The Pitt News sports desk predicts men’s March Madness winners


AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Mississippi State’s Shakeel Moore (3) is defended by Pittsburgh’s Nelly Cummings (0) during the second half of a First Four game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Tuesday, March 14, 2023, in Dayton, Ohio.

By The Pitt News Staff

With the men’s NCAA basketball tournament set to begin on Thursday, The Pitt News sports staff predicts who will cut down the nets in Houston on April 3.

Duke edges Kansas, 74-72 // Richie Smiechowski, Sports Editor

After watching Duke demolish Pitt and the rest of the ACC in Greensboro last week, it’s become clear the Blue Devils are the most talented team in the conference and are red hot at the perfect time. 

First-year center Kyle Filipowski is a monster, and the team’s combination of youthful talent and experienced leadership in junior guard Jeremy Roach is eerily similar to championship Duke teams of old. Head coach Jon Scheyer deserves a lot of credit — filling Coach K’s shoes isn’t an easy task.

Pitt trounces West Virginia 130-90 in Backyard Brawl rematch // Brian Sherry, Assistant Sports Editor 

This is a wild “pick,” but crazier things have happened. Imagine all of northern Appalachia descending on Houston to watch two historic rivals duke for the title. 

West Virginia dominated Pitt earlier this season, downing the Panthers 81-56 back in November. But that was before Pitt emerged as one of the nation’s top teams. In a national title rematch, expect no couch burnings in Morgantown, West Virginia. 

Gonzaga defeats Alabama 81-76 // Jack Markowski, Staff Writer

Gonzaga has built somewhat of a dynasty in recent years under head coach Mark Few — yet the Bulldogs still haven’t won their first National Championship. Despite the tournament letdowns, this is their year, exorcizing their March Madness demons once and for all. 

The Bulldogs own the best offense in the nation along with a deep roster led by senior forward Drew Timme and junior guard Julian Strawther that oozes experience and upside. The road through the tournament isn’t without its difficulties, but this Gonzaga team has what it takes.

Alabama dominates Kansas 83-67 // Mason Carter, Staff Writer

Alabama brings its football success to the hardwood. After blowing out Texas A&M in the SEC championship, Alabama is in full stride earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Despite all the off-court controversy surrounding first-year forward Brandon Miller, the Crimson Tide still played excellent basketball down the stretch. Alabama will carry its momentum from the SEC Championship into the NCAA tournament, capturing its first title in school history.

Texas defeats Alabama 78-74 // Matthew Scabilloni, Staff Writer

Guards win in March, and Texas features one of the country’s best backcourts. 

Texas’ three talented guards Marcus Carr, Sir’Jabari Rice and Tyrese Hunter all average over 10 points per game. These three Longhorn scoring threats will help Texas repeat what Kansas did last season by winning the Big 12 Tournament before becoming the National Champions. 

Pac-12 rivals rematch in championship game — Arizona defeats UCLA 65-63 // Will Christie, Staff Writer

After a very successful regular season for Arizona and UCLA, both teams have the potential to play for an NCAA Championship.

With Arizona’s 61-59 win over UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Wildcats proved they can make a run in the tournament. Although UCLA led the Pac-12 during the 2022-23 season, Arizona was not far behind and brought more fight to the Pac-12 Tournament than the Bruins. With Arizona’s fierce play style and passion, UCLA may be in over its heads and suffer its second championship game loss to the Wildcats this season.

Purdue takes down Houston 88-78 // Sara Meyer, Staff Writer

Purdue has appeared in the NCAA tournament 33 times in program history and hasn’t won a National Championship. Based on their regular season performance, they are capable of winning it all this year.

Purdue clinched its last win against Penn State, 67-65, earning the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Purdue also took down Duke, Gonzaga and West Virginia during the regular season, proving that the Boilermakers can compete against the best teams in the NCAA.

Houston defeats Duke 75-70 // Anthony Speciale, Staff Writer

Many have criticized the committee’s decision to rank Houston above Kansas in the overall seeding. With star guard Marcus Sasser set to return for the Round of 64, the Cougars are destined to prove the committee right.

Make no mistake — this Blue Devils team is as dangerous as ever despite being awarded a No. 5 seed. Their success rests in the hands of their 7-foot first-year duo Filipowski and Dereck Lively II, whose emergence has helped lead Duke to another ACC Championship. Roach will be called upon to lead this young Duke team lacking March experience. This lack of experience will be the Devils’ downfall, leading to Houston’s first national title in program history.

Gonzaga defeats Marquette, 89-82 // Alex Porter, Staff Writer

Gonzaga brings the most experience of any team in the field, making it to the Sweet 16 in the past seven tournaments. Often the favorite to win it all, qualifying as a No. 1 in four of the past five seasons, the Zags disappoint year after year, with zero championships to show for their success.

However, this bracket creates the perfect storm for the Zags to finally break through. As a No. 3 seed, they lose their lofty expectations. And unlike previous seasons, Gonzaga possesses the best strength of schedule in team history, giving this iteration familiarity with elite teams like Purdue and Alabama. Led by senior forward Drew Timme and longtime coach Mark Few, the Zags will finally put their experience to use and win the big dance.

Houston dominates Duke 86-66 // Jermaine Sykes, Senior Staff Writer

In this scenario, the Duke Blue Devils go on a run and upset higher seeded Tennessee en route to winning the East region before upsetting Baylor to reach the National Championship game. First-year coach Scheyer made his mark early in his career, showing the world that he was the right person to take over for former head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

But this is when they run into Houston, who will dominate them in the National Championship game in their home city. After years of coming up short, the Cougars finally reach the pinnacle of college basketball.

Houston battles past Alabama 78-73 // David Scott, Staff Writer

Nothing crazy here. No major upsets or Cinderella runs, just the two best teams in this tournament doing their job and making it to the big game. Alabama asserted its dominance in the SEC and will continue to do so in the tournament, but it won’t be enough when they run into the consensus No. 1 team in the country.

Houston owned the AAC and posted a nearly perfect record on the season thanks to its No. 2 ranked defense. Even with first-year phenom Brandon Miller, Alabama won’t be enough to stop Houston from taking home the hardware.

Duke squeaks by UCLA 77-75 // Zack Gibney, Senior Staff Writer

If Duke can get past its deceptively difficult first-round draw against a very good Oral Roberts squad, this team is as dangerous as any in the bracket. In a year in which no team seems dominant, Duke is as surefire as they come — even as a 5-seed.

After a slow start to the season, Scheyer has gotten his group back on track, capturing yet another ACC Championship after defeating Virginia. 

Despite the relatively low seed, don’t let this team surprise you. They’re as good as it gets.

Texas outlasts Alabama, 78-77 // Frankie Richetti, Senior Staff Writer 

Guard play wins in March.

There isn’t a deeper group of guards in college basketball than Texas. The Longhorns have all the makings of a future champion — they can defend, they’re experienced and they have several different players who can get a basket in crunch time.

Alabama is the most talented team in college basketball but Texas is battle tested and will get the job done in their home state.