March Madness crash course: How to get your bracket ready in time for the “Big Dance”


With the Big Dance beginning in earnest tomorrow, now is your last chance to finish up your bracket. And with 64 teams in the tournament, that might feel like a daunting task — so let’s follow Harbinger staff writer Anthony Lumbi as he breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of each of the competitors, and applies a bit of method to all this March Madness. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Men’s NCAA Basketball tournament starts this week! March Madness officially begins with the conference championships and continues with the Big Dance kicking off the first four on Tuesday, March 14, and the first round on Thursday, March 16. 

This week, people across the states (and maybe the world) will be filling out brackets, looking to fill out a perfect one to win grand prizes offered by various different corporations or win pools with friends or coworkers. 

We’ll be looking at all 64 teams to give you the edge this March: identifying stats and trends from each team, and seeing what teams are stumbling in or rolling along. All stats are according to Kenpom, an archive for college basketball statistics created by Ken Pomeroy.

Keep in mind that the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 according to Wallethub. There’s a better chance that you’ll get struck by lightning. 

Last year, #15 seed St. Peters made a magical Elite Eight run by upsetting Kentucky in the first round, followed by #7 Seed Murray State and then #3 Purdue. In 2018, we saw the only ever #16 seed knock of a #1 seed when UMBC shocked Virginia. 2008 was the only time we saw all #1 seeds in the Final Four. In 1990, UNLV defeated Duke in the finals being the last Mid-Major school to win it all.

Point is, there are no guarantees in March. 

The sixty-four teams selected for the tournament are made of thirty-two teams that won their respective conference tournament in the beginning of March to receive an automatic bid. Thirty-two more worthy teams are selected by a committee made of athletic directors and conference commissioners. Said committee will then mix up the teams up in 4 different regions: South, East, West and Midwest.



#1 Seed Alabama: Coached by Nate Oats, who has taken a mid-major in Buffalo to the 2nd round twice and now has his best team to date. ‘Bama finished the regular season with only 5 losses and won the conference tournament, winning all games in the tourney by a margin of 11 or more. With senior Jahvon Quinerly, who had a big role in the 2021 Sweet 16 run, and Brandon Miller, a Wooden award finalist, the Tide are looking to roll further this year. 

Set to face

#16 Seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christe or SE Missouri State: This matchup is between two teams that both have an average height of about 75.5”. The winner will find problems against Bama’s size. A&M is the better team with better shooting; however, if they advance they’re going up against the team with the country’s best effective shot defense.


#8 Seed Maryland: Coach Kevin Willard only made it out of the first round once in his twelve year tenure with Seton Hall between 2011-22. With all but one loss coming on the road this year, and being one of the farther places to travel to in the Big Ten, there can’t be a lot of confidence that the Terrapins will make it far on the neutral sites. 

Set to face 

#9 Seed West Virginia: WV has played offense efficiently enough to run with anyone but doesn’t have the defense to get stops versus tougher opponents. The Mountaineers, despite only missing the tourney four times under legendary coach Bob Huggins, have only come into the tournament with less than ten losses once — perhaps a testament to the tough BIG 12.


#5 Seed San Diego State: SD State is a respected mid-major. They’ve only been lower than an eighth seed once in their last ten appearances. Coach Brian Dutcher has been bounced in the first round in all three of his Dances with the Aztecs. Considering past opponents, this should be his easiest time getting one win under the belt.

Set to face 

#12 Seed College of Charleston: With wins over Virginia Tech and Kent state earlier this season, finishing the season 31-3 and winning the CAA Tournament, Charleston is putting anyone they face on upset alert. They’re a team that plays fast and barely fouls; however, they like to shoot the three on 37% of their possessions. That’s top 28 in the nation and they aren’t even top 200 in the nation at making the shot.


#4 Seed Virginia: Head coach Tony Bennett won a national championship in 2019. However, he was the victim in the biggest upset in tourney history the year prior. The Cavaliers play a slow signature style of basketball. They turn the ball over second least in the nation. However, losing their most efficient role player in the last game of the season has to worry UVA fans.

Set to face.

#13 Seed Furman: Back at the Dance for the first time in nearly 4 decades, Furman got the auto-bid by winning the southern conference. Although statistically the best 2PT shooting team in the nation at 59.1%, the Paladins are very unproven, as they haven’t beat a top 100 ranked team and only played two.


#6 Seed Creighton: The Bluejays will have a height advantage at center with 7 ‘1” Ryan Kalkbrenner versus most teams they play — especially N.C State. with their biggest starter at 6’9”. Crieghton has good starters but lacks depth, having to play back to back games in short periods of times could hurt them later in the tourney.

Set to face 

#11 Seed NC State: One of the best teams at not turning the ball over. They started off the season hot but are coming in winning just 5 of their last 10. Coming in on bad form could spell disaster for the Wolfpack, who were already an inconsistent team to begin with.


#3 Seed Baylor: This is national champion head coach Scott Drew’s worst defense in 13 years. The Bears still place third in the BIG12 by shooting the ball exceptionally well. However, selecting Baylor to go far is risky because they are relying on shooting.

Set to face 

#14 Seed University of California Santa Barbara: Last time UCSB was in the Dance they were a 12 seed and lost by a single point vs Creighton in the 1st round. Although not having played the same level of competition as the field, UCSB boasts top fifty stats in most offensive categories.


#7 Seed Missouri: One of the shorter teams in the tournament, also coming in with the worst rebounding stats. A high paced team that’s efficient on offense and generous on defense

Set to face

#10 Seed Utah State: A tall, fast-paced team led by head coach Ryan Odom, who was the head coach of UMBC when they beat UVA in the biggest upset in tourney history. The Aggies have 13 wins against top 100 opponents this season. They have a top 50 scoring offense and size to play good defense.


#2 Seed Arizona: Tommy Lloyd’s 61 wins with the Wildcats is the most by any head coach in their first two seasons in NCAA Division I history. Led by 6 ’11 Azoulas Tubelis, a Naismith Award finalist, the Wildcats are one of the tallest teams in the nation and boast the third most efficient offense in the nation. Having two wins over AP top 2 ranked UCLA this season, the Wildcats are a problem for every team in the South region. 

Set to face

#15 Seed Princeton: Winners of the Ivy League conference tourney. Princeton is unproven, being the 2nd youngest team in the tournament. They’ve played a top 100 opponent 4 times this regular season and lost all of them.



#1 Seed Purdue: Coach Matt Painter has only made it to the Elite Eight once despite coming in at a four seed or better eight times. 7’4” Zach Edey came into his own this season averaging a double-double this season and winning National Player of the Year. Purdue won the BIG TEN tournament; however, with the tourney ending this past Sunday, the Boilermakers will have the least amount of rest days amongst the field. 

Set to face

#16 Seed Texas Southern or Fairliegh Dickinson: Fairliegh Dickinson is the shortest team and has the worst defensive efficiency in the tournament. Even though FD lost the NEC Championship (67-66 Merrimack), they received the auto-bid as Merrimack was ineligible for the Big Dance. Texas Southern on the other hand has the worst offensive efficiency in the tourney. Winner of this matchup will be food for one seed Purdue.


#8 Seed Memphis: Influence from NBA legend Penny Hardaway as head coach has given Memphis tremendous recruitment classes.They don’t rebound well, but as an undersized team they play fast and can score a lot. This year they are led by top ten player in the nation Kendric Davis, who had two 30 point games in the Tigers AAC Championship run. Davis is catching heat at the right time. 

Set to face 

#9 Seed Florida Atlantic University: The Owls finished 31-3 and won the Conference USA tournament receiving the auto-bid. They outscored opponents by 14 or more in seven of their last 10 wins. They rank above average in every statistic; however, the fact that they’re playing a weaker schedule due to conference makes it hard to gauge how good this mid-major truly is.


#5 Seed Duke: This was Duke’s first season without Hall-of-Fame coach K. However, he left the Devils with the highest rated recruitment class in the nation last off-season. Although they struggled in the beginning, they’ve become one of the hottest teams coming in, winning nine straight.

Set to face 

#12 Seed Oral Roberts: Returning 4 pivotal players from their Sweet 16 run as a 15 seed, and having the nation’s largest winning streak at 17 games: Oral Bob could certainly be a bracket buster.


#4 Seed Tennessee: The Volunteers have the second best defense in the country. They have wins over three top 10 teams this season. However, Tennessee fans are worried what version of their team they’ll see, having won only 5 of their last 12 games.

Set to face

#13 Seed Louisiana: Louisiana won the Sun Belt Conference tournament and received the auto-bid. They played only two top 90 opponents, losing by margins of 12 and 28. Being a bottom 5 team in the tournament at shooting free throws primes the Cajuns for an early exit.


#6 Seed Kentucky: Returning 2022 player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin — younger brother of NBA star Obi Toppin — are a 6 ‘9 tandem that can out score and rebound any team in the nation. The experienced duo. along with experienced head coach John Calipari, make Kentucky the toughest 6 seed in the tournament.

Set to face 

#11 Seed Providence: After being on a nine game win streak earlier this season, the Friars have lost six of their last 10. Coach Ed Cool has built a strong regular season culture, only having a losing season in his first season as a Friar. On the contrary, he has only made it out of the 1st round twice in his 12 seasons at Providence.


#3 Seed Kansas State: Led by first year head Coach Jerome Tang, who was the assistant coach of Baylor when they won the National Championship two years ago. They started the season 15-1, but after going 11-8 in the Big 12, are now 23-9. Turning the ball over at the third highest rate makes it hard to trust the Wildcats going far. 

Set to face 

#14 Seed Montana State: Winners of 17 out of their last 20 games and winners of the Big Sky Conference tournament, the Bobcats are rolling in hot. However, only playing one top 100 opponent and losing by 30 could be a sign that Montana State is in for a rude awakening.


#7 Seed Michigan State: This will be Tom Izzo’s 25th Big Dance and he’s lost in the first round five times. The Spartans play a slow style of ball and shoot a lot of threes, something an elite team should be able to handle on defense.

Set to face

#10 Seed University of Southern California: Although being a factory for NBA talent, USC has only made the tournament four times in the last 10 years. They finished third in the Pac-12 but statistically far behind the top two in UCLA and Arizona.


#2 Seed Marquette: Head coach Shaka Smart is smart: he turned down an offer from Harvard to play basketball at Kenyon University. He then became head coach of VCU where he had a Cinderella run to the Final Four as an eleventh seed. This year, Smart has his best team to date and they’re hot at the right time, winning the Big East Conference Championship and 14 of their last 15 games.

Set to face

#15 Seed Vermont: Vermont benefited from being in a weaker conference and the tournament this year. In head coach John Becker’s 12 year stint with the Catamounts, he made it to the Dance four times, losing in the first round every try. This season they’ve only played a top 200 team three times in their last 19 games. Brackets will be busted if Vermont can get past the first round.



#1 Seed Kansas: Led by 6th best player in the nation Jalen Wilson, the Jayhawks played the toughest schedule in all of college basketball and only lost seven games. Losing the conference championship could be a shot in the arm for the Jayhawks — especially early on in the Dance while the loss is still fresh.

Set to face

#16 Seed Howard: Howard won the MEAC Conference Tournament to receive the auto-bid. On the way to securing the bid Howard didn’t win a single game versus a top 200 team. Howard also turns the ball over at the highest rate in the tournament and 8th highest rate in the nation. 


#8 Seed Arkansas: Coached by former NBA head coach Eric Musselman for the last three seasons, the Razorbacks are looking to make their third straight Elite Eight run. Stumbling at the end of their season and having a load of players on injured reserve make the Razorbacks a tough team to pick versus a team that can match their size.

Set to face 

#9 Seed Illinois: A very similar team to Arkansas, a tall team that’s efficient in the paint and bad at shooting the three point. Like Arkansas, the Illini are stumbling in winning just four of their last 10. Unlike Arkansas, Illini is more committed to shooting the three point (30% of their possessions compared to the Razorbacks 20%) even though they’re fourth worst in the tournament.


#5 Seed Saint Mary’s: The Gaels are a respected mid-major coming into the tournament; however, they’re a bottom 10 team in the tournament at making free throws. That can cost them in tight games against good teams. 

Set to face 

#12 Seed Virginia Commonwealth University: VCU won the A-10 Conference Tournament and 22 of 25 games after stumbling in the beginning of the season. They’re a team with good defense, but very susceptible to turn overs.


#4 Seed Connecticut: UConn is one of the taller and more efficient teams on offense and defense. They had a stumble in the middle of the season, losing six of eight at one point, but they have regained focus after winning eight of their last ten. 

Set to face

#13 Seed Iona: Iona doesn’t lack in any statistical category except for their strength of schedule. Led by Rick Pitino, 2013 National Champion, who’s been past the 2nd round 7 times in 15 seasons with Louisville. The Gaels could be putting their first couple opponents on upset alert.


#6 Seed Texas Christian University: Jamie Dixon made it to the Dance in all but two years as head coach for Pitt. Now. as the head coach for TCU, he’s missed the Dance in all but two years. However, TCU made it to the second round last year and they’ve returned most of their roster this year. 

Set to face 

#11 Seed Arizona State or Nevada: After Arizona state started the season 11-1, they finished 22-12. The Devils Play defense as good as anyone but struggle to shoot well and rebound consistently. Nevada is the sixth best team in the nation at making free throws. The Wolfpack were losers in each of their last three games; however, two were in overtime and none were by a deficit more than 10.


#3 Seed Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have been at the end of a couple upsetting seasons, though they’ve been consensus favorites to win it all in five of the last six seasons. They boast the most efficient offense in the nation but aren’t nearly the same on defense as past years.  

Set to face 

#14 Seed Grand Canyon University: After losing only three of their last ten, the Antelopes were able to upset Sam Houston State and win the WAC Conference Tournament for an auto-bid. Their style of play won’t do well against top 60 teams, as they are a team that doesn’t get many turnovers and plays at a slow tempo.


#7 Seed Northwestern: The Wildcats have a top 15 defense but struggled at the end of the season, dropping four of their last five. Being a bottom ten team in the tournament at scoring, Northwestern will struggle against teams that can match their defense.

Set to face

#10 Seed Boise State: The Broncos are an average all-around team. Under the rule of Leon Rice, they’ve made it to the Dance now four times, being bounced in the first round in all previous attempts. 


#2 Seed University of California Los Angeles: Coach Mick Cronin has high expectations, especially since he made the Final Four in his first Dance with the Bruins back in 2021. Sadly, the Bruins lost two of their starters due to injury in their last three games this season. Fifth best player in the country, Jaime Jaquez, will look to put the team on his back.

Set to face

#15 Seed University of Northern Carolina Asheville: UNC Asheville is the sixth best team in the nation at shooting the three point. The Bulldogs won 18 of their last 20. However, none of those were against teams ranked higher than themselves.



#1 Seed Houston: Marcus Sasser is the ninth best player in the country and he sustained a groin injury in the second to last game of the season. His status has been deemed a gametime decision for their first game on Friday. Before the injury, Houston was a consensus favorite to win the title this year.

Set to face

#16 Seed Northern Kentucky: Northern Kentucky won the Horizon League Tournament to receive the auto-bid, and are led by head coach Darrin Horn who has Sweet 16 experience in his time coaching state rivals Western Kentucky. Horn will be entering this year’s Dance as his lowest seed ever: a cause for concern in Northern Kentucky.


#8 Seed Iowa: Known for their fast style of play where they can score on anyone, the Hawkeyes have the third most efficient offense. The Hawkeyes have been to seven Dances under head coach Fran McCaffery but failed to make it past the second round in every attempt. Confidence can’t be too high for the Hawkeyes to go far, seeing as they’re coming in with a team of lesser quality than the past two years.

Set to face 

#9 Seed Auburn: The Tigers are coming into this tournament in bad form, losing nine of their last 13 to finish 20-12 after starting off the season 16-3. Head coach Bruce Pearl has made it to — or past — the Sweet 16 five times out of his 11 trips to the Dance. Pearl’s experience might be what the team needs to remain poise and make a run. 


#5 Seed Miami (FL): Miami had a losing pattern in the middle of the season but corrected themselves, winning eight of their last 10. There’s questions whether the Canes are a real contender or just beneficiaries from a depleted Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Miami and Duke were two of the best teams in the ACC this season, and they’re both only 5 seeds. Many people will be surprised if there’s an ACC team in the Elite Eight not named Duke. 

Set to face 

#12 Seed Drake: Two years ago, Drake came into the Dance with a similar team. The main difference back then, however, was that Drake started hot then stumbled. This year, Drake got their losses out in the beginning of the season and ended hot, winning their conference championship. Two out of Drake’s three major contributors were on the team two years ago, and they’re looking to redeem themselves.


#4 Seed Indiana: Star player Jaycee Jackson-Davis struggled in the beginning of the season and suffered minor injuries. However, in the second half of the season he scored over 20 points in every game except two. Under the new rule of Mike Woodson, a 15 year NBA coach who played for Bob Knight’s Hoosiers, Indiana are their highest rated seed (4) in ten years.

Set to face

#13 Seed Kent State: Kent State won the Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship and had their best season in over a decade. They played powerhouse schools like Houston and Gonzaga in the beginning of the season and only lost each game by single digits. Although a short team, they play defense well and only allowed more than 70 points six times this season.


#6 Seed Iowa State: The Cyclones played great defense in their Sweet 16 run last season and they’re still the best team in the tournament at forcing turnovers. However, they’re one of the worst teams in the tournament at shooting free throws and that can cost them in closer games.

Set to face 

#11 Seed Mississippi State or Pittsburgh: Pitt had a losing record for the last six seasons but coach Jeff Capel III hopes to return them to the early 2000’s, when Pitt were monsters in the Big East. Mississippi State is one one of the best defensive teams but lacks offense and shoots the three point worse than any team in the country.


#3 Seed Xavier: Coach Sean Miller is back with the Musketeers after 12 seasons in Arizona. Miller made it to six Sweet 16s with Xavier and Arizona. Xavier’s form is questionable coming into the Dance: they had an 11 game winning streak in the middle of the season but stumbled shortly thereafter, losing key contributor Zach Freemantle to a foot injury.

Set to face 

#14 Seed Kennesaw State: Four seasons ago head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim, brother of NBA legend Shareef Abdur-Rahim, was given the keys to Kennesaw State. In his first season he went an atrocious 1-28 — three seasons later he finished 1st in his conference table and won the conference championship. Getting here was a feat of its own for the Owls, as this is their first ever time in the Big Dance. Any success is icing on the cake for Owls fans.


#7 Seed Texas A&M: The Aggies were a fringe tournament team, but played well in their conference tournament and got in by committee. They’re an average all-around team but they’re  the best team the Aggies have formed in a long time. In the last 20 years, A&M made the Dance eight times and only lost in the first round once.

Set to face

#10 Seed Penn State: Led by the nation’s eighth best player Jalen Pickett. The Nittany Lions are the most experienced team averaging 4.07 years in college. They’re one of the best teams in the nation at shooting the three point, but if they have an off-night it can get bad as they play very slow.


#2 Seed Texas: The Longhorns star player Timmy Allen suffered a minor injury in the last game of the regular season. Allen wasn’t able to play in the BIG12 Tournament but Texas still won the auto-bid. Allen is set to return Friday versus Colgate. Great news that will keep one of their best seasons in a decade alive.

Set to face

#15 Seed Colgate: Colgate is the most efficient three point shooting team in the nation and top 50 in points per game. They’ve won three straight Patriot League titles. This year’s starters have been with the team in all three runs barring one freshman. Majority of the team is set to graduate, so this could be head coach Matt Langel’s last ride with Colgate’s best class in over three decades.