2023 NCAA Tournament: 50 reasons to be excited for March Madness

The best Thursday and Friday of the calendar year are about to arrive.

There's simply nothing like the NCAA Tournament, and this year's edition of March Madness could provide all-time levels of drama. Nothing in the sport right now should be treated as an absolute, and with the level of parity across the country, expect the unexpected to occur.

View the full bracket here.

From superstars to watch, to a title defense at stake, to potential Cinderellas and new head coaches added to the spotlight, here are 50 reasons to get excited for the NCAA Tournament.

[March Madness 2023: Schedule dates, locations, how to watch]

1. Alabama is 29-5 and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, with the best NBA Draft prospect in the country, Brandon Miller. Will the Crimson Tide simply keep forging on despite significant recent off-court drama regarding Miller's alleged role in a fatal shooting? There's always an added media spotlight for a top tournament team. Cameras will be following the Tide closely. 

2. Jon Scheyer makes his NCAA Tournament debut as Duke's leader after becoming the first in ACC history to win the conference tournament as both a player and a head coach. Jeremy Roach and the Blue Devils are 18-1 when they have their full roster healthy.

3. Will John Calipari break Kentucky's NCAA Tournament win drought? It's been four years since the Wildcats won on the big dance floor. That cold spell has to end for Big Blue Nation.

4. Houston. In Houston. The Cougars are seeking their first national title in school history, and they have the chance to do it in their home city. Marcus Sasser is battling through a groin injury but is expected to be available.

5. Dan Hurley vs. Rick Pitino. UConn vs. Iona on Friday in Albany. That broadcast deserves an exclusive show with just shots of the coaches. The officiating crew deserves to be compensated double!

6. The Big Ten hasn't won a national championship in 23 years. Zach Edey and Purdue aim to change that. 

7. We have not had a repeat national champion since 2006-07, when Billy Donovan's Florida teams pulled it off. It's absolutely on the table for Bill Self and Kansas to achieve the feat behind All-American Jalen Wilson.

8. The mustache is back. Drew Timme and Gonzaga could be the team outside the top-2 seed lines that has a solid shot to reach the Final Four.

9. Trayce Jackson-Davis is a first-team All-American in my book. He has a shot to put his name in the history books even more if Indiana can reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016.

10. The last time Marquette made the Final Four was in 2003, with Dwyane Wade leading the way. Shaka Smart and his Big East champions got a favorable draw with a familiar venue should they reach the second weekend: Madison Square Garden. 

11. What Rodney Terry has done in not just keeping Texas afloat, but leading the Longhorns to the Big 12 Tournament crown and rolling into the NCAAs is really impressive. Look out for Marcus Carr.

12. Jalen Pickett is an All-American for 10-seed Penn State and the Nittany Lions' matchup with Wade Taylor IV and 7-seed Texas A&M will be a fun one. 

13. The Bryce Hopkins Bowl is happening. The Kentucky transfer, who has led Providence in scoring and rebounding this season, will be the center of attention when the Friars and Wildcats meet Friday night.

14. The 12-seeds are all sorts of fun, and I believe multiple 12s are moving on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament: College of Charleston is tied for the national lead in wins at 31-3 and draws a San Diego State team that is elite defensively but not great in the scoring column. Look for Dalton Bolon and Ante Brzovic to try to impose their will on the game. 

15. Furman is dancing for the first time since 1980! Bob Richey has a star guard in Mike Bothwell and a big-time player in Jalen Slawson. They will be a frisky upset candidate to knock off Virginia.

16. We'll stay right on the upset train: Look out for Drake. I love the fact that we get a father/son duo for the Bulldogs, with head coach Darian DeVries and MVC player of the year Tucker. 

17. We've seen a 15-seed win in the last two tournaments! Who will make it three in a row? Look out for Princeton against Arizona. Tosan Evbuomwan is a name to know for the Tigers, one of the most unusual players in the big dance as a 6-foot-8 point forward.

18. Even after losing Jaylen Clark for the season, Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell can will UCLA forward. The Bruins are eyeing two Final Four appearances in the last three years.

19. Someone call Julia Louis-Dreyfus — Northwestern is dancing for the second time in program history and the first time since 2017. The Wildcats get a balanced Boise State team in the first round. 

20. Kansas State has one of the best duos to watch in Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell. The third-seeded Wildcats have a solid draw to make the second weekend.

21. Dusty May and 31-3 FAU are dynamic and dangerous. Can they get past Kendric Davis and red-hot Memphis? That's a very compelling 8/9 game. 

22. Speaking of 8/9 games, the Iowa/Auburn Midwest game will be another coaching matchup of characters between Fran McCaffery and Bruce Pearl. Will we see a stare down enter the Madness? Never say never!

23. Arkansas has one of the best NBA prospects in Nick Smith, and the Hogs are capable of shocking Kansas in the West. 

24. Don't. Count. Out. Sparty. Michigan State should beat USC in the first round. A second-round showdown would likely come against Marquette. Could Tyson Walker limit Tyler Kolek?

25. Jeremy Roach vs. Max Abmas in Orlando is an outstanding guard matchup on Thursday night when Duke squares off against Oral Roberts. The Eagles made the Sweet 16 under Paul Mills just two years ago. 

26. Aidan Mahaney vs. Ace Baldwin in the backcourt will be must-see college hoops when Saint Mary's squares off with VCU in a 5/12 game.

27. Missouri and Utah State are two of the top-15 KenPom offenses in the country, and they meet in the first round on Thursday at 1:40 p.m. ET from Sacramento. 

28. Baylor has as strong a backcourt as any in America. Will that be able to carry the Bears, or do defensive struggles mount? Look out for Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer and Keyonte George

29. Watch out for Baylor's opponent, UC Santa Barbara, to be an upset candidate. Ajay Mitchell is a big-time sophomore point guard, averaging 16.4 points and 5.1 assists.

30. Creighton/NC State in a 6/11 game is going to be fun. Ryan Nembhard, Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman squaring off with the Wolfpack's Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner has the makings for buckets.

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Creighton's Ryan Kalkbrenner showed his strength inside on this play against Villanova last week.

31. Bob Huggins and West Virginia are back in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers draw another strong turnaround story in Kevin Willard and Maryland. Who wins the battle of WVU's offense versus the Terrapins' defense? To be determined. 

32. MAC champion Kent State is all sorts of fun at 28-6, and look out for lead guard Sincere Carry. The Golden Flashes are dancing for the first time in six years. 

33. Sean Miller is back in the NCAA Tournament with a Xavier team that will be hungry to bounce back from a blowout Big East championship game loss to Marquette. Don't let Souley Boum get hot. 

34. The Mountain West and Pac-12 both getting four bids to the NCAA Tournament came off a surprise. Will those leagues back up the committee and perform? We get a First Four game between the two leagues on Wednesday night when Arizona State meets Nevada

35. Iowa State is a dangerous 6-seed in the tournament, but they need Jaren Holmes and Gabe Kalscheur to knock down perimeter shots. Can the Cyclones make a second straight Sweet 16?

36. Mike Miles Jr. and a strong TCU core came back for this moment: to go on a deep tournament run. The 6-seed Frogs could get Gonzaga in the second round. That would be closer to a Sweet 16 game in quality.

37. This NCAA Tournament will have not just one but two Hurleys, with Bobby's Arizona State Sun Devils among the last four in. They get Nevada on Wednesday at 9:10 p.m. ET from Dayton. 

38. As for Dan Hurley, it's time for Connecticut to make noise in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are 9-2 in their last 11 games, have an NBA Draft first-round pick in Jordan Hawkins and an elite big in Adama Sanogo. The Sweet 16 should be a fair expectation. 

39. Valparaiso legend Bryce Drew is back in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years with a Grand Canyon team that can light it up from downtown, hitting nine 3s per game. Look out for the Antelopes

40. Could Tennessee overcome not having Zakai Zeigler (out for year — torn ACL) in this NCAA Tournament? Santiago Vescovi has to play well for the Vols to advance, and Rick Barnes' team needs to make it overly physical and hope the officials let them play a little bit.

41. Three years ago, Kennesaw State won one game the entire season. The Owls are dancing for the first time as a Division I member and as a 14-seed, they draw Xavier in the Midwest. Amir Abdur-Rahim has engineered a great story.

42. John Becker's Vermont Catamounts have made it to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and take a 15-game winning streak into a 2/15 showdown with Marquette in the East. 

43. One can dream of this, right? There's a scenario at the East Regional inside Madison Square Garden that we could get this doubleheader:

— Purdue or Memphis vs. Duke 

— Kentucky vs. Marquette 

Doesn't that just say fun? 

44. What version of 9-seed Illinois are we going to see? The Illini have been all over the place, going 5-10 away from their home court. They need Terrence Shannon Jr. to lead them, and Matthew Mayer must knock down some 3s for Brad Underwood's squad to have a shot.

45. There's a possibility for a Houston/Indiana NCAA Tournament game. Kelvin Sampson was forced to resign as Hoosiers coach despite starting the 2007-08 season 22-4 due to impermissible contact with recruits via phone. Can you say … drama?

46. If Texas A&M can get past Penn State, we could very well see an old-school Big 12 second-round matchup in Des Moines.

47. Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo have been the best frontcourt duo all season for Arizona. Will we see that continue, and Tommy Lloyd taking the Wildcats on a deep run? If the Cats have some sort of perimeter rhythm behind Courtney Ramey and Kerr Kriisa, they can win it all. 

48. USC's Boogie Ellis is an absolute bucket, averaging 24.3 PPG over the last seven contests. He charges the 10th-seeded Trojans against Michigan State on Friday.

49. To think that we could get a Houston/Texas Elite Eight game for the right to head to the Final Four in Houston? That would be absolutely bonkers in the Midwest.

50. Alabama has already gone into Houston and taken down the Cougars. However, a football stadium is just a tad different venue. On Dec. 10, when the Tide won 71-65 and Miller didn't even record a made field goal. That's because Nate Oats' team held Sasser to 2-for-11 from the floor and Jamal Shead needed 20 shots to get to 19 points. 

A rematch of that encounter in a championship game? Yes please, if chalk is even allowed in the madness … which it's normally not!

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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