Three teams showed why they are capable of winning a national championship with dominant wins on Thursday.
HOUSTON — The first full day of the 2023 NCAA Tournament is in the books and already the madness has begun, with two seed Arizona and four seed Virginia falling to Princeton and Furman, respectively.
Three number one seeds were in action on Thursday and while all three secured victories, groin injuries to Houston’s Marcus Sasser and Alabama’s Brandon Miller create some concern about their chances of making a deep run this year.
Meanwhile, a trio of teams not on the one seed line impressed Locked on College Basketball hosts Andy Patton and Isaac Schade on Thursday – showcasing why each can potentially run this tournament and take home a national championship trophy.
1. UCLA Bruins
UCLA crushed 15 seed UNC-Asheville late on Thursday evening, winning 86-53 behind 17 points each from Jaime Jaquez and Amari Bailey. Five Bruins were in double figures, while Tyger Campbell dished out 10 assists.
Coming into the tournament the main question about UCLA was how the loss of Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Jaylen Clark would impact Mick Cronin’s team. Well they were without both Clark and freshman enforcer Adem Bona and still held the Bulldogs to just 19-51 (37.3%) shooting, while earning a massive 40-25 advantage on the glass.
UCLA is an elite defensive team with a balanced offense, and while they are in a very tough region with Kansas, Gonzaga, and UConn – this team is certainly capable of winning it all without Clark.
2. Texas Longhorns
The big knock on Texas coming into the tournament was their lack of consistent outside shooting – especially with a first round matchup against a Colgate team that shot 41% from deep in the regular season.
The Longhorns handled their business with ease, however, thanks in part to a monster performance from Sir’Jabari Rice off the bench – who drilled seven three pointers and finished with a game-high 23 points.
In fact, Texas went 13-23 from beyond the arc, good for 56.5% on the night and quieting the doubters.
The combination of Tyrese Hunter, Marcus Carr, and Rice off the bench gives Texas an experienced, versatile, and talented backcourt. With one of the most elite defenses in the country, and in a region with a vulnerable Houston team as the one seed – this team is very likely to emerge from the Midwest region and challenge for a national title.
3. Duke Blue Devils
12-5 upsets are a common occurrence in the NCAA Tournament, but Duke made it clear they weren’t entertaining an upset against Oral Roberts on Thursday – jumping out to a 15-0 lead and never relenting en route to a 74-51 victory.
Veteran guard Jeremy Roach dropped 23, and freshman Dariq Whitehead had 13 points on a perfect 3-3 shooting from deep in the victory.
Jon Scheyer’s club has been playing great the final few weeks of the season, and now that they are healthy and gelling they could be back in the Elite 8 again this year – with a vulnerable Purdue team as the one seed and a two seed in Marquette who doesn’t defend particularly well. Keep an eye on the Blue Devils.