With the field for the 2023 men’s NCAA tournament now official, we’re breaking down each team in the bracket in the lead-up to the tournament. Here’s what you need to know about the West region.
No. 1 Kansas (+800 to win national title)
The defending national champions are set to have Bill Self back on the sideline after he missed the Big 12 tournament due to a heart procedure. And this team looks a lot different than it did a season ago when it won the national title. Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun are in the NBA and Jalen Wilson has taken the mantle as the team’s go-to player.
Just two of Kansas’ seven losses have been by single digits. It has been odd to see such a good team get blown out like Kansas has at times this season. That’s part of the reason why the West looks to be the most wide-open region in the tournament. Wilson averages 20 points per game for the Jayhawks and three others average at least 10 per game. Wilson has also scored at least 20 points in six of those seven losses as teams have been content to let Wilson cook and attempt to shut his teammates down.
No. 2 UCLA (+1200)
The Bruins are set to be without third-leading scorer Jaylen Clark due to an Achilles injury. If Clark was in the lineup, this team may be the favorite to win the West. UCLA lost by two to Arizona in the Pac-12 title game and still feature Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell. Freshman Amari Bailey also averages over 10 points per game. UCLA allows just 60 points per game and opponents shoot just 31% from 3. A potential Sweet 16 game with Gonzaga in Las Vegas could be raucous.
No. 3 Gonzaga (+1800)
28-5, West Coast champion
The Zags enter the NCAA tournament on a nine-game win streak after losing to Saint Mary’s in overtime Feb. 4. Drew Timme is once again the focal point for Gonzaga’s offense as he averages 21 points per game. Julian Strawther averages 15 points per game and shoots almost 43% from 3. This is an incredibly experienced team that will not surprise anyone if it makes the Final Four again. Gonzaga leads the country with 87.5 points per game and shoots nearly 60% from inside the arc.
No. 4 UConn (+1600)
The Huskies finished fifth in the Big East and lost to eventual champion Marquette in the conference tournament semifinals. All eight of UConn’s losses this season have come to Big East opponents. The Huskies beat tournament teams Alabama and Iowa State in November by a combined 37 points. Adama Sanogo averages 17 points and seven rebounds while Jordan Hawkins scores 16 points per game. Don’t be surprised if UConn is a slight underdog in a potential Sweet 16 game against Kansas given how good its national title odds are.
No. 5 Saint Mary’s (+4000)
The Gaels tied with Gonzaga for the regular-season West Coast Conference title and play an extremely different style than the Zags. Saint Mary’s gives up just 60 points per game and is one of the most methodical teams in the country. Just four teams play at a slower pace according to KenPom.com. Guards Logan Johnson and Aidan Mahaney combine to average nearly 30 points per game and the Gaels also allow just 16 triple attempts per game. A great way to limit your chances of getting upset is to prevent your opponent from shooting 3s.
No. 6 TCU (+3500)
The Horned Frogs lost early in the season to Northwestern State and responded by winning 11 games in a row. TCU has shown it’s capable of beating good teams as the Horned Frogs beat Kansas, Texas, Kansas State and Baylor this season. But it also split games with the three Big 12 teams that didn’t make the tournament. Mike Miles leads the team with 17 points per game and Emanuel Miller and Damion Baugh each averaged over 12 per game. Like Iowa State, a Sweet 16 run for TCU will be further proof of the Big 12's strength.
No. 7 Northwestern (+15000)
The Wildcats finished second behind Purdue in a muddled Big Ten and lost to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament. A five-game win streak in February got Northwestern solidly into the NCAA tournament but that streak was followed by three consecutive losses before Northwestern clinched second with a win over Rutgers in the final game of the regular season. Boo Buie averages 17 points per game and Chase Audige averages 14 but the Wildcats shoot just 32% from 3 as a team.
No. 8 Arkansas (+5000)
Arkansas underachieved in 2022-23 without Nick Smith for much of the season. But he’s back and has scored at least 12 points in his past six games. The Razorbacks can be streaky, and that term applies to losing streaks (they had two three-game losing streaks in the SEC) and even over the course of a single game. Just look at how Arkansas collapsed against Texas A&M in the SEC tournament. This is a team that has made the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons and could be a popular pick to upset Kansas if it beats Illinois.
No. 9 Illinois (+8000)
Illinois has been maddening for Illini fans all season long with just two victories over Big Ten teams that made the NCAA tournament. But Illinois is in largely because it beat the teams it should have beaten in the conference and also took down UCLA early in the season and defeated Texas in December. This is the perfectly unpredictable opponent for Arkansas. Texas Tech transfer Terrence Shannon averages 17 points per game while former Baylor player Matthew Mayer averages 13 points per game.
No. 10 Boise State (+20000)
The Broncos finished second in the Mountain West in the regular season and lost to fellow NCAA tournament team Utah State in the conference tournament. The Broncos beat San Diego State on Feb. 28 and also beat Utah State by 23 in January while scoring a non-conference win over Texas A&M in December. Five players average at least 10 points per game for the Broncos and Boise State is one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the country while being one of the worst on the offensive glass.
No. 11 Nevada (+50000)
Steve Alford’s bunch gets Arizona State in the play-in round for the right to play TCU in the first round. Nevada was the final team into the NCAA tournament and got in after going 12-6 in a four-bid Mountain West. The Wolf Pack ended the season on a three-game losing streak as the final two losses came in overtime to UNLV and San Jose State. Jarod Lucas scores 17 points per game while Kenan Blackshear averages 14 and Will Baker scores 13 points per contest. Nevada also shoots 79% from the free-throw line as a team.
No. 11 Arizona State (+50000)
ASU took down USC in the Pac-12 tournament Thursday in a game that might have gotten the Sun Devils into the Big Dance. That win avenged a 68-65 loss to the Trojans in the regular-season finale and a home loss to USC earlier in the year. ASU went 1-6 against the three other Pac-12 teams in the tournament; its only win was an 89-88 win over Arizona on Feb. 25. Desmond Cambridge leads the team with 14 points per game.
No. 12 VCU (+25000)
27-7, Atlantic-10 champion
The Rams went 15-3 in the A-10 to win the regular-season title and beat Dayton, 68-56, in the conference title game. VCU enters the tournament on a nine-game win streak after a loss to the Flyers on Feb. 7 and is in the tournament for the 10th time in the past 12 seasons. VCU has a very balanced scoring attack led by guard Ace Baldwin (13 points per game) and ranks No. 17 in KenPom.com’s adjusted defense rankings.
No. 13 Iona (+50000)
27-7, MAAC champion
All signs point to this being the final season for Rick Pitino at Iona after he has been linked to open jobs at St. John’s and Texas Tech. The longtime college coach’s Gaels went 17-3 in conference play and won each of its MAAC tournament games by double digits. Iona enters the tournament with 14 wins in a row and sophomore guard Walter Clayton averages 17 points per game while forward Nelly Junior Joseph scores 15 per game and averages 9.4 rebounds.
No. 14 Grand Canyon (+100000)
24-11, WAC champion
Grand Canyon finished sixth in the WAC but won the conference tournament to advance to its second NCAA tournament in three seasons. Rayshon Harrison scores nearly 18 points per game while Gabe McGlothan averages 13 points and eight rebounds. The Antelopes shoot 38% from 3 on 23 attempts per game.
No. 15 UNC Asheville (+100000)
27-7, Big South champion
The Bulldogs won the regular-season Big South title with a 16-2 conference record and defeated Campbell, 77-73, in the conference title game for a ninth consecutive win. This is UNC Asheville’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2016 and the team has never been higher than a No. 15 seed in any of its five NCAA tournament appearances. Drew Pember scores 21 points per game and averages over nine rebounds a contest.
No. 16 Howard (+100000)
22-12, MEAC champion
It’s Howard’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1992. The Bison were a No. 16 seed in their first NCAA tournament that season. Their first-round opponent 31 years ago? Kansas. Howard beat Norfolk State, 65-64, to get to the tournament and leading scorer Elijah Hawkins shoots 47% from 3.