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Four teams in college basketball earn the distinction of being a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The benefit is an easier route to the Final Four and the chance to play for a championship, and it plays out that way in most years. According to USA Today, there have been just two tournaments since 1985 in which zero #1 seeds made the Final Four.
However, all four teams seeded first in their regions made the Final Four just once. The 2008 edition featured national champion Kansas, runner-up Memphis, and blue-bloods UNC and UCLA, all reaching the Final Four as top seeds. In the last seven tournaments, multiple #1 seeds have made the national semifinals in five of them.
The takeaway is that one or more of these favorites will likely bow out earlier than expected. In this piece, we’ll review the resumes and tournament outlooks for each #1 seed and assess which will be the first to go in 2023.
The top overall seed cruised through the SEC tournament by an average margin of victory of 17.6 points per game. The Crimson Tide also avenged a late-season loss to Texas A&M with a 19-point victory over the Aggies in the title game.
In terms of top-tier wins, Alabama boasts one of the best in the country this season. They defeated Houston on the road in mid-December when the Cougars were the top team in the country.
The Tide’s path to the Final Four could include Pac-12 champ Arizona, 2021 national champion Baylor, and ACC runner-up Virginia in the South regional.
Outside of their home loss to Alabama, the Cougars only slipped up once in a January home defeat against Temple. Houston posted the best scoring margin in the country at +18.5 points per game, nearly four points per game better than second-best Gonzaga.
Their portion of the bracket includes veteran-led teams such as Texas, the Big 12 tournament champions, Xavier, Indiana, and Miami. The Longhorns are the biggest threat to Houston’s chances of making their first Final Four since 1983.
The defending national champions fell to Texas in their conference title game, and it wasn't close. Kansas held onto their 1-seed thanks to late-season victories over three top-ten teams (Kansas State, Texas, and Baylor) and a schedule that ranked toughest overall in Division I.
Coach Bill Self will reportedly return to coach the team after undergoing a medical procedure that prevented him from being with the team for the Big 12 tournament.
The Jayhawks’ region includes an abundance of teams that could pose problems, like Arkansas, St. Mary’s, UCLA, Gonzaga, and TCU.
The Boilermakers held on against Penn State to win their second Big Ten tournament title in program history and secured the final #1 seed in this year’s tournament.
National Player of the Year candidate Zach Edey, all 7’4” of him, steadied the team that had lost four of eight to end the regular season and was named tournament MVP after averaging 26 points and 12.7 rebounds per game.
This group could face the likes of Big East champ Marquette, ACC-champion Duke, Kansas State, Tennessee, and Michigan State within the East region.
It’s rare to repeat as champions, let alone make it to back-to-back Final Fours. The Jayhawks have been through the gauntlet en route to the NCAA Tournament this season and are notorious for making early exits this time of year as a high-seeded team.
They’ll have last year’s championship to fall back on, but this year’s Kansas team will likely see their season end before the other #1 seeds.