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 East region.
[Free bracket contests for both tourneys | Printable Bracket: Men’s | Women’s]
29-5, Big Ten champions
Purdue started the season unranked after losing lottery pick Jaden Ivey from a 2022 team that earned a No. 3 seed and advanced to the Sweet 16. Now here it is back and better thanks to the unplanned emergence of Zach Edey.
The 7-4 center who joined Purdue as a three-star project in 2020 has emerged as an unstoppable force and a National Player of the Year favorite as a junior. Edey’s averaged 22.3 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a junior while leading Purdue to a No. 1 seed. He’s surrounded by All-Big Ten honorable mentions Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer on a team that ranks seventh nationally in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and 26th in defense. The Boilermakers have the longest odds of any of the No. 1 seeds, but Edey gives them a matchup nightmare and a chance to win any game.
No. 2 Marquette (+2500)
28-6, Big East champions
Like Purdue, Marquette wasn’t expected to be here at the start of the season. The Golden Eagles entered the season without a single vote in the preseason AP poll. They enter the NCAA tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country, having won nine straight games and 14 out of their last 15.
Second-year coach Shaka Smart has fast-forwarded the turnaround at Marquette in his second season after taking over for Steve Wojciechowski in 2021. Now the challenge is accomplishing what eluded him at Texas — NCAA tournament success. Marquette starts play ranked eighth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency while featuring Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek, who’s filled up the box score with 13.3 points, 7.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 39.4% from 3-point distance.
No. 3 Kansas State (+5000)
23-9, at large
Here’s another team that wasn’t supposed to be here. Like Purdue and Marquette, Kansas State entered the season outside the top 25. Propelled by Florida transfer Keyontae Johnson, Kansas State posted a third-place finish in the nation’s toughest conference. Johnson is one of the stories of the year having recovered from a reported heart condition that almost cost him his life in 2020 and ultimately ended his Florida career.
He transferred to KSU to emerge as an All-Big 12 player and re-emerge as an NBA prospect. All after his basketball career was supposed to be over. The Wildcats are ranked 19th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and will prove a tough out.
No. 4 Tennessee (+3000)
23-10, at large
Here’s a team that’s seeded roughly in line with its preseason expectations. The Vols started the season ranked No. 11 and earned a No. 4 seed after a fifth-place finish in a tough SEC. Unfortunately for the Vols, they could have been seeded higher and enter tournament play on a downswing.
Tennessee lost starting point guard and elite defender Zakai Ziegler to an ACL tear on March 1. Without another true point guard on the roster, the Vols are hobbled and lost two of their last three games. They rank second in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency for the season. How that holds up without Ziegler in the lineup will be Tennessee’s biggest challenge.
No. 5 Duke (+2500)
26-8, at large
What a turnaround. Armed with a freshman class loaded with NBA prospects, Duke started the season ranked No. 7 in the nation. A 17-8 start had them well out of the top 25 in Jon Scheyer’s first year as head coach. But since a Feb. 11 loss to Virginia, Duke hasn’t dropped a game. It ripped six straight wins to close the regular season then three more to secure the ACC tournament championship. Now there’s talk that Duke’s actually under-seeded on the five line.
The Blue Devils feature an elite rim protector in freshman Dereck Lively and a versatile All-ACC freshman in forward Kyle Filipowski. They’ll be one of the most-watched teams in the East and the NCAA tournament.
No. 6 Kentucky (+4000)
21-11, at large
Kentucky likewise saved its season from potential disaster. The Wildcats were on the verge of playing themselves out of the tournament midseason after starting the season ranked No. 4. A 10-6 start had the Wildcats out of the polls. But quality wins over Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State and Arkansas cleared the path for an NCAA bid. Though two loses in their last three game to Vanderbilt renewed questions about John Calipari’s team.
2022 National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe returns from a team that suffered a historic upset to St. Peter’s last year as a No. 2 seed. Will he and the Wildcats find redemption with the pressure tamped down — if ever so slightly?
No. 7 Michigan State (+10000)
19-12, at large
In what’s been a difficult winter in East Lansing, Tom Izzo has his Spartans back in the NCAA tournament for a 25th straight season. Michigan State finished fourth in the Big Ten in the regular season and lost in the tournament quarterfinals to an Ohio State team that finished 13th in conference play. This is not vintage Michigan State.
If the Spartans make a move, they’ll do so behind All-Big Ten guard Tyson Walker, a senior sharpshooter who shows up big in the big moments — including Michigan State’s first home game following a fatal on-campus mass shooting in February.
No. 8 Memphis (+8000)
26-8, AAC champions
For once under Penny Hardaway, Memphis doesn’t enter NCAA tournament play leaning heavily on highly-rated freshmen. Memphis features a starting lineup that boasts a grand total of zero freshmen this season. In fact, the Tigers’ nine leading scorers are all seniors. First-team All-AAC players Kendric Davis (22.1 points, 5.6 assists per game) and DeAndre Williams (17.8 points, 8 rebounds per game, 42.6% 3-point shooting) lead the way for a Memphis team that ranks 26th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 35th in defense.
This is a team that just beat No. 1 seed Houston in the AAC title game. It can do damage in March.
No. 9 Florida Atlantic (+20000)
31-3, CUSA champions
Florida Atlantic is a strong 3-point shooting team (37.2%) with four players who shoot 36.9% or better from distance. This is a dangerous asset come March. All-CUSA guards Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin lead the way on a team that ranks 32nd in adjusted offensive efficiency and 36th on defense. FAU’s first-round matchup against Memphis is one of the first round’s most enticing.
No. 10 USC (+20000)
22-10, at large
The Trojans finished third in the Pac-12 and feature a pair of All-Pac 12 guards in Boogie Ellis (18 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3 assists per game) and Drew Peterson (14 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists per game). They rank in the top 50 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. This isn’t an elite USC team, but it’s balanced and has strong guard play, which can lead to success in tournament play.
No. 11 Providence (+12500)
21-11, at large
The Friars are as cold as it gets entering NCAA tournament play, having lost three straight and four out of their last five. Their only win since Feb. 18 came against a Georgetown team that just fired program icon Patrick Ewing. This is not what you want to see in March.
Providence ranks 16th in the nation in offensive efficiency but 108th on defense. It will need a big game from All-Big East forward and Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins (16.1 points, 8.5 rebounds per game) to have any chance against the Wildcats.
No. 12 Oral Roberts (+25000)
30-4, Summit League champions
Oral Roberts enters the NCAA tournament on a 17-game win streak and fresh off a Summit League championship. Its reward? A date with a red-hot Duke team with a chip on its shoulder.
Two-time Summit League Player of the Year Max Abmas (22.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4 assists per game; 37.7% 3-point shooting) is a bucket who’s been here before. He led then-No. 15 seed Oral Roberts to a run to the Sweet 16 in 2021 with wins over No. 2 seed Ohio State and No. 7 seed Florida. Now ORU is a No. 12 seed, but the path ahead may be tougher.
No. 13 Louisiana (+50000)
26-7, Sun Belt champions
Louisiana’s won five straight entering tournament play, but only had one game this season against a ranked team. They lost to Texas, 100-72 in December. All-Sun Belt forward Jordan Brown is a force in the post who averaged 19.4 points and 8.7 rebounds this season. The Ragin Cajuns can turn it and ranked 57th in adjusted offensive efficiency this year. But they rank 146th in defense and face a tough task against a quality Tennessee team — even one missing its starting point guard.
No. 14 Montana State (+100000)
25-9, Big Sky champions
The Bobcats won 13 out of 14 en route to the Big Sky championship. They feature three players who score in double figures including All-Big Sky forward Raequan Battle (17.4 points per game). Conference Defensive Player of the Year Darius Brown anchors a defense that ranks 73rd in defensive efficiency. But the Bobcats are going to have to fight for points against Kansas State with the nation’s 170th-ranked offense.
No. 15 Vermont (+100000)
23-10, America East champions
After an 8-10 start, Vermont ripped off 14 straight wins to secure the America East crown. Their reward is a matchup with an equally hot Marquette team that just won the Big East. The Catamounts will need a big game from leading scorer Dylan Penn just to keep things interesting.
No. 16 Texas Southern (+100000)
14-20, SWAC champions
No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson (+100000)
19-15, NEC champions
Texas Southern won the SWAC conference tournament despite finishing six games under .500 this season. Fairleigh Dickinson isn’t much better with 15 losses. Don’t expect either to keep things interesting against Purdue.