The Commercial Appeal

I predict every game in March Madness, including the champion

- Gentry Estes

So ... you do realize the Final Four is in Houston this year, right?

That hasn't escaped the attention of a lot of basketball fans, I'd imagine, in a massive city that is very much behind their powerhouse program. If the Cougars get to the Final Four, it'll be a party, and they'll be difficult to handle.

I figure home-court advantage in the biggest game of the season is enough to favor an outstandin­g team to win the whole thing. But Houston is no lock. No one is a lock. This is a particular­ly wideopen and difficult-to-project tournament. Many of the sport's blue-chip staples aren't safe bets, leaving some spots to be filled by teams like Houston. Or Alabama. Or Purdue. Or Creighton.

I took my shot at March Madness prediction­s and got a little chalky in the process, but my usual disclaimer is highlighte­d and underlined in 2023.

This NCAA Tournament bracket is anyone's guess. Really.

First Four: And off they go

h (11) Pitt over (11) Mississipp­i State h (11) Nevada over (11) Arizona State h (16) Texas A&m-corpus Christi over (16) SE Missouri State

h (16) Fairleigh Dickinson over (16) Texas Southern

South Region Round of 64: Avoiding upsets

(1) Alabama over (16) Texas A&MCCH h (8) Maryland over (9) West Virginia h (5) San Diego State over (12) Charleston h (4) Virginia over (13) Furman h (6) Creighton over (11) NC State h (3) Baylor over (14) Uc-santa Barbara h (10) Utah State over (7) Missouri h (2) Arizona over (15) Princeton

Round of 32: Watch out for the Aggies

h (1) Alabama over (8) Maryland h (4) Virginia over (5) San Diego State h (6) Creighton over (3) Baylor h (10) Utah State over (2) Arizona

Sweet 16: Cavs fall just short

h (1) Alabama over (4) Virginia h (6) Creighton over (10) Utah State

Elite Eight: Tide keeps rolling

h (1) Alabama over (6) Creighton

East Region Round of 64: Memphis gets upset

h (1) Purdue over (16) FDU h (9) Florida Atlantic over (8) Memphis h (5) Duke over (12) Oral Roberts h (4) Tennessee over (13) Louisiana h (6) Kentucky over (11) Providence h (3) Kansas State over (14) Montana State

h (7) Michigan State over (10) Southern Cal

h (2) Marquette over (15) Vermont

Round of 32: Duke over Tennessee

h (1) Purdue over (9) Florida Atlantic h (5) Duke over (4) Tennessee h (6) Kentucky over (3) Kansas State h (2) Marquette over (7) Michigan State

Sweet 16: So long, blue bloods

h (1) Purdue over (5) Duke h (2) Marquette over (6) Kentucky

Elite Eight: Boiling over

h (1) Purdue over (2) Marquette

Midwest Region Round of 64: Hello, Drake

h (1) Houston over (16) Northern Kentucky h (8) Iowa over (9) Auburn h (12) Drake over (5) Miami h (4) Indiana over (13) Kent State h (6) Iowa State over (11) Pitt h (3) Xavier over (14) Kennesaw State h (7) Texas A&M over (10) Penn State h (2) Texas over (15) Colgate

Round of 32: Texas loses to a rival

h (1) Houston over (8) Iowa h (12) Drake over (4) Indiana h (3) Xavier over (6) Iowa State h (7) Texas A&M over (2) Texas

Sweet 16: Cinderella runs into Houston

h (1) Houston over (12) Drake h (3) Xavier over (7) Texas A&M

Elite Eight: Heading back home

h (1) Houston over (3) Xavier

West Region

Round of 64: Not quite for Pitino's Iona

h (1) Kansas over (16) Howard h (8) Arkansas over (9) Illinois h (5) St. Mary's over (12) VCU h (4) Uconn over (13) Iona h (11) Nevada over (6) TCU h (3) Gonzaga over (14) Grand Canyon

h (7) Northweste­rn over (10) Boise State

h (2) UCLA over (15) UNC Asheville

Round of 32: Uconn bows out

h (1) Kansas over (8) Arkansas h (5) St. Mary's over (4) Uconn h (3) Gonzaga over (11) Nevada h (2) UCLA over (7) Northweste­rn

Sweet 16: Gonzaga win a big-time battle

h (1) Kansas over (5) St. Mary's h (3) Gonzaga over (2) UCLA

Elite Eight: So long, Kansas

h (3) Gonzaga over (1) Kansas

Final Four: Alabama takes over

h Alabama over Purdue h Houston over Gonzaga

National Championsh­ip

Houston 82, Alabama 80

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