Who says we have to wait for March for a little bit of madness? Saturday has not one, not two, but five matchups pairing teams with legitimate national championship hopes in what could be the best day of men's college hoops this regular season: Indiana at Kansas, Alabama at Gonzaga, Houston at Virginia, UCLA at Kentucky and Tennessee at Arizona. The action tips at noon and won't wrap until after midnight on the East Coast, so lock in and get ready for a big day!
Curious about what these teams bring to the table and if they can succeed in March? Let's take a look at some recent comparisons, and why each these 10 teams could be the one that ends the 2022-23 season with a W.
Indiana Hoosiers at Kansas Jayhawks
12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Trayce Jackson-Davis with the massive block at the rim
Indiana: The 2005 Tar Heels won it all behind an experienced 6-foot-9 interior leading scorer in Sean May (13.4 rebounds-plus-assists-plus-blocks per game). The 6-9 Trayce Jackson-Davis (13.4 rebounds-plus-assists-plus-blocks per game) is the clear go-to guy on this Hoosiers team, but he's far from the lone option. Just like that UNC team, Indiana has another four players averaging north of 8.5 PPG. And just like the Tar Heels 18 years ago, the Hoosiers also rank in the top 15% of Division I in eFG% and defensive eFG%. Also coincidental: That North Carolina team beat Indiana at Assembly Hall on Wednesday, December 1, 2004 by seven points. This Indiana team beat North Carolina at Assembly Hall on Wednesday, November 30, 2022 by eight points.
Kansas: Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick give the Jayhawks a dynamic duo that is as good as any in the country (37.5 combined PPG). Back in 2004, UConn, helmed by Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor (36.1 combined PPG), won a national championship. That Huskies team peaked at the right time (they won each of their first four March Madness games by at least 16 points). We obviously don't know if this 2023 Kansas team will do that, but with two foundational offensive pieces locked in, they have a scoring ceiling that ranks among the best in the country.
Alabama Crimson Tide at Gonzaga Bulldogs
1:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Drew Timme drops in smooth layup
Alabama: Nate Oats' squad has beaten a No. 1 team not once but twice this season. The Crimson Tide push tempo while both scoring and defending at an elite level, much like how the 2017 Tar Heels went about things. That UNC team was able to survive a handful of scares during its run to glory (won the final three games of the 2016-17 season by a total of nine points) thanks to myriad strengths, and an ability to win in a variety of game scripts. 'Bama is a young team, but the returns thus far profile like a team that's in it for the long haul.
Gonzaga: Tyler Hansbrough led North Carolina to a title in 2009 by averaging north of 20 points, thanks to offensive creativity gained from over 100 collegiate games on his résumé. Drew Timme is aiming to do the exact same thing for the Zags. And while the Bulldogs lost three games in the first month of this season, they're very much a threat to run through brackets in March. Gonzaga ranks as a top-10 offense in terms of efficiency -- a box the last two champions have checked.
Houston Cougars at Virginia Cavaliers
2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Marcus Sasser splits two defenders and Eurosteps his way to an and-1 for the Cougars.
Houston: The Cougars were a top 10 defense last season, and they are a top 10 defense again this season. Could Marcus Sasser be the next Ochai Agbaji -- who developed his offensive game over the course of a four-year collegiate career that ended with a title last year for Kansas? Sasser is attacking the rim more this season than ever before (47.1% of his shots in 2022-23 are from inside the arc, up from 32.2% across his first three seasons), giving Kelvin Sampson a stable offensive base to go along with Houston's consistently stingy defense.
Virginia: The 2019 champion version of the Cavaliers got 57.3 points a night from its top-five scorers, with their three primary guards making 41.9% of their 3-point attempts. Thus far, the 2022-23 Cavaliers are getting 53.3 points from their top 5, with their three primary guards converting 42.5% of their 3s. Another year, another bottom-10 team in the country in pace that relies on top-20 efficiency on both ends of the floor.
UCLA Bruins at Kentucky Wildcats
5:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Denver Pioneers vs. UCLA Bruins: Full Highlights
UCLA: With a trio of guards averaging better than 13 PPG, UCLA's profile this season looks very much like that of Baylor's in 2021. The Bruins have picked up their pace a bit from 2021-22 -- a tweak the Bears also made the season prior to winning the 2021 title. The increase in pace allows this UCLA squad, just like 2020-21 Baylor, to rank in the top 50 in the nation in 2-point percentage, something that seems sustainable, given the quality of look created by their talented backcourt.
Kentucky: A team led by a dominant interior presence flanked by a sharp-shooting guard ... the Wildcats are partying like it's 2012 with Anthony Davis again. They lack the depth of star power, but they rank top 20 in the country in assist rate, which is promising when it comes to the consistency needed to make a deep March run.
Tennessee Volunteers at Arizona Wildcats
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Tennessee takes a 21-point lead over Maryland after a 3-ball by Santiago Vescovi.
Tennessee: In this era of scoring, I worry about a team with some offensive weaknesses. But these Vols are the top defense in all the land, and their defensive production is likely to sustain. We are as aware of the value of the 3-point shot now as ever, and that's often only viewed through an offensive lens. Tennessee is top-50 in terms of (lowest) percentage of points allowed via the 3-ball. That suggests that Rick Barnes' team excels at taking away what every opponent wants to do. The same defensive philosophy worked for the Jayhawks last year, and could serve as a blueprint moving forward, as our game moves further away from the rim.
Arizona: Recent champions have had an offense that ranked ahead of their defense, and that seems destined to be the case for a Wildcats team that currently boasts the most efficient offense in the nation. They are a top-30 team in the country in both average height and 3-point percentage, making them the poster child for the direction in which this sport is headed. Yes, Tommy Lloyd lost his leading scorer from a year ago. Yes, Arizona is as dangerous now as it was then, as one of the betting favorites come Selection Sunday. Both things can be true.