The NCAA tournament is just over a week away and the madness inches closer. Conference tournaments are underway around the country and some teams have already punched their ticket to the big dance, hoping to be this year’s Cinderella.
Our goal in this article is to let you know who’s in and what you need to know about each team.
We’ll update this article every day as new teams clinch their spot in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, letting you know how they got into the dance, and whether they might be a team you need to take note of when filling out your bracket. Keep us open in your browser and let’s get started.
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2023 NCAA Tournament Automatic Qualifiers
Tuesday, March 7th
Charleston (33-3) – CAA Champions
After top-seed Hofstra lost to UNC-Wilmington, Charleston was able to avoid the tough showdown in the finals, beating that same UNC-Wilmington team to punch their ticket. Charleston had the same conference record as Hofstra and was actually the better team, according to KemPom, ranking 71st in the nation. They boast a balanced team that has the 69th-ranked adjusted offense and 72nd-ranked adjusted defense. That type of balance could make them a tough out in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga (28-5) – West Coast Champions
Gonzaga was already assured a spot in the Big Dance as the 9th-ranked team in the country, but they made sure of their spot by trouncing 16th-ranked St. Mary’s 77-51 in the conference finals. They are one of the best teams in the country, according to KenPom, ranking 7th with the best offense in the country and the 74th-ranked adjusted defense. Gonzaga is battle-tested and should be a tough out in the tournament.
Oral Roberts (30-4) – Summit League Champions
Oral Roberts capped off a tremendous regular season with a dominant 92-58 win in their conference tournament final. They’re the 55th-ranked team in the nation, according to Ken Pom, featuring the 23rd-ranked offense and 103rd-ranked defense. With the 37th-fastest tempo in the country, they push the pace and put up points in bunches, which should make them a fun team to watch in the NCAA Tournament.
Monday, March 6th
Louisiana (26-7) – Sun Belt Champions
The Ragin’ Cajuns came into the Sun Belt tournament as the number two seed but got a bit of a gift when South Alabama dispatched top seed Southern Mississippi. That allowed Louisiana to play South Alabama in the finals, where they were able to hold onto a 71-66 win. KenPom did have Louisiana as the best team in the Sun Belt, ranking them 92nd in the nation overall, with a 58th-ranked adjusted offense and 149th-ranked adjusted defense. Perhaps that offense will catch the wrong team napping in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Furman (27-7) – SoConChampions
Number one seed Furman cruised to an 88-79 win over Chatanooga in the conference finals to secure their bid. KenPom ranks them 89th in the nation and, like Lousiana, they boast an explosive offense that ranks 33rd in adjusted offense but have a weak defense that ranks 181st. They also rank just 125th in tempo, so they rely on high-percentage shots which might not be as easy to get in the NCAA Tournament.
Northern Kentucky (22-12) – Horizon Champions
The Nothern Kentucky Norse held on to beat Cleveland State and punch their ticket back to the Big Dance. The fourth-seed in the conference tournament, the Norse easily beat top-seed Youngstown State in the semi-finals to set up their showdown with Cleveland State. KenPom ranks them 163rd in the nation with a 218th-ranked adjusted offense and 120th-ranked defense, so it might be a short stay for them in the NCAA Tournament.
Sunday, March 5th
Kennesaw State (26-8) – Atlantic Sun Champion
Kennesaw State earned its first NCAA Tournament bid after hitting a free throw with 0.7 seconds left to top Liberty 67-66 in the finals. Both teams finished at the top of the conference with a 15-3 record this season, but Liberty was the much better team according to KemPom, who had Liberty ranked 47 and Kennesaw State ranked 129th. Kennesaw State ranks 153rd in the country in adjusted offense and 114th in adjusted defense, so they don’t seem like a real threat to make noise in the tournament.
Leading scorer: Chris Youngblood – Jr. Guard: 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals
UNC Asheville (27-7) – Big South Champion
UNC Asheville, the top seed in the Big South tournament, seemed on the verge of losing to an under .500 Campbell team before rallying from 14 down to win 77-73 and clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Despite their strong record, KenPom has them ranked as the 149th team in the country with the 196th-ranked adjusted offense and 113th-ranked adjusted defense. KenPom also has them ranked as the 2nd luckiest team in the country, which doesn’t bode well for an NCAA Tournament upset unless that luck continues in a big way.
Leading scorer: Drew Pember – Sr. Forward: 21.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 blocks
Drake (27-7) – Missouri Valley Champion
Drake left no doubt about their spot in the tournament when they upset Bradley, the number one seed in the conference, 77-51 in the Missouri Valley finals. Now, we saw upset, but Drake finished just one game behind Bradley during the regular season and was the slightly better team, according to KemPom. By those metrics, Drake is the 65th-best team in the nation with the 94th-ranked adjusted offense and 45th-ranked adjusted defense. However, they did play the 194th-hardest schedule in the nation, so they haven’t truly been tested yet. Can they rise to the occasion?
Leading scorer: Tucker DeVries – So. Guard: 19.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals
Saturday, March 4th
Fairleigh Dickinson (19-14) – Northeast Champion (by default – Merrimack is not eligible)
Fairleigh Dickinson beat St. Francis (PA) 70-50 in the Northeast Conference semi-finals but clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament since Merrimack, the conference’s top seed and their opponent in the finals is not eligible since they are transitioning into Division 1. KenPom does have Fairleigh Dickinson as the slightly better team, but they have 16-seed written all over them, ranking 315th in the nation with a 157th-ranked offense and 361st-ranked defense.
Leading scorer: Demetre Roberts – Sr. Guard: 16.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals
Southeastern Missouri State (19-16) – Ohio Valley Champion
The 5th-seed in the Ohio Valley, Southeastern Missouri is a surprised qualifier thanks to an 89-82 victory over Tennessee Tech in the finals. This was one day after upsetting the conference’s top seed Morehead State 65-58, so the Redhawks certainly earned their way into the NCAA Tournament. KenPom has them ranked as the 259th-best team in the country, with the 265th-ranked adjusted offense and 242nd-ranked adjusted defense. They do play fast though, with the 7th-ranked tempo in the country, so they could make for fun viewing, even if it’s only one game.
Leading scorer: Phillip Russell – So. Guard: 18.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals