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Biggest March Madness Storylines So Far

Mark Fordham for Bookies.com

Mark Fordham  | 8 mins

Biggest March Madness Storylines So Far

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With just 16 teams left in the 2023 NCAA tournament, it is time to recap the biggest stories from each region. Even by March Madness standards, no one could’ve foreseen some of the results this year. Let’s start by recapping the South. 

South Recap

Furman’s stunning 68-67 win over fourth-seeded Virginia set March Madness into motion. This was Furman’s first foray into the NCAA tournament in 43 years. With 20 seconds left on the clock, Virginia’s 67-63 lead looked secure on college basketball betting sites, but some misguided heat-check shots, a missed free-throw and rash turnovers gave Furman a chance to crawl back into the game. Furman didn’t need a second invitation and made Virginia pay by scoring from two free throws and sinking a three 2.2 seconds before the buzzer. 

Furman’s fairy-tale was cut short in the next round by San Diego State, who face an indomitable Alabama side in the Sweet 16. Number one seed Alabama have won their two matches by over 20 points; they mean business and could be a good team to be choosing with your college basketball picks. After getting knocked out in the first round last season, they seem to have learned their lesson. 

Elsewhere in the South, Princeton became the fourth 15th-seeded team to qualify for the Sweet 16 in the competition’s history. The Ivy Leaguers will be making their first Sweet 16 appearance and have fully deserved the recent plaudits. It started with a solid 59-55 win over number two seed Arizona before following it up with a 78-63 dismantling of seventh seed Missouri. Creighton, who have impressed in wins over NC State and Baylor, will have their hands full when the two sides meet this Friday. 

Midwest Recap

Houston, who came into March Madness as one of the favorites with most US betting apps, have validated that impression so far with impressive wins against Northern Kentucky and Auburn. The 63-52 win over Northern Kentucky came without star player Marcus Sasser, and they were trailing at half-time in the 81-64 win over Auburn. Both matches posed their set of challenges; overcoming them will give Houston a lot of confidence heading into their match against Miami. 

Miami knocked out Indiana in the last round, who could call on the incredibly gifted Trayce Jackson-Davis in their college basketball lineup. Unlike Indiana, Houston aren’t a one-man show, so Miami must deploy different tactics to come out on top in this match. 

Number two and three seeds, Texas and Xavier, have gone about their matches professionally and have set up a mouth-watering tie that is likely to be a pick’em with many sportsbooks. The winner of this match will take great confidence into the Elite Eight. The Midwest hasn’t had many upsets compared to the other regions. 

West Recap

Kansas’ second-round loss to Arkansas meant that there will be a new champion this season. Kansas looked well equipped to be the first team since Florida in 2007 to defend their title, but a second-half collapse saw them lose 72-71 on the day.

Davonte Davis and Ricky Council IV were the heroes for Arkansas. Davis scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, and Ricky Council IV made five free throws in the closing stages to give Arkansas a memorable win. Kansas had a 12-point lead heading into the second half – they looked really comfortable before Davis took the game away from them. 

Davis must be on it against fourth-seed UConn, who dismissed fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s 70-55. Elsewhere in the West, Gonzaga and UCLA have lived up to their pre-tournament status as dark-horse contenders for the title with USA sports betting sites and have set up a heavyweight clash. 

East Recap 

The biggest upset in the tournament and one of the biggest in the tournament’s history came in the East when Fairleigh Dickinson, the smallest team in the tournament, got the better of number one seed Purdue, who have the tallest player in Big Ten history in their ranks. 

Purdue’s Zach Edey entered the tournament as the best player in the regular season and was a popular college basketball player prop bet choice but had no answer to Fairleigh Dickinson’s pass-and-move game. Fairleigh Dickinson’s movement caused Edey to leave his comfort zone and led to a thoroughly deserved 63-58 win.  

The East has been the hardest region to predict. The top two seeds and the fifth and sixth are out. Kansas State and Tennessee look the likeliest to enter the next round but don’t count on it. With the recaps done, it’s time to preview some of the regions. 

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South Preview

Alabama have been a force to be reckoned with so far. San Diego State have done well to get this far, but Alabama, at their best, are a different animal. They had the toughest regular-season schedule and have demolished their opponents in the knockouts. There’s only one winner in this, so you should make your picks on betting sites accordingly.

Princeton’s run has taken some shine away from Creighton, who knocked out third-seeded Baylor in the second round. Creighton go into this match as slight favorites with betting apps, but no one will want to face Princeton in this kind of form. The Ivy Leaguers have become a neutral favorite in the last week, and their performances have merited the results. This is really hard to call, but Princeton seem like they’re on the cusp of something special. 

Midwest Preview 

Xavier and Texas haven’t attracted much attention; both teams have gone about their jobs professionally. The winner of this match will get a big confidence boost for the Elite Eight and the rest of the tournament. Xavier finished the regular season very strongly, so they might edge this one. 

There are no easy games in March Madness. A number one seed doesn’t get a pass, as Purdue and Kansas found out. Miami are a decent team, but Houston should go through. 

About the Author

Mark Fordham for Bookies.com
Mark Fordham
Mark spent over a decade as a sports reporter and editor with Goal.com and Bleacher Report. He is now a Content Editor at Bookies.com covering all manner of sports from the Premier League and cricket to the NBA and NFL.