournament plays out. So before we get to the experts’ picks, let’s set the scene by breaking down some notable winners and losers coming out of Selection Sunday’s festivities.

Winner: Alabama

The Crimson Tide earned the No. 1 overall seed, will open their tournament in Birmingham and pulled off a favorable run to reach the Final Four for the first time in program history. Not that playing the winner of Maryland and West Virginia won’t bring some bruises and require some physicality, but Alabama has one of the low seeds at 2-seed Arizona and both 3-seed Baylor and Virginia 4 seeds have been raising losses more often in the last two weeks.

If Alabama gets past the first two rounds in the South Regional, it will do so with a comfortable trip to Louisville, while other regional contenders like Arizona, San Diego State and, to a lesser extent, Creighton face more daunting trips. It’s uncertain if a loss to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament championship game would have jeopardized such a favorable run, but after following up the regular season SEC title with a conference tournament title, it all comes down to the Crimson Tide.

Lost: North Carolina

Sunday’s revelation made official what many thought was coming after North Carolina’s loss to Virginia in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament: The Tar Heels made history as the first team to start as the No. 1 preseason team in the AP Top 25 poll and ended up missing the NCAA Tournament since the field was expanded in 1985. North Carolina eventually finished as the third team in the top four out of the field. The team had a chance to be a No. 1 seed in the NIT. However, coach Hubert Davis announced Sunday night the team chose not to participate in the NITso the story of this storied season ended with a Selection Sunday snub.

North Carolina’s infamy comes a year after a magical run to the national championship game with much of the same core back for the 2022-23 season. The team, however, failed to show any sort of consistency throughout the season. Even through those disappointments — or perhaps compounding them for UNC fans — is the fact that if several close losses were reversed in their favor, the Tar Heels would be in the tournament. None of those loom larger on Selection Sunday than a triple-overtime loss to No. 1 overall seed Alabama.

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Loser: Kansas

When Houston was entered as the No. 2 overall seed and assigned to the Midwest Region, it was immediately apparent that the Jayhawks had missed out on potentially playing Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games at home. The Midwest Regional will be held in Kansas City, so Houston, not Kansas, the nod for that region has a broad impact on the Jayhawks’ efforts to repeat as national champions.

Now, if Kansas makes it out of the first two rounds, it will travel to Las Vegas for the second weekend. This is especially difficult not only in terms of travel differential for Kansas and its fans, but also what they might find in the Elite Eight with 2-seed UCLA and 3-seed Gonzaga residing at the other end of the field of the Western Region. The explanation for Houston over Kansas included the report that the Cougars were competitive in both of their regular-season losses, and Sunday’s loss to Memphis in the AAC championship game came without star guard Marcus Sasser in the lineup. So while Kansas has set a new Quad 1 record with 17 wins, not only did it fall short of the No. 1 overall seed, but it also fell short of a spot on a road trip that would have passed through Kansas City.

Winner: Duke

While Kansas missed out on a chance to play second-weekend games in favorable locations, the opposite is true for Duke in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Devils earned a 5-seed thanks to their body of work, but with nine straight wins, a healthier roster and a much-improved level of play over the last month, it doesn’t pass the eye test as a 5-seed. .

If Duke can break out of its Orlando pod that includes Tennessee and a first-round meeting with Oral Roberts, it will travel to the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. The Blue Devils play games in this building every year, in part because of the strong presence of Duke fans and alumni in the New York area, and it’s great news for Jon Scheyer. However, it’s bad news for No. 1 seed Purdue if the Cameron Crazies have a chance to fill this building.

Loser: Rutgers, Oklahoma State

Our own Jerry Palm had Rutgers in his projected field of 68, but the selection committee favored Arizona State. The Scarlet Knights were 10-10 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 opportunities, but went 2-4 in Quad 3. There was a chance against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament to secure a 5th win in Quad 1, but Rutgers found itself on the wrong side of the bubble after a loss to the Boilermakers.

However, Rutgers was officially the top team. That honor goes to an Oklahoma State team that went 6-12 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 opportunities with just one loss in Quad 3. The resume numbers weren’t as strong as the predictive metrics, and Oklahoma State fans will were ultimately haunted by two losses close to home — a five-point loss to Kansas State and a six-point loss to Baylor — that could have overturned that outcome.

However, as our own Gary Parrish reported on CBS Sports Network Sunday night, any team in a power conference that misses the cut can’t complain about a lack of opportunities. Rutgers had 20 chances against teams in the first two quarters and Oklahoma State had 18. With a few different bounces, the profiles would be strong enough to dance.

Winner: Rick Pitino-to-the-Big East storylines

As the coaching carousel churns with rumors about Rick Pitino and whether he might be a candidate for open positions at both the St. John’s as well as Georgetown, the Hall of Famer and current Iona coach will begin the 2023 NCAA Tournament against one of the best teams from the Big East this season: UConn. This pod in Albany, New York for the first and second rounds should be well attended by UConn fans. The vibrations of the Great East will be terrible!

Loser: Texas A&M

Buzz Williams’ team was one of the biggest snubs from the 2022 NCAA Tournament, and at This On Election Sunday, the Aggies found themselves the subject of one of the more puzzling seeding decisions by the committee. Texas A&M was projected to be a 5-seed or 6-seed heading into the SEC Tournament championship game against Alabama, however when the committee revealed its bracket, the Aggies found themselves as a 7-seed in the Midwest region matching a Penn State team in the first round that just finished runner-up in the Big Ten Tournament. They will also likely face 2 seed Texas in the second round. While fans elsewhere may salivate over the potential of a Texas-Texas A&M matchup on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line, this is a much tougher draw than if the Aggies had taken a 5- seed or 6-seed as many have suggested.

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