The conference tournaments are said and done. Selection Sunday has passed. And whether you’re stressing over advanced metrics to find the right picks for The Perfect Bracket Challenge or deciding which bar to hunker down in after calling in sick at work for the rest of the week, we’ve all got the same thing on our minds: 2023 March Madness!
That’s right, it’s bracket season. The field of 68 is set with the First Four teams having already played out their games last night. Fairleigh Dickinson will end up facing Purdue, and Arizona State will take on TCU in the round of 64. This year’s tourney features eight Big Ten conference schools which ties the SEC for having the most of all conferences. The Big Ten led the NCAA in both 2021 and 2022 when 9 schools made it to the dance, but both years saw a pretty poor showing from the conference. In 2021, only one survived the first weekend – Michigan – who reached the Elite 8. In 2022, Michigan and Purdue were the only two to get out of the second round, and both fell in the Sweet 16. Could 2023 be the year for the Big Ten? Let’s find out!
University of Illinois | 9-seed
It seemed like just yesterday that Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosumu were keeping our championship dreams alive. However, despite being a #1 seed in 2021 and #4 seed in 2022, the team has struggled to get past the second round.
This year, the 20-12 Illini face the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first round. As a nine seed, they’ll look to pull off the upset against #8 Arkansas. Given how close the two are seeded, there’s a good chance many will have them advancing. And we do too, but not much further after that. Since they likely end up facing #1 seeded Kansas in the second round, we have to predict that they’ll go on to lose in the round of 32 once again.
University of Iowa | 8-seed
Sorry Hawkeye fans, despite facing lower seeded Auburn in your first game this March Madness, we’re predicting the upset here. At 19-13, Iowa has plenty of things going right for them on offense even after losing their leading scorer from last season. However, defense wins championships, and the Hawkeyes sit outside of the top 290 for 2-point and 3-point defense per KenPom. That’s not ideal for deep runs. Like Illinois, even if they make it out of the round of 64, they’ll go on to face the tournament’s top-seeded team in Houston.
University of Maryland | 8-seed
Alright, call us crazy here, but we’re gonna predict that Maryland shocks everyone and makes it all the way to the Sweet 16. Why’s that so surprising? Well, to get there, they’ll likely have to get through Alabama who is a 1 seed. Top-seeded teams aren’t immune to getting knocked out early in March Madness, and out of all the one seeds, we think Alabama will be the first to fall. It could be against West Virginia University, who Maryland plays in the first round, but we’re predicting a Terps win there before they’re knocked out in the Sweet 16.
If the tournament was hosted at College Park, Maryland’s home turf, they might have a shot at winning it all with their 16-1 record at home this year. They’re 2-9 on the road, but that’s not stopping us from predicting a bit of madness in their matchups.
Penn State University | 10-seed
Surprise Big Ten tournament runner-up, Penn State, got hot about a month ago, and have stayed hot up until now with their 22-13 record. Having won eight of their last ten, the Nittany Lions will look to make a run in the tournament. But, unfortunately, it could be short lived.
As a 10-seed, they’ll face 7-seeded Texas A&M in the first round this year. Three-point shots are the biggest part of Penn State’s game, and if they can knock ‘em down versus the Aggies then they might have a shot at sneaking into the second round. We’re predicting they pull off the upset, and should they go on, they’ll have a tough time getting past a probable matchup with #2 Texas. While we think they’ll make that game close, we can’t see them getting out of the round of 32.
Michigan State University | 7-seed
With a 19-12 record on the year, Michigan State enters this year’s tourney as a 7-seed. Facing off against the USC Trojans is no easy task, but the Spartans have one thing no one else does: Tom Izzo.
We predict Izzo’s experience coaching in the NCAA tournament will serve MSU well, and they’ll hand USC their second consecutive one-and-done appearance. The fun doesn’t stop there though, because we’re predicting another victory in the round of 32 against either Marquette (2) or Vermont (15). Should they face Kansas State (3) in the Sweet 16, we have to predict that their run ends there. But, if it’s Providence (11), Kentucky (6), or Montana State (14), then we’re gonna call it now: an Elite 8 appearance. And that’s where they’ll finish should the Spartans get that far.
Northwestern University | 7-seed
We began 2023 answering the question, would the Northwestern Wildcats be in the big bracket this time of year? Back then the guys were 12-3, second in the Big Ten, and we said yes. Turns out we were right.
Now 21-11, we can only hope to keep our correct prediction streak alive for Northwestern, as we have some high hopes for the Wildcats this year. They might only have one NCAA tournament win in school history, and don’t pose much of an offensive threat, but we’re still predicting a Sweet 16 appearance. Getting there will involve knocking out Boise State (10) in the first round which is easier said than done. Then, there’s a good chance they’ll face UCLA who is the second seed in the West region. We think they can pull that off, and after doubling their March Madness win total, they’ll potentially face Gonzaga (3) or TCU (6). Unfortunately, we can’t see either matchup ending in Northwestern’s favor.
Indiana University | 4-seed
The Big Ten conference’s dream of having a NCAA tournament champion start with Indiana who’s seeded at 4 this year. Led by Trayce Jackson-Davis, they’ll have what appears to be an easier run at the championship than the other hopeful team on our list. But that’s not to say it’ll be a cakewalk.
Up first for the Hoosiers is Kent State, who they should have no problem knocking out. In the round of 32, they’ll face the winner of Miami (5) and Drake (12), and if they face Miami they sure have their work cut out for them. A Sweet 16 appearance should be a minimum goal though, and once they get there, odds are they face top-seeded Houston. Since we have to call our shot, we’re going to say their run ends there. But, we honestly hope we’re wrong, because if they get past Houston then a Final Four and possible championship game appearance could be right on the horizon.
Purdue University | 1-seed
Last but not least for the Big Ten: one-seeded Purdue. The conference’s tournament winner has one of college’s most dominant players in Zach Edey who stands at a towering 7-foot 4-inches. It’ll be up to his supporting cast to play their part perfectly if Purdue wants to make things easy for themselves on their road to the Final Four. They have a bit of a tougher draw than Indiana does in the East bracket. But, if they can get over the mental hurdles of their previous tourney exits, they might just make it all the way to a championship.
Our final prediction: Purdue makes it to the Final Four but fails to advance to the final game.
Better luck next year, Big Ten!
Featured image credit: Purdue Men’s Basketball on Instagram