Bracket Watch: UConn No. 1 overall, and then chaos for 2024 NCAA Tournament



CBB BracketWatch031724

(Editor’s note: This is part of the Bracket Central Series, an inside look at the run-up to the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments, along with analysis and picks during the tournaments.)

(Update at 5:25 p.m. ET: This is the final bracket. Duquesne has been put in the field, and UAB slides up one spot on the seed list. Everything else is the same. The Big Ten final does not affect seeding — as is tradition.)

During the season in this space, we often like to begin with a bit of pop culture or history or some other random bit of nonsense unrelated to college basketball. So, uh, is it OK if we just do that for the entirety of this final installment?

Because we’re going to be totally transparent here. For the first time in six years of making mock brackets for The Athletic, we go into Selection Sunday with no earthly idea of what the selection committee is going to do. Oh, sure, there are always small surprises, but for the most part, the field is obvious except for maybe one slot.

Not this year. After one of the wildest Championship Week Saturdays we can remember, which included two power-conference bid thieves and a still-hard-to-believe outcome in the American, we find ourselves utterly confused by the bubble. And whether North Carolina will hold on to that final No. 1 seed or if surging Iowa State will take it. At least we’re not alone:

Here goes our best shot:

• NC State and Oregon winning their way into the field means that Virginia and Oklahoma are out.

It’s not so simple that the committee simply will replace UVa with the Wolfpack in an ACC tradeoff. Virginia was our last at-large on Saturday morning, and the Cavaliers did lose head-to-head to NC State on Friday, so it seems fair that they’re the first ones to get the boot. We then considered a de facto Pac-12 switcheroo of Oregon and Colorado, since the Buffaloes made our field for the first time after winning in the Pac-12 semis on Friday.

But all this chaos forced us to dive deep into the resumes again, and … what’s impressive about the Sooners? No bad losses, sure, but they’re 4-12 in Quad 1 and 3-6 on the road. They beat Iowa State and BYU, but both were at home. And beyond that, there’s not a single win against a team in the field. And then there’s the matter of the No. 271 nonconference SOS. Add up the lack of wins, bad schedule, poor road performance and a No. 44 KenPom ranking, and this suddenly doesn’t look like a NCAA Tournament team. Especially as the ninth team out of the Big 12.

• OK, well, who does go to the First Four? Well, if you ever wanted to attend the games in Dayton, get tickets this year. We’ve got Colorado and St. John’s in one play-in game, and the other is … wait for it … Michigan State-Florida Atlantic. That’s right, two teams that started the season in the top 10. But the Spartans, despite their oddly glimmering metrics, are just 19-14 overall, 3-9 in Q1 and 9-14 in the first two quads. FAU, meanwhile, lost a Q3 game to Temple in the AAC semis; the Owls also have two Q4 losses and just two Q1 wins (good ones, though, over Arizona and Texas A&M). If we didn’t know what Florida Atlantic did last year and saw this resume coming out of the AAC, we probably wouldn’t blink an eye at this being a First Four team. And in another oddity, the First Four teams are No. 10 seeds.

• That means Indiana State, Seton Hall, Providence and Pitt, along with Virginia and Oklahoma, are out of our field. All those teams are good enough to win a first-round game. Some, more than that. Greg Sankey will be furious Sunday night!

• As for the top of the bracket, we’re sticking with UNC. Iowa State looked mighty impressive this weekend, but remember two things: The Cyclones were on the No. 3 line and No. 11 overall in the committee’s top-16 reveal exactly one month ago. North Carolina was No. 5 overall. It would be a pretty big jump for Iowa State to leapfrog UNC (and the Tar Heels still own the head-to-head with the other contender, Tennessee). Ultimately, it comes down to this: the Cyclones’ No. 324 nonconference SOS. No. 1 seeds simply don’t have schedules that weak, and by putting Iowa State on the 1-line, the committee could set a dangerous precedent we believe it would like to avoid.

There. Disagree, laugh, come back after the bracket reveal to make fun of how wrong we were. Just remember, even the committee knows this Gordian Knot has no real solution. Oh, do you know the Greek legend of the Gordian Knot … well, we had to try to delay some more.

This bracket will be updated shortly before the 6 p.m. ET selection show with final tweaks and automatic qualifiers. Just don’t expect it to make any more sense.

First Four Out Next Four Out Last Four In Last Four Byes

Oklahoma

Providence

Michigan State

Colorado State

Virginia

Pitt

Florida Atlantic

TCU

Indiana State

Kansas State

Colorado

Mississippi State

Seton Hall

Ohio State

St. John’s

Texas A&M

Multi-bid conferences

League Bids

Big 12

8

SEC

8

Big Ten

6

Mountain West

6

ACC

4

Big East

4

Pac-12

4

A10

2

AAC

2

WCC

2

Seed list

1

UConn

AQ

2

Houston

3

Purdue

4

North Carolina

5

Iowa State

AQ

6

Tennessee

7

Arizona

8

Marquette

9

Baylor

10

Creighton

11

Kansas

12

Illinois

AQ

13

Duke

14

Kentucky

15

BYU

16

Auburn

AQ

17

South Carolina

18

Alabama

19

San Diego State

20

Texas Tech

21

Wisconsin

22

Clemson

23

Florida

24

Saint Mary’s

AQ

25

Utah State

26

Washington State

27

Gonzaga

28

Boise State

29

Nevada

30

Texas

31

Nebraska

32

Dayton

33

Northwestern

34

Colorado State

35

TCU

36

Mississippi State

37

New Mexico

AQ

38

Texas A&M

39

Michigan State

40

Florida Atlantic

41

Colorado

42

St. John’s

43

NC State

AQ

44

Oregon

AQ

45

Drake

AQ

46

James Madison

AQ

47

Grand Canyon

AQ

48

McNeese State

AQ

49

UAB

AQ

50

Duquesne

AQ

51

Samford

AQ

52

Yale

AQ

53

Akron

AQ

54

Charleston

AQ

55

Vermont

AQ

56

Oakland

AQ

57

Morehead State

AQ

58

Colgate

AQ

59

South Dakota State

AQ

60

Western Kentucky

AQ

61

Longwood

AQ

62

Long Beach State

AQ

63

Saint Peter’s

AQ

64

Montana State

AQ

65

Stetson

AQ

66

Howard

AQ

67

Grambling

AQ

68

Wagner

AQ

The Bracket Central series is part of a partnership with E*TRADE.

The Athletic maintains full editorial independence. Partners have no control over or input into the reporting or editing process and do not review stories before publication.

(Photo of Tristen Newton: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)





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