Selection Sunday is a Week Away; Get Caught up with 2023 College Basketball Season

Jamal Shead dribbling
Jamal Shead #1 of the Houston Cougars handles the ball during the second half against Elijah McCadden #0 of the Memphis Tigers at FedExForum on March 05, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. Justin Ford/Getty Images

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Now just six days away from Selection Sunday, the first automatic bids to the 2023 NCAA Men's Tournament were handed out this weekend. Southeast Missouri State (Ohio Valley Conference), Kennesaw State (ASUN), UNC Asheville (Big South), and Drake (Missouri Valley Conference) all punched their tickets to the dance. All four are extreme longshots in the 2023 March Madness title odds, but they are at least on the board.

The Southern Conference title game (Furman vs. Chattanooga) and Sun Belt title game (South Alabama vs. Louisiana) go on Monday, with the remaining 26 conference championships spread between March 7 to 12.

The table below shows the top-30 favorites to win the NCAA Tournament as of Sunday night, plus the odds for the automatic qualifiers to date.

2023 March Madness Championship Odds

Saint Mary's+3500
Kansas State+6500
Michigan State+7500
Texas A&M+7500
San Diego State+10000
Iowa State+10000
Kennesaw State*+30000
Southeast Missouri State*+50000
UNC Asheville*+50000

*Clinched NCAA Tournament berth.

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Houston Favored, But Not by Much

The defining feature of the 2022-23 college basketball season, at least so far, is parity. While the Houston Cougars (29-2, 17-14 ATS) sit atop the board, their +600 odds are considerably longer than the favorites each of the past two seasons. Gonzaga entered the NCAA Tournament around +200 in 2021, and +300 in 2022.

The advanced metrics concur with the odds. Houston also rates as the top team in the country at, but their rating (29.45) is the lowest for a top-rated team since 2006. Eighty-four teams are within 20 points of Houston. In 2022, only 74 teams were within 20 points of top-rated Gonzaga, and only 42 in 2021.

Houston's only setbacks this season came to Alabama on Dec. 10 (71-65 home) and Temple on Jan. 22 (56-55 home). Aside from Alabama, they only faced one other team that rates in KenPom's top 30 - Saint Mary's - whom they beat 53-48 in Fort Worth in early December.

Led by senior point guard Marcus Sasser (17.2 PPG), the Cougars play at a lethargic pace (347th in the nation in tempo) and rely on their tenacious defense. Only 12 of their 31 opponents eclipsed the 60-point mark.

Houston has never won a national championship, finishing as runner-up twice during the Phi Slamma Jamma era (1983 and 1984).

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Alabama Sits a Close Second in National Championship Odds

Standing in stark contrast to the methodical Cougars are the up-tempo Alabama Crimson Tide (26-5, 16-14-1 ATS), who are currently the second-favorite at +750. Nate Oats' run-and-gun team plays at the second-fastest tempo in the country with future top-five pick Brandon Miller heading the charge. The 6'9 freshman is averaging nearly 20 points per game (19.6) and shooting 40.4-percent from beyond the arc.

Also unlike the Cougars, the Tide's resume is littered with wins over top-30 teams. Alabama went 7-4 against opponents ranked in KenPom's top 30. In addition to their win at Houston, they also beat Michigan State (24th), Kentucky (21st), Arkansas twice (19th), and Auburn twice (26th), while losing to UConn (4th), Gonzaga (10th), Tennessee (5th), and Texas A&M (24th).

While Houston scheduled a fairly aggressive non-conference schedule - which included Alabama, Saint Mary's, Virginia, and Oregon - Alabama is certainly the more battle-tested team due to their gruelling SEC slate.

What About Gonzaga?

The Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-5, 12-17-1 ATS) sat atop the national championship odds, the polls, and the advanced metrics for the vast majority of 2021 and 2022. But Mark Few's team has taken a small step back this season due largely to its backcourt play. Forward Drew Timme (21.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG) has played up to his potential, but there is no Jalen Suggs, Andrew Nembhard, or Nigel Williams-Goss to run the point, and it shows. Timme actually leads the team in assists at 3.2 per game.

Blaming any part of the offense is burying the lede, though. The real downfall of this year's Gonzaga squad has been its defense. The team rates just 89th in defensive efficiency at KenPom. They were 10th in 2022 and 11th in 2021.

That said, they do own several high-quality wins this year, beating Alabama (100-90) in Birmingham, Xavier (88-84) on a neutral court, and both Kentucky (88-72) and Saint Mary's (77-68) at home.

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