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2023 March Madness: Ranking the 5 Best Defensive Teams In the Nation

Who are the best defensive teams in March Madness? Handicapper Jason Radowitz breaks down his top five best defensive units that made the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
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2023 March Madness: Ranking the 5 Best Defensive Teams In the Nation

You know the saying! Defense wins championships.

So if a team doesn't have much defense, you probably don't want to be putting them as your champion in your March Madness bracket. It's just a thought!

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Here are the top five defensive teams in the NCAA Tournament this year.

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2023 March Madness: 5 Best Defenses

1. UCLA Bruins

I'll add a little disclaimer here.

Jaylen Clark is not available for UCLA any longer. He was essentially the team's best defender and helped lead UCLA to the top defensive spot in the nation, according to KenPom.

The Bruins held teams to an effective field goal percentage of 46.8% while earning 23.6% of turnovers this season. They've also limited teams to 27.6% of offensive rebounds and didn't foul at a high rate either. Opponents shot 31.1% from long range and 46.8% from inside the arc against the Bruins. UCLA didn't have any flaws on the defensive end. The Bruins were above-average in every significant defensive category this season.

2. Tennessee Volunteers

A Rick Barnes-coached Tennessee team is always expected to be a top-tier defense. They didn't disappoint this year.

Tennessee held teams to an effective field goal percentage of 42.4% while earning 22.2% of turnovers. They've been aggressive on the defensive end but are typically good on the defensive glass and have held teams to just 26.2% from downtown and 44.6% from inside the arc.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama won't earn a bunch of turnovers on the defensive end. They'll also foul at a pretty high rate. However, this year, opponents have shot 28.1% from downtown and 41.2% from inside the arc against the Crimson Tide. Alabama has been the most well-rounded defense when it comes to defending shots. That's why they're on this list.

4. Houston Cougars

Houston's going to foul a lot, too, on the defensive end. That's what aggressive defenses do. But teams have shot 27.8% from deep and 43.1% from inside the arc against the Cougars this year.

Houston has blocked 16.7% of shots this season and has earned 12.8% of steals. They've also held teams to 27.4% of offensive rebounds, which isn't so bad.

5. Mississippi State Bulldogs

If Rutgers made the tournament, we'd put them here. But instead, it'll be Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs just snuck into the tournament, and it's all because of their defense. Mississippi State has held teams to 30.8% from deep and 46.2% from inside the arc. They're not efficient on the defensive glass but earn 22% of turnovers and rarely foul compared to the average.


Jason grew up an avid sports fan. His passion for sports writing grew in high school and he developed a blog that was strictly for New York Sports. From his work, you will quickly realize that he loves looking at games from an analytical and numbers perspective and hopes to provide you with that same perspective in his articles.


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