March Madness bracket 2023 predictions: East Region picks, sleepers

Purdue has held the No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll for much of the season, but it nearly cost itself a top seed in the NCAA Tournament after choking away a late lead against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament final.

That shaky performance, along with the team’s inexperienced backcourt and over-reliance on one star, make the East Region arguably the most compelling in the entire tournament – with multiple mid-major darlings and surging blue bloods to add even further intrigue.

Here are the odds to win the East Region, per FanDuel, and how we’re betting the region overall:

Odds to win East Region (via FanDuel)

Team (seed) Odds
Purdue (1) +300
Marquette (2) +420
Tennessee (4) +500
Kentucky (6) +850
Duke (5) +850
Kansas State (3) +900
Michigan State (7) +1200
Memphis (8) +1800
Florida Atlantic (9) +2700
Providence (11) +2700
USC (10) +2700
Louisiana (13) +9500
Texas Southern (16) +10000
Fairleigh Dickinson (16) +10000
Montana State (14) +10000
Vermont (15) +10000
Oral Roberts (12) +10000

No. 1 Seed: Purdue (+300)

Purdue is one of the scariest teams in the country when 7’4″ center Zach Edey – who ranks sixth nationally in scoring (22.3 PPG), third in rebounds (12.8 RPG) and 16th in blocks (2.3 BPG) – is impacting the game on both ends of the court.

Yet the Boilermakers are clearly a vulnerable No. 1 seed with two freshman guards in Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer, who have struggled to shoot the ball consistently and avoid turnovers – especially against the press, as we saw late in the Big Ten final.

While Purdue’s ceiling is sky-high with Edey in tow, its floor is shockingly low, too.

Purdue center Zach Edey
Purdue center Zach Edey
Getty Images

Sleeper: No. 8 Memphis (+1800)

Duke is drawing all the headlines as a Final Four hopeful beyond the top four seeds, but I’ve got my eyes squarely on Memphis as a potential dark horse in this region.

The Tigers have been a top-20 team by adjusted efficiency margin and lost three games by a combined 13 points to top-seeded Alabama and Houston.

Then they walloped a short-handed Houston team in the AAC final to cap off a 14-3 run over their final 17 games.

Senior guard Kendric Davis (31 points) starred in that win and pairs with DeAndre Williams to form one of the best duos in this entire tournament.

Memphis is the type of physical, experienced team that can expose Purdue in the second round and go toe-to-toe with the other top seeds in its path.

Team to Avoid: No. 3 Kansas State (+900)

I’m not sure which is more surprising: Kansas State earning a top-three seed in the tournament or dealing at such a short price to win this region.

The Wildcats undoubtedly picked up some impressive wins in the Big-12 this year, but they still struggle to hit shots and have turned it over on 21.3% of possessions since Feb. 1 – which ranks 340th out of 363 teams.

They also posted a .500 record over the last three months after a 15-1 start to the season and finished with a losing record (7-8) in road and neutral-site games.

Guard Jacob Pullen of the Kansas State Wildcats
Guard Jacob Pullen of the Kansas State Wildcats
Getty Images

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kansas State lose outright to Montana State (+315), which has forced turnovers at a compelling rate (20.7%) over the last month and is elite at getting to the line – a major weakness of the Wildcats’ defense.

Even if K-State survives Round 1, it won’t last in this tournament much longer.

1st-Round Upset: No. 12 Oral Roberts (+220) over No. 5 Duke

Look, I know that everyone and their mother are penciling Duke into the Final Four.

But the warnings signs are everywhere for Jon Scheyer’s young bunch ahead of this matchup with Oral Roberts.

Yes, the Blue Devils won nine straight to close the season in dominant fashion, but they still rank just 21st in overall net efficiency – those wins only mean so much against struggling ACC foes – and remain one of the least inexperienced and integrated starting lineups in the entire country.

Duke head coach Jon Scheyer
Duke head coach Jon Scheyer
Getty Images

Meanwhile, Oral Roberts owns the nation’s longest winning streak (17 games) behind the stellar play of senior guard Max Abmas (22.2 PPG), who was virtually unguardable in his team’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2021.

These Golden Eagles are better in just about every way and have enough size and shot-making to surprise in the first round.

Best First-Round Matchup: No. 8 Memphis (-2.5) vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic

We highlighted Memphis as a dark horse to win this entire region, but it’ll first have to get past Florida Atlantic, which boasts the best record in the country (31-3) and one of the most creative coaches in the entire field.

Dusty May’s rotation runs nine deep, which helps his team wear down its opponents with a movement-heavy offense and a swarming defense that allows the second-lowest assist rate (33.4%) in college basketball.

The star power in this matchup clearly favors Memphis, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see either team advance to a likely showdown with Purdue.

Betting on College Basketball?

East Region Winner: No. 2 Marquette (+420)

I loved Marquette’s profile as a potential Final Four team even before the bracket reveal.

I feel even stronger about that now with the benefit of arguably the easiest path of any team in the tournament.

The Golden Eagles feature one of the best offenses in the country behind star guard Tyler Kolek (13.3 PPG, 7.7 APG), who ranks fourth in assist rate (40.2 percent) and is one of four Marquette players scoring in double figures.

That’s to say nothing of this defense, which ranks eighth in steal rate and saved arguably its best performance for Saturday’s 65-51 win over Xavier in the Big East Final.

Shaka Smart has led a team to the Final Four before, and he has all the ingredients to do the same here with a group that’s already scored wins over Connecticut, Baylor and Creighton and enters the tournament on a 19-2 run.

Duke would pose a tricky matchup for the Golden Eagles in the Elite Eight, but I have more faith in this team to survive a four-game run than any other in this region.