March Madness Men's Bracket Includes Some 'Head-Scratchers'

UConn, Houston, Purdue, North Carolina are No. 1 seeds
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 18, 2024 12:00 AM CDT
March Madness Is Here
North Carolina forward Armando Bacot (5) hanging from the basket after scoring against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Defending champion UConn earned the top seed in the NCAA Tournament, joined by Houston, Purdue, and North Carolina as No. 1 seeds in a bracket that started going haywire even before the pairings were announced Sunday evening, the AP reports. Of those top teams, only UConn heads into the tournament coming off a win. The others lost in their conference tournaments, yet those were hardly the only surprises over the final weekend of hoops before the sport's main event hits center stage. Unexpected titles placed teams like Oregon, North Carolina State and even Duquesne, none of whom were projected to make the tournament, into the field of 68 via the automatic bid that goes to conference champions. The teams they beat gobbled up a handful of the 34 at-large bids, thus shrinking the number of spots available to teams on the so-called bubble.

The bracket has its share of head-scratchers:

  • Two of the last four teams in—Boise State and Colorado State—weren't even considered on the bubble by most bracketologists. "A little surprised to be honest," Boise State coach Leon Rice said of his team's No. 10 seed.
  • Some of the teams left out—St. John's and Oklahoma—were thought to be safely in as late as Saturday. St. John's decided not to even play in the NIT. "How is St. John's so far off the cutline?" said UConn coach Dan Hurley, who was surprised only three Big East teams made it.
  • Florida Atlantic and Texas A&M were considered bubble teams but ended up with 8 and 9 seeds, respectively.

All of this could be fodder for the growing conversation about expanding the bracket to 76, maybe 80 teams. Under that scenario, bubble teams like Pittsburgh, Seton Hall and even Indiana State would almost certainly be in. The tournament starts Tuesday with two First Four games, including a matchup between Virginia and Colorado State. The 32 first-round games take place Thursday and Friday. The Final Four is set for April 6-8 in Glendale, Arizona. (Much more here, or see the men's bracket here.)

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