March Madness Preview

Graham Barker, Editor in Chief

The best postseason in American sports is about to get underway. Five rounds, 63 games, and eighteen days of madness sit between now and the crowning of college basketball’s next champion. With 64 different teams representing 32 conferences across Division 1, it’s almost impossible to know the ins and outs of every team and matchup. But, by the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of the storylines making up this year’s edition of March Madness, whether you use it to help fill out your bracket or just to better enjoy the tournament.

The Contenders


The Crimson Tide are the number one overall seed in the tournament, and for good reason. Led by freshman Brandon Miller, Alabama’s juggernaut offense prioritizes high-value shot selection. Their shots come almost exclusively from either right around the rim or from three, taking the least amount of mid-range jumpers of any team in the field. On the defensive end, their heavy drop coverage in pick-and-roll situations forces their opponents into the same mid-range jump shots and floaters that Alabama tries to avoid itself. Starting guards Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears can light up the scoreboard with their high-volume three-point shooting, and Charles Bediako is a defensive force in the interior.


Johnny Juzang may be gone, but Jaime Jaquez and point guard Tyger Campbell have stuck around at UCLA since their historic Final Four run two years ago, and are now primed for another big tournament run. Injuries have plagued the Bruins down the stretch, losing Jaylen Clark for the season, but shot-blocker Adem Bona seems likely to return soon. Bona is the interior anchor for UCLA’s top-ranked defense by Kenpom, holding opponents to just over 60 points per game. Defense, experience, and a star in Jaime Jaquez are what set up UCLA for a run in March.


Image Credit: Tim Warner/Houston Chronicle

The Houston Cougars are the betting favorites in March Madness this year, even with leading guard Marcus Sasser going down in their conference tournament. While Sasser’s status remains unknown, Houston still has the pieces to win it all. Head Coach Kelvin Sampson has a proven track record of tournament success, reaching two Final Fours in his career, and an elite eight last year. Houston dominated their conference schedule in their last year before jumping to the Big 12, losing just one game against an American Conference foe until the championship game without Sasser. Currently ranked number one as almost a complete consensus by predictive metrics, the Cougars will need Jamal Shead and Jarace Walker to step up in Sasser’s absence.

The Dark Horses

Michigan State

Image Credit: Nick King/Lansing State Journal

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has been called ‘Mr. March’ for a reason. And following a disappointing run of post-season performances excluding 2019’s Final Four, reaching just one sweet sixteen since 2015, Izzo and the Spartans almost feel due. Michigan State wins from the perimeter. They shoot the 4th-best three-point percentage in the country at 39.5% and guards AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker have improved to make up one of the better backcourts in the country. Combine the legacy of a coach like Izzo with experienced scoring guards and a weak two seed in Marquette potentially looming as a second-round matchup, and you have the perfect recipe for another trademarked Michigan State run.


Northwestern will play in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history this week, so they certainly won’t lack motivation this March. They’ll face 10-seed Boise State in the first round, and if they can get by that, their next opponent would likely be the high-powered UCLA Bruins. Northwestern has had a season of ups and downs, but if they can find some consistency in the tournament, they could pose a threat to UCLA. The Wildcats pride themselves on defense, led on that end by Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Chase Audige. Seniors Audige and Boo Buie make up the backcourt through which the Northwestern offense runs. If those two can play well and get some help on the interior from Robbie Beran or Matthew Nicholson, Northwestern could make some real noise in this tournament.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M finished second in the SEC this year and, after some bad losses early, finished the year winning 19 of their last 23. The Aggies are a balanced team, efficient on both offense and defense, and score over a quarter of their points from the free throw line, the 2nd-most in the nation. A&M plays without a true center, playing lots of athletes and looking to use their speed to their advantage with dribble drives and fast break opportunities. Wade Taylor will be the key to Texas A&M’s success, as his streaky shooting has both won and lost games for A&M this year.

Upset Picks

14 UC Santa Barbara vs. 3 Baylor

Baylor was bounced in the second round as a 1-seed last year, and with a rough end to the season and underwhelming defense this year, they may suffer another early exit against UC Santa Barbara. The UCSB Gauchos’ leading scorer is Belgian sophomore Ajay Mitchell, but the rest of their rotation is made up of four seniors, a few of whom were on the 2021 UCSB team that nearly knocked off Creighton in a first-round game. This year’s Gauchos have a nationally top-25 two-point shooting percentage and will look to use that to their advantage against Baylor’s lackluster defense, ranking 3rd-worst itself in the tournament field for opponent two-point shooting percentage. The only teams worse? 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. And to wrap everything together, no team with an offense ranked in the Kenpom top 10 and defense outside of the top 100 has reached even the sweet sixteen since 2004, a group Baylor belongs to this year.

13 Kent St vs. 4 Indiana

In the opening weeks of the season, Kent State suffered their second and third losses of the year to Houston by five and Gonzaga by seven, both away from home. Since then, the Golden Flashes have won all but three games, and come into March Madness as one of the hottest teams in the country. Kent State is led by 5th-year senior guard Sincere Carry, who can score from anywhere on the floor and plays nearly 37 minutes per game. Over the last five games, Carry is averaging 23.6 points per game on 47% shooting, and will lead Kent State against an Indiana team that struggled down the stretch. Indiana finished the year 4-4, including a blowout home loss to Iowa. And if there’s any 13 seed that can put up points in bunches like Iowa, it might just be Sincere Carry and Kent State.

12 Oral Roberts vs. 5 Duke

Image Credit: Steven Branscombe /USA Today Sports

Making their first return to the tournament since their sweet sixteen run two years ago, Oral Roberts will undoubtedly be one of the most anticipated potential upsets of the first round. Point guard and high-level scorer Max Abmas returns from that 2021 team, and his pick and roll partner is none other than the 7’5”, 229-pound, three-point-shooting Connor Vanover, a senior who spent his last two years mostly on the bench at Arkansas. The Golden Eagles breezed through their Summit League competition, including a 34-point victory in the conference tournament championship, and currently hold the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 games. They’ll face a tough challenge in Duke, but if there’s one double-digit seed that can make a run this year, it might just be Oral Roberts again.