March Madness Recap and Look Ahead to Sweet 16

By Mark Fordham
 |  4 mins
8E3DFB6F-93D4-478C-99D9-112C2BB6C04E  Fact Checked by Sean O'Neill
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March Madness Recap and Look Ahead to Sweet 16

March Madness has its fair share of yearly upsets, which is why it has its name and is the most popular basketball event of the year. Still, the 2023 NCAA tournament has set a new bar for Cinderella stories and will have busted many brackets along the way

As we head into the Sweet 16, the defending champions and the best player in the regular season have already had to say their goodbyes; the smallest team by enrolment knocked out a fourth seed; and Ivy Leaguers might have solved basketball. Let’s break down the biggest stories from the first two rounds of March Madness and see how you might make smart wagers with college basketball betting sites for the remainder of the tournament.

There will be a new NCAA champion

Florida were the last team to defend their championship in 2007. Defending the NCAA tournament title isn’t easy, but Kansas looked like the best college basketball pick in a long time. After cruising through the first round with a 96-68 victory over Howard, it looked like not having head coach Bill Self on the sidelines as he recovered from a heart procedure wouldn’t be an issue. 

How much that played into the 72-71 loss against eight-seeded Arkansas will be debated, but in a tournament where the smallest margins matter, it’s hard to see past Self’s absence as a factor. Arkansas also deserve a lot of credit – they were eight points down at halftime and had a string of pressure free-throws towards the end of the match but held their nerve. They’ve set up a meeting with UConn in the last 16. The winner of this match will face one of Gonzago or UCLA, who were many people’s picks to go all the way on US betting apps

Fairleigh Dickinson stand tall

Fairleigh Dickinson’s win over Purdue was one of the biggest upsets in the history of March Madness. The shortest team in the NCAA tournament got the better of a team with the tallest athlete in Big Ten history – this was a true David vs. Goliath affair. 

All the attention prior to the game was on Purdue’s Zach Edey and if he could take his regular-season form to the knockouts. Edey was undoubtedly the best player in the regular season – he averaged 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, but Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t care. 

The 16th seeds took Edey out of his comfort zone by pulling him towards the perimeter to defend. This was another match that led to the big man and three-point debate that has dominated the NBA for the last decade. 

For all the talk of the return of the big man in the previous NBA season, the Golden State Warriors, who have perfected the three-point game, went on win the championship. It seems like the NCAA is following a similar storyline. 

Who will stop Princeton?

Fairleigh Dickinson’s underdog story didn’t last very long. FAU knocked them out in the second round, but Princeton’s story is still alive. After the 15th seeds knocked out second-seeded Arizona, they did the same to seventh-seeded Missouri. 

Not only have Princeton knocked these strong teams out, but they’ve also done it in style. They beat Arizona by a four-point margin and thumped Missouri 78-63. This is Princeton’s first taste of the Sweet 16 since 1967, and they’re the fourth 15th seed in the competition’s history to make it to the last 16. 

Like Fairleigh Dickinson, the off-ball movement was crucial to their victory. They face Creighton next, who had a mini-upset of their own by knocking out third-seeded Baylor. Fairleigh Dickinson have opened as 10-point underdogs to win with USA sports betting sites

Houston show champion spirit against Auburn

There was a lot of uncertainty around Houston’s standing before the tournament; some fans and experts believed their regular-season record flattered them because of a weak schedule, while others believed they were worthy contenders for the championship. Now that they’re in the Sweet 16 with two No. 1 seeds knocked out, they’ll be feeling quite good about themselves and their chances – they’ve been the favorites to win it all with sportsbooks for much of the second half of the season.

They haven’t been very convincing, but they’ve got the job done. They didn’t have star man Marcus Sasser in the first round but beat Northern Kentucky 63-52. They were trailing by 10 at halftime against Auburn but put in a strong defensive showing to win 81-64 in the end. Sasser showed why he’s been a smart college basketball player prop bet all season with a strong performance alongside Tramon Mark. 

If they can play as they did in the second half against Auburn, there’s no reason why they can’t win this championship. Their next opponents are Miami, who got the better of Indiana, home of NCAA star and probable 2023 NBA draft pick, Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Other stories and Sweet 16 Preview 

Alabama have arguably been the most comfortable team in the tournament so far. They’ve won each of their first two matches by at least 20 points and face San Diego State next. Of course, they can’t be too complacent based on recent events in March Madness. In fact, they were on the receiving end of an upset last year, and it might’ve forced them to be on their guard this season. 

Without top-two seeds Purdue and Marquette, the East looks like the most unpredictable division at the moment. FAU, Tennessee, Kansas State and Michigan State have a great opportunity to go deep and could be worth a smaller wager with betting apps

In the West, there’s a mouth-watering clash between Gonzaga and UCLA – both sides are capable of winning the tournament, and the winner of this match will certainly fancy their chances of going all the way. This might be Drew Timme’s last chance at silverware in the NCAA tournament with Gonzaga and maybe even his last game, which should add another layer of excitement to the match. 

The same can be said of Texas and Xavier, who will face each other in the Midwest. Of course, their paths might cross Houston’s, but the winner will certainly feel emboldened. No matter what happens going forward, March Madness has already delivered. 

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

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