The NBA March Madness is about to kick-off, and the fever regarding the tournament is already starting to pile up. This year’s Final Four takes place in Atlanta, to be exact, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of NFL and MLS franchises Falcons and United. Apart from Division I, Division II, III, and IV Final Four tournaments will also take place at the same venue.
This is going to be the fifth NCAA basketball Final Four in history of the city, and according to many, the most spectacular one. The event in Atlanta will be the ending of the 35th edition of the tournament in this format, which includes 64 teams. So we can expect a nice celebration of this anniversary.
Unfortunately for all the fans from Georgia, there won’t be any teams from this state. Their prime representatives, Georgia Bulldogs, aren’t among the top basketball programs in the country, unlike their football section, for example. For some, March Madness turns into ‘March Sadness’ according to ESPN’s “Sports Misery Index”.
The last and the only time this school reached the Final Four was in 1983, and ever since, they had just one appearance in the Sweet Sixteen round, and nothing better than that. The biggest success of this school was a Conference Tournament championship in 2008 when they defeated Arkansas in the finals, 66-57. On their way to the finals, Bulldogs eliminated Ole Miss, Kentucky Wildcats and Mississippi State.
Three Big Candidates for the Title
When talking about this year’s favorite betting odds for March Madness (see Vegas Odds for more March Madness odds), we need to point out three names to win the 2023 championship – Kansas, Gonzaga, and Baylor. The experts are suggesting (along with the bookmakers) that these sides have the best prospects to take the trophy.
The Jayhawks have Udoka Azubike and Devon Dotson, a duo able to roll over any team in the league. This point guard-center relationship hasn’t seen over the recent few years in the NCAA, and for now, it seems that Kansas has something other teams don’t. Bill Self’s guys are the second-best defense among all top units and are fantastic in making stops. Besides the two guys mentioned above, there are several sidekicks who have a very important role on the defensive side of the ball. Once you mix all these things together, you end up with the top title contender.
Gonzaga is an interesting team. They have Filip Petrusev, the young Serbia fellow, and arguably one of the biggest European talents in recent years. He is the pivotal piece of the Zags who is the no.1 team in WCC with 29 wins and two losses. This center is already in the notebooks of all NBA teams, and be sure that his appearance on the draft will create huge interest. Now what separates Gonzaga from other sides, is their tough frontcourt, with Corey Kispert, and Killian Tillie. In general, this is a tough group to handle, and they are according to many the biggest favorites to win the trophy when things become rough in the elimination stages.
Baylor is an enigma. It seems that they don’t get enough attention despite the fantastic results this school made throughout the campaign. Victories against Villanova, Arizona, Butler, Texas Tech, and Kansas are enough for us to make them a darn good favorite for the championship. The Bears had 23 wins in a row, setting a new Big 12 record, and entering all the history books. Eventually, it was Kansas who stopped their superb run, ending the five-week reign as the No.1 in the country.
Spartans, Flyers, and Duke Stalking From the Dark
When it comes to dark horses, Michigan State is an exciting side, mentioned by many. Cassius Winston has everything one leader needs to take his team all the way, and apart from that, Tom Izzo, too, has all the required wisdom to capture the championship. The Spartans did lose Nick Ward, but still, this team has what it takes to go all the way. Don’t forget that this team was ranked No.1 before the season started and that they happened to be the biggest favorites for taking the championship.
Dayton Flyers are right behind them. With the favorite for winning the National Player of the Year honors, Obi Toppin, Flyers simply have to be in every single title talk. Even though this school didn’t have such notable appearances in their history, maybe it is time to change that.
Back in 1967, Dayton was involved in a championship game, but they lost, and until 2014 once they reached an Elite Eight stage, this program was quiet. With the 22-year old redshirt sophomore and arguably a top-three pick in the upcoming draft, the Flyers have high hopes from the upcoming March Madness.
Duke Blue Devils are also a potential threat to all the favorites, mostly due to the fact that they don’t have any pressure on their backs. Unlike the previous year, once Coach K had RJ Barrett, Zion, and Cam Reddish, this year’s crew is more team-oriented and doesn’t have any superstars.
They are a team capable of adjusting to various game styles, and even though they didn’t post any big results this season, according to some of the pundits, there is something in them that might push them all the way. Since 2015 the Blue Devils didn’t reach the Final Four, and when they didn’t win the last campaign, the expectations kind of deflated at Durham.
Several other sides need to be mentioned, like Seton Hall, who fell down in the AP Poll recently after they lost to Creighton and Villanova. Still, they can’t be forgotten, despite this slip. Kevin Willard has a decent team at disposal, and he will, for sure, try to snap out his players from this adverse situation.
The championship game will be played on April 6. Until then, we can lay back and enjoy good basketball. As usual, there will be plenty of interesting matchups, lots of battles, surprises, and everything which goes along with March Madness.