March Madness 2024 bracket: Here are all 68 NCAA men’s teams

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Well, here we go. The 2024 men’s NCAA tournament field has been announced, and the greatest three-week stretch in sports is set to begin.

How we got here was a journey, too. The bubble collapsed over the weekend thanks to a handful of unexpected conference tournament runs (see: Oregon, NC State, Duquesne, UAB). The top teams also had their challenges: 1-seeds Purdue and Houston failed to win their respective conference tournaments, while the likes of Arizona, Tennessee and North Carolina also fell.

All of this sets up what is going to be a fabulous NCAA tournament.

Before we get to the first games — the First Four tips Tuesday, and the first round begins Thursday — we want to offer you this guide to all 68 teams.

Our goal here, like with every year, is to offer information on every program. We are not offering you a promise of success as you fill out your brackets.

Still, for those who want to know about possible upsets, we’ve created the “ceiling” system. With each team, we’ll tell you how far we think they can go … if everything goes right.

Just remember: A lot of things can go wrong, too. Enjoy the Madness.

1-seeds

Region: East
Record: 31-3
Tournament ceiling: National championship

The last team to win back-to-back national titles, Florida, achieved it with the same nucleus of players: Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer. Reigning national champion UConn lost its key pair last April — Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins — but this year’s group is just as dominant. The rise of Donovan Clingan (12.5 PPG, 2.3 BPG) in his second season, the maturation of Tristen Newton into a likely All-American and projected first-round draft pick Stephon Castle are providing the fuel Dan Hurley needs for a shot at cutting down the nets again. With the trio on the floor in the regular season, UConn registered 120.5 points per 100 possessions (for reference, the Boston Celtics, the NBA’s top offense, generate 121.9 points per 100 possessions) and held opponents to 87.2 points per 100 possessions (Houston-like numbers).

Region: South
Record: 30-4
Tournament ceiling: National championship

In the past four NCAA tournaments, Kelvin Sampson has led Houston to the Sweet 16 (twice), the Elite Eight and the Final Four. This year’s Cougars — the Big 12 regular-season champions — are one of the best teams in the country. So what is it about this team that could finally get Sampson a ring? Scoring options. Jamal Shead is a projected All-American and J’Wan Roberts is a key veteran. Former Baylor transfer L.J. Cryer (15.3 PPG, 39.0% from beyond the arc) has added a new dynamic to a defensive juggernaut that held 11 opponents to under 50 points this season, including Kansas in the Big 12 season finale. Between Jan. 13 and March 9, Houston lost only one game, and committed turnovers on just 12.2% of its possessions, per barttorvik.com.

Region: Midwest
Record: 29-4
Tournament ceiling: National championship

In 2018, top seed Virginia fell to 16-seed UMBC in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The following year, the Cavaliers leapt from their No. 30 ranking in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom to No. 2 and won the national title. In 2023, top seed Purdue fell to 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This year, the Boilermakers boast the best offense in America — especially at the 3-point line (going from 32.2% to 41.0%). Their star, reigning Wooden Award winner Zach Edey (24.3 PPG, 11.8 RPG), is better too — Synergy Sports lists him as a “good” defender compared to “average” a year ago, while EvanMiya.com considers him the most “indispensable” player in America. Issues with turnovers remain, but Matt Painter’s squad has the talent to mimic history and win a national title, just like Virginia.

Region: West
Record: 27-7
Tournament ceiling: National championship

Hubert Davis had a fabulous debut as a head coach: North Carolina held a double-digit edge over Kansas at halftime of the 2022 national championship game. He then followed it with a dud of a season, missing the 2023 postseason altogether. But this season, the Tar Heels have returned to their winning ways, thanks to the return of Armando Bacot and the elevation of RJ Davis (21.4 PPG, 40.6% from beyond the arc), one of America’s best guards. The ACC regular-season champs weathered a late-season slide but ended on a six-game winning streak, capped by a second win over rival Duke. If Harrison Ingram can get hot again — he’s shooting 37% from 3 but was 4-for-25 in those final six regular-season games — Davis and the Tar Heels could finish what they started two years ago.


2-seeds

Region: East
Record: 27-7
Tournament ceiling: Final Four

T.J. Otzelberger doesn’t have a star. For the second-best team in the Big 12 (behind Houston), six players average at least 8.0 PPG; no one averages more than 13.5 PPG. The Cyclones made 32.4% of their 3-point attempts in league play, but it’s their elite defense (second in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom) that has secured them a high seed for Otzelberger’s third NCAA tournament appearance in his third year on the job. Keshon Gilbert (13.5 PPG) & Co. have wins over Houston (twice, including the Big 12 tournament championship) and Kansas, too. This group seems capable of making a run. The biggest question now about this balanced squad is this: Can it reach its ceiling outside Ames? Iowa State finished 4-5 in Big 12 road games, versus 9-0 at home at Hilton Coliseum.

Region: South
Record: 25-9
Tournament ceiling: Final Four

Last year, Tyler Kolek suffered a hand injury in 2-seed Marquette’s opening-round win over 15-seed Vermont. He played the next game, against 7-seed Michigan State, but the Golden Eagles lost. This year probably feels like déjà vu for Shaka Smart. Once again, Marquette is a high seed and once again Kolek is dealing with an injury that could impact this team’s progress through the tournament.

Entering the Big East tournament, Kolek missed the previous three games with an oblique injury. Smart told reporters recently his star player, who recorded 34 assists in his final three games before the injury, will “absolutely” play in the NCAA tournament. Concerns about the impact of another Kolek injury are valid. But when he’s available, the Golden Eagles have recorded wins over Illinois, Kansas and Creighton. If healthy, this team could end its season in Phoenix.

Region: Midwest
Record: 24-8
Tournament ceiling: National championship

In 2019, Dalton Knecht averaged 13.3 PPG at a junior college in Colorado. He bumped up that number when he transferred to Northern Colorado, averaging 20.2 PPG last season. Then he transferred to Tennessee. Some mid-major players would fail to duplicate their production when they transfer to a power conference. Knecht has only improved. The 6-foot-6 standout is averaging 21.1 PPG and 39.7% from beyond the arc and is now a projected lottery pick and Wooden Award contender. He’s given Rick Barnes something the Hall of Fame coach hasn’t had with the Vols: a pure scorer to complement an elite defense. It’s a potent combo that could lead UT to its first national championship. Knecht can’t do all the work on offense alone, but he’s the catalyst Tennessee must have to keep up offensively with any opponent: In regular-season victories over Auburn, Alabama (twice), Kentucky and Illinois — all top-15 in adjusted offensive efficiency — the Vols averaged 90.6 PPG.

Region: West
Record: 25-8
Tournament ceiling: National championship

Tommy Lloyd’s squad plays at a top-15 pace. It connected on 37.4% of its 3-point attempts and 55% of its shots inside the arc during the regular season. And it might have won the regular season in a subpar Pac-12, but nonconference victories at Duke and over Alabama have proved these Wildcats can compete with anyone. Caleb Love (18.1 PPG) was a star at North Carolina and is a star in the warmer climate of Tucson, too. He connected on 37.3% of his shots from beyond the arc in Pac-12 play and is one of four players averaging double figures for Arizona. His teammates Oumar Ballo, Pelle Larsson and Jaden Bradley form the most efficient three-man lineup in America when they’re on the floor together, per EvanMiya.com.


3-seeds

Region: East
Record: 26-8
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

It’s important to tell a team’s full story as the season reaches its final moments. A felony rape charge in December led to Terrence Shannon Jr.‘s arrest and indefinite suspension, but the Illinois star subsequently sued the school and obtained a temporary restraining order that has allowed him to play without additional interruption. On the court, he leads a squad with an offensive effectiveness that helped it finish second behind Purdue in the Big Ten. But it’s also a team ranked in the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency: The Illini surrendered 97 points in a win over Minnesota last month and have losses against Maryland and Penn State.

Region: South
Record: 23-9
Tournament ceiling: National championship

This is the team every opposing coach in America hoped they wouldn’t see in their region. Antonio Reeves (20.0 PPG, 44.1% from 3) should be an All-American. In ESPN’s latest NBA mock draft, freshmen Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard are top-five picks — who have come off the bench for most of the season. From their Feb. 10 loss to Gonzaga to the end of the regular season — which included beating Auburn and Alabama by 37 points combined — the Wildcats connected on 57% of their 2s and 42% of their 3s, per barttorvik.com. More compelling however is that this team, which has played sub-100 defense for lengthy stretches of the season, was 53rd in adjusted defensive efficiency in those games. In other words: the Wildcats can play good defense when they decide to play good defense.

Region: Midwest
Record: 23-9
Tournament ceiling: National championship

This is a team filled with confidence. Head coach Greg McDermott recently signed a contract extension amid reports that Ohio State and other schools were interested in luring him away. And, before losing to Providence in the first round of the Big East tournament, the Bluejays finished the season 7-1, handing Dan Hurley one of the worst losses (85-66) of his UConn tenure along the way. Shooting 64.7% from inside the arc, only Houston and UConn performed better in that span, per barttorvik.com. There’s also an argument to be made that Baylor Scheierman (18.4 PPG, 37.2% from beyond the arc), Ryan Kalkbrenner (17.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.0 BPG) and Trey Alexander (17.6 PPG, 4.8 APG) are the nation’s top trio. A Final Four run a year after a heartbreaking, last-second loss to San Diego State in the Elite Eight would vanquish some demons.

Region: West
Record: 23-10
Tournament ceiling: Elite Eight

In a larger, more challenging Big 12, Scott Drew’s squad finished in a tie for third place. Ja’Kobe Walter (14.2 PPG) and Yves Missi (11.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG) are two projected first-round draft picks, and the Bears finished the regular season top five in the nation in 3-point shooting (40.4%). But they also finished 5-4 in their final nine games of the regular season, thanks to playing a sub-100 defense. The play of RayJ Dennis (13.3 PPG, 6.8 APG) could ultimately decide Baylor’s fortunes. The Toledo transfer recorded 24 turnovers and connected on just 3 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc in Baylor’s last five regular-season games. He’s much better than that.


4-seeds

Region: East
Record: 27-2
Tournament ceiling: Elite Eight

The metrics love Bruce Pearl’s team. Auburn entered the postseason ranked top-10 on KenPom, evanmiya.com and barttorvik.com. It’s also top-15 in adjusted offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency after managing to connect on 55% of its shots inside the arc while holding opponents to a nation’s best 43.1% mark inside the 3-point line during the regular season. Johni Broome (16.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.1 RPG) is also one of America’s top players.

But the Tigers also came by those metrics playing a mediocre nonconference schedule and enjoying a favorable SEC schedule that included facing Tennessee and Kentucky just once. (They lost both games.) A February home win over rival Alabama was their only top-30 KenPom victory in the regular season. The NCAA tournament could be the stage for the Tigers and their undeniably explosive offense to set the record straight.

Region: South
Record: 24-8
Tournament ceiling: Elite Eight

Jon Scheyer’s second season at the helm ended with a loss at home to North Carolina. The Blue Devils’ NCAA tournament potential, however, is clear. Kyle Filipowski is a Wooden Award contender and projected lottery pick. Freshman Jared McCain has played his way into the first round of NBA mock drafts. Jeremy Roach is the veteran who has led the ACC’s best offense and top 3-point shooting team (39% in league play).

Duke struggled at times against elite bigs (ACC opponents connected on 50% of their attempts inside the arc, per KenPom). But a successful tournament from Mark Mitchell (12.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG) could fuel a run. With Caleb Foster possibly sidelined with a lower leg injury that kept him out of the last four regular-season games, Scheyer will need him to step up.

Region: Midwest
Record: 22-10
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

After Kevin McCullar Jr. suffered a bone bruise in his knee in early February, the Jayhawks finished 4-5 in their last nine games, their postseason hopes dwindling by the week. That record included falling to Cincinnati by 20 points in the Big 12 tournament opener — right after the 30-point loss at Houston, during which Bill Self lost Hunter Dickinson (dislocated shoulder) and McCullar (again). The good news? Self announced his star players would return in time for the NCAA tournament. It’s unclear if he truly believes it, or if this is just a message to the selection committee to grade his team on the idea it will be at full strength when it matters. It might not matter: Dickinson and McCullar also played in multiple games the Jayhawks lost. A healthy Kansas squad has wins over Kentucky, UConn and Houston. But a short-handed Kansas squad might not survive the opening round.

Region: West
Record: 21-11
Tournament ceiling: Elite Eight

Watching Alabama on the court this season was like watching a drag race with a basketball, with a wreck just a few moments from happening. The Crimson Tide play at a top-15 pace, and nearly half of their shots are 3-point attempts. They’ve scored 100 points or more in nine games, and they spent a portion of the season ranked first in adjusted offensive efficiency. Because of this, sometimes their stats look like typos, like those of Mark Sears: 21.1 PPG 44.1% from 3, 86% on free throws — both top-10 marks in the SEC. But the wreck did come. In a late 9-5 stretch in the season, Alabama committed turnovers on nearly 16% of its possessions, made just 34% of its 3-point attempts and played some of the worst defense among Power 5 teams (163rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, per barrtorvik.com). Still, if you’re feeling really lucky, bet on Alabama to go farther in the race and reach the Final Four.


5-seeds

Region: East
Record: 24-10
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

A year after making a run to the Final Four, SDSU returns to the field of 68 with similar aspirations. Jaedon LeDee averaged 18.1 minutes per game last season as a reserve. This year, he’s the Aztecs’ top scorer, averaging 21.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 41% from beyond the arc. Still, this season’s team finished 8-7 in its final 15 regular-season games and made only 30% of its 3-point attempts in league play. Compare that to last season’s team, which finished 12-3 in its final 15 regular-season games and made 38% of its 3-point attempts in league play.

Region: South
Record: 22-13
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

For the first three months of the 2023-24 season, Wisconsin was nationally ranked, with aspirations to return to the Final Four a decade after its back-to-back national semifinal runs. AJ Storr (16.7 PPG) and the Badgers beat six top-50 KenPom squads on their way to a 16-4 overall record and 8-1 start in Big Ten play. Then? The Badgers collapsed, finishing with a 3-8 record in their final 11 games of the regular season, shooting 30% from 3 and playing subpar defense (99th in adjusted efficiency, per barttorvik.com). That rocky tumble is hard to forget, but the run through the Big Ten tournament — scoring 87 points in the win over Maryland, beating Purdue in the semifinal and facing Illinois in the final — is memorable.

Region: Midwest
Record: 25-7
Tournament ceiling: Elite Eight

It’s rare to see a Gonzaga squad on the bubble, but that’s where the Bulldogs lived through early February following their loss at home to Saint Mary’s. Mark Few has never missed the NCAA tournament, though, and that won’t change this year. After that loss, Gonzaga hit the reset button and played on a different dimension. Led by Graham Ike (16.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG), their latest dominant paint presence, the Zags won nine consecutive games after that game and connected on 41% of their 3-point attempts and 60% of their shots inside the arc. They also beat Kentucky in Lexington during that stretch, which ended with the loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC tournament title game.

Region: West
Record: 26-7
Tournament ceiling: Elite Eight

Randy Bennett’s squad follows Aidan Mahaney. The Gaels went 6-1 this season when he scored 20 or more points in a game. He had 43 combined in the win at Gonzaga in the regular season and the win over the Bulldogs in the WCC tournament title game. In the 70-57 home loss to the Zags on March 2, however, he finished 6-for-17 from the field. Luckily, this team that has lost just two games since Dec. 1 has other ways to win: Mahaney is just one of five players averaging double figures, and Saint Mary’s plays a top-20 defense.


6-seeds

Region: East
Record: 23-10
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

After BYU’s come-from-behind win at Kansas on Feb. 27, Jayhawks head coach Bill Self said his team had difficulty with its defensive assignments as the Cougars launched 34 shots from beyond the arc in the second half — they made 38% of those attempts. Mark Pope’s squad has an elite offense that has shot 58% from inside the arc while shooting a barrage of 3-pointers. The team has four players who’ve made at least 37% of their 3s, including 6-foot-11 senior Noah Waterman. This is a difficult group to scout because of its talent and size — and just how quickly it can shift a game in its favor.

Region: South
Record: 23-10
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

In his first year on the job, Grant McCasland has had to follow the “next man up” philosophy coaches often turn to in tough times. The issue is, most college teams don’t have some unsung star sitting on the bench waiting for an opportunity to prove himself. Usually. Early in the season, Devan Cambridge (10.5 PPG) suffered a year-ending knee injury. Last month, Warren Washington (9.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG) was sidelined by a foot injury. With two starters unavailable, however, Chance McMillian has given the Raiders a boost off the bench, averaging 14.2 PPG in the team’s four-game winning streak leading up to the Big 12 tournament semifinal against Houston.

Region: Midwest
Record: 26-7
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

Lamont Paris wasn’t the high-major head coach some of South Carolina’s fans wanted when he was hired in 2022. But he’s certainly the right choice and this season proved as much. The SEC Coach of the Year, who orchestrated wins over Kentucky and Tennessee, led a team that was picked to finish last in the league in the preseason poll but finished in a four-way tie for second place. Since mid-January, SC has been in the top 35 in offensive and defensive efficiency. And Collin Murray-Boyles (16.0 PPG in South Carolina’s last eight regular-season games) is now a real NBA prospect. Paris tends to exceed the odds against him. Could he do it again in the NCAA tournament?

Region: West
Record: 21-11
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

PJ Hall is arguably the best player in the country whom the country doesn’t seem to know — yet. He had 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in a win over South Carolina. He finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in a win over Alabama. He had 25 points (4-for-10 from 3) in a win over North Carolina, too. At its best, Clemson has tussled with the top teams in America and won. But it also finished 11-9 in ACC play, stumbled out of the first round of the ACC tournament with a loss to Boston College and will enter Selection Sunday not looking nearly as imposing as expected.


7-seeds

Region: East
Record: 24-9
Tournament ceiling: Elite Eight

Kyle Smith deserves credit for the incredible turnaround this team has had. A year ago, the Cougars ended with a .500 record and no invitation to the NCAA tournament. This year, they finished second in the Pac-12 standings, and got an invitation to the NCAA tournament. But how? A critical move midway through the season might have been the most important thing Smith did. On Jan. 10, Smith inserted Jaylen Wells, the 6-foot-8 forward who’s averaging 12.2 PPG and connecting on 42.5% of his 3-point attempts, into the starting lineup. Washington State went on to finish 13-3 in its final 16 games of the regular season, a stretch that included a sweep of Arizona. More importantly, they also rose to rank 25th in adjusted defensive efficiency, in one of the most significant in-season turnarounds in college basketball this season.

Region: South
Record: 24-11
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

The Gators anchored their résumé with wins over Kentucky (at Rupp Arena), Alabama and Auburn. They’ve also played a sub-100ish defense since mid-January. Despite this, Florida won 11 of its last 15 games entering the SEC tournament quarterfinals against Alabama and manufactured an offense that produced 122 points per 100 possessions, according to barttorvik.com. Walter Clayton Jr. also hit his stride during that stretch, making 39% of his attempts from the 3-point line. The one concern: how the Gators will adjust in the postseason without Micah Handlogten, who fractured his leg in the SEC tournament final.

Region: Midwest
Record: 20-12
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

This is when Max Abmas (17.1 PPG, 37% from beyond the arc) shines. The former Oral Roberts star led the Golden Eagles to Summit League tournament titles in 2021 and 2023. In the 2021 NCAA tournament, he scored 29 and 26 points in wins over Ohio State and Florida, respectively, advancing to the Sweet 16. Abmas transferred to Texas because he wanted to prove he could compete at a Power 5 level, and he will hope to replicate that production in this tournament. Per evanmiya.com’s defensive rating system (DBPR), however, Abmas is ranked 98th in the Big 12 in individual defensive impact. Opponents will attack the 6-foot guard because of those defensive vulnerabilities. But they also have to stop him on the other end of the floor, which has never been an easy task.

Region: West
Record: 24-7
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

DaRon Holmes II (20.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 39% from the 3-point line) has been the star for a Flyers squad that returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016-17. Dayton was bounced from the Atlantic 10 tournament by Duquesne, which it had beaten by 26 points combined in their two regular-season matchups. Is the eight-point quarterfinal defeat to the Dukes a cause for concern? Maybe. The Flyers have blown a handful of second-half leads in their recent losses. But this team with a bunch of shooters (40.4% from 3) could be a problem for any tournament opponent.


8-seeds

Region: East
Record: 25-8
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

A year ago, Dusty May — one of the hottest names on the coaching circuit right now — led the Owls to a Final Four. In doing so, his team legitimately orchestrated a new campus identity, as interest in the school increased, applications rose and donors signed massive checks. Then, every key player from the most surprising team of the 2023 NCAA tournament returned. That includes Vladislav Goldin, who has improved this season, along with stars Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin.

But there’s a major difference with this year’s team that can’t be overlooked. Entering Selection Sunday a year ago, FAU was one of the top defensive teams in the nation. This year, it was ranked 191st from Feb. 9 through the end of the regular season after making the move to the American Athletic Conference.

Region: South
Record: 23-10
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

A massive fan base 6,000 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska, will be rooting for the Cornhuskers in the NCAA tournament. Keisei Tominaga — a Japanese basketball star who will represent his country at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris this summer — is the most popular player on Fred Hoiberg’s roster. He’s also the team’s leading scorer (14.8 PPG) and one of the Big Ten’s top 3-point shooters (38% from beyond the arc in league play). But Nebraska is more than a good story. The Cornhuskers beat Purdue and ended the regular season with an 8-1 record in their final nine games.

Region: Midwest
Record: 27-6
Tournament ceiling: Elite Eight

There are rebuilds, and then there are rebuilds like the one Danny Sprinkle had on his hands this season. Utah State did not return a player who had scored a point the previous season when he arrived from Montana State. But he built his national coach of the year campaign by having one of the greatest seasons in recent Mountain West history, winning the league in the process. The turnaround began with adding some familiar faces. Great Osobor (18.0 PPG) and Darius Brown II (12.4 PPG, 39.5% from 3) followed Sprinkle from Montana State and helped anchor an offense that connected on 49.3% of its shots inside the arc. This team can go far. The only question is whether it will be distracted by the reports that Sprinkle is one of the hottest coaching candidates among Power 5 schools with vacancies.

Region: West
Record: 21-13
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

MSU has played some of America’s best defense in this final stretch of the 2023-24 season — ranking 21st in adjusted defensive efficiency from Feb. 7 through the 73-56 upset win over Tennessee in the SEC tournament, when Vols star Dalton Knecht shot 4-for-17 from the field. LSU star Jordan Wright (14.8 PPG) finished 2-for-15 against MSU a game earlier. The Bulldogs have been a headache for opposing stars, but they haven’t faced the same challenges. Case in point: star Josh Hubbard averaged 26.1 PPG in his team’s last seven outings.


9-seeds

Region: East
Record: 21-11
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

In a year full of teams that lacked signature wins, Northwestern never had to worry. Overtime victories over both Purdue and Illinois in Evanston after beating Dayton solidified the Wildcats’ spot on the bracket. But the Northwestern squad that entered the postseason is not the same team that notched those wins. Both Ty Berry and Matthew Nicholson were starters in those key games, but both could be unavailable for the NCAA tournament. Berry suffered a season-ending meniscus tear last month. And starting center Nicholson is still recovering from a foot injury that forced him to miss the Big Ten tournament. Entering the Dance short-handed is not ideal.

Region: South
Record: 20-14
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

If you’re looking for the most complicated résumé in the field, you’ve found it. These are the highs for Buzz Williams’ squad this season: wins over Iowa State, Kentucky and Tennessee — the latter two at home. And these are the lows: two losses to Arkansas and a road loss at Vanderbilt that unfolded during a five-game losing streak. Wade Taylor IV (18.9 PPG) is one of the best players in the country right now, but it’s just difficult to project a higher ceiling for a squad that has wins over top seeds and losses to squads that might not get invited to the CBI.

Region: Midwest
Record: 20-12
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

Twenty years ago, Jameer Nelson led Saint Joseph’s to a perfect regular season, a top seed in the NCAA tournament and an Elite Eight appearance. This season, his son, Jameer Nelson Jr., (11.3 PPG), will attempt to do the same. Joining him will be Emanuel Miller (15.9 PPG), Micah Peavy (11.1 PPG) and the rest of a TCU squad that survived a late-season slide to secure this at-large berth. The Horned Frogs entered Big 12 play 11-2 and recorded a 2-1 start against conference opponents — including beating Houston on Jan. 13. But they finished 7-8 in their final 15 regular-season games.

Region: West
Record: 19-14
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

The season began with an 8-for-50 mark from beyond the arc in three games — including that home loss to James Madison. But Tom Izzo, who has reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament 15 times, said the shots would eventually fall. And they did. Michigan State shot 38% from 3 the rest of the way, despite stumbling to a 1-4 record to finish the regular season. Don’t count out Izzo, though. His squads always shift gears in March. And this is a group that returned the bulk of last year’s Sweet 16 team.


10-seeds

Region: East
Record: 28-6
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

A year ago, Tucker DeVries — son of coach Darian DeVries — battled eventual Final Four team Miami in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He returned to Drake this season and has gotten better, now shooting 38% from 3 in Missouri Valley play. This Drake team, overall, is different from last year’s group: It has more gaps on defense, but it’s more efficient offensively. This explains how the Bulldogs managed to beat Nevada by 19 points earlier this season and lost just one game after Feb. 3.

Region: South
Record: 22-10
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

On Dec. 1, 6-foot-8 junior O’Mar Stanley was inserted into Boise State’s starting lineup. The Broncos, who were 3-3 at the time, finished 19-6 the rest of the regular season. Stanley connected on 38% of his 3-point attempts in league play. He and Tyson Degenhart (17.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG) will be a handful for any opposing team in the bracket. The Broncos had the Mountain West’s most efficient offense and finished in a tie for second place with Nevada behind first-place Utah State. But they also finished 1-3 against the Wolf Pack and the Aggies in the regular season.

Region: South
Record: 24-10
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

That whole “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” philosophy? That’s Colorado’s. The Buffaloes battled injuries all season only to enter Champ Week on a six-game winning streak with the help of Tristan da Silva (15.8 PPG, 37.7% from 3) and KJ Simpson (19.6 PPG, 45.3% from 3). They were the 14th-best team in America during that winning streak, per barttorvik.com, and shot 44.4% from 3 overall. Then there’s Cody Williams, a projected draft lottery pick who is back for the postseason after missing four games with an ankle injury. Colorado is intriguing.

Region: Midwest
Record: 24-10
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

On Nov. 23, Colorado State met Creighton for a game in Las Vegas. Three future all-Big East first- and second-teamers — Ryan Kalkbrenner, Baylor Scheierman and Trey Alexander — were present, but the best player on the floor that night was Isaiah Stevens (16.6 PPG, 7.1 APG, 46% from beyond the arc). The point guard had 20 points and seven assists on the way to the 69-48 win, handing the Bluejays their worst loss of the season. Niko Medved’s squad has made 58.2% of its 2s and played a top-40 defense all season. With Stevens on the court, Medved knows he’ll always have one of the top players on the floor, no matter whom the Rams face in the NCAA tournament.

Region: Midwest
Record: 23-10
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

It was weird to see Tony Bennett’s squad on the bubble. But the Cavs never found a rhythm outside a brief eight-game winning streak during ACC play. This, despite playing a top-10 defense. Reece Beekman (14.3 PPG) and Isaac McKneely (12.5 PPG, 44.9% from the 3-point line) have led the way for the Hoos, and 6-foot-8 sophomore Ryan Dunn (8.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG) is a legit NBA prospect. But Virginia does not have a win on its résumé to suggest it will last long.

Region: West
Record: 26-7
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

Nearly six years ago, Steve Alford was fired hours after his UCLA squad lost to Liberty at home, his time in Westwood largely viewed as a disappointment. But this game can be forgiving, and Alford found his footing at Nevada, which hired him immediately. This season might have been the best of career. The Wolf Pack finished second in a Mountain West Conference that has produced more bids than some major conferences. With 6-foot-4 guard Jarod Lucas (17.8 PPG, 39.7% from beyond the arc) leading the team, Nevada finished 10-1 in its final 11 games of the regular season, made 42% of its 3-point attempts and played a top-15 defense.


11-seeds

Region: East
Record: 24-11
Tournament ceiling: First round

It was fitting that Jimmy Clark III led Duquesne, picked to finish fourth in the preseason, to the title game against VCU, his former team. Clark had averaged 17.0 PPG during his team’s seven-game winning streak entering the Atlantic 10 tournament title game on Sunday. The Dukes found a rhythm at the perfect time. Weeks after they started the calendar year by losing their first five A-10 games, Duquesne is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1977.

Region: South
Record: 22-14
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

A 4-10 finish to the regular season only intensified rumors about the future of Kevin Keatts at NC State, where he has been the head coach since 2017. But the Wolfpack saved their best basketball of the season for the ACC tournament. A historic five victories in five days — over Louisville, Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, and finally North Carolina in the championship game — secured the third NCAA tournament berth of Keatts’ tenure. This run also gave America a chance to get to know DJ Burns Jr. (12.2 PPG), the 6-foot-9, 275-pound center who said he idolized Hakeem Olajuwon as a kid but was born with a “Zach Randolph body.”

Region: Midwest
Record: 23-11
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

The transfer portal giveth, and the transfer portal taketh away. For years, Oregon was a hub for top players in America looking for a change of scenery. Last year, however, the Ducks were on the wrong end of that trend as Kel’el Ware (Indiana), Rivaldo Soares (Oklahoma) and Quincy Guerrier (Illinois) all left. They stumbled in league play and finished 10th in defensive efficiency in the Pac-12, per KenPom. Then they defeated Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Friday to put them in the bubble conversation. That conversation ended when they defeated Colorado for the final Pac-12 tournament championship in its current iteration. Dana Altman will go to his eighth NCAA tournament appearance with the Ducks.

Region: West
Record: 26-9
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

If you want to know how old you are, consider this: The sons of Rick Pitino and Jamal Mashburn have led New Mexico to its first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade. Head coach Richard Pitino and Jamal Mashburn Jr. (14.4 PPG) secured the Lobos a berth by winning the Mountain West championship. They finished 4-6 in their last 10 games, 5-6 overall against top-50 squads on KenPom during the regular season. But Mashburn missed the two-point loss to Utah State in the regular-season finale due to illness. A healthy New Mexico could advance.


12-seeds

Region: East
Record: 23-11
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

On Jan. 7, UAB beat South Florida. Then Amir Abdur-Rahim’s team won 15 games in a row, won the American regular-season title, and the Bulls became a national story. That victory helped the Blazers, who lost to North Texas in the NIT title game last year, understand its ceiling. So when the Blazers faced South Florida in the conference tournament semifinals, they were prepared, and they defeated USF again before the team’s win over Temple in the AAC tournament title game Sunday. Kennedy’s squad excels with a gritty style. It plays a tough defense (see: Yaxel Lendeborg, AAC defensive player of the year) and gets to the free throw line at one of the highest rates in America.

Region: South
Record: 31-3
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

The magic began with a win at Michigan State, a matchup scheduled because a James Madison staffer is Tom Izzo’s nephew. Mark Byington’s squad then went 14-0 to start the season and earned at-large consideration. A couple of Sun Belt losses changed things, but the Dukes still finished the season with the nation’s longest winning streak (13 games). Terrence Edwards Jr. (17.4 PPG) leads a team that shot 54% inside the arc in league play.

It’s an interesting profile for a team. A year ago, Florida Atlantic won a bunch of games early, lost a few in league play and then ended the season on a lengthy winning streak before going to the Final Four. Just saying.

Region: Midwest
Record: 30-3
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

A year ago, McNeese was an afterthought after winning just 11 games and finishing second-to-last in the Southland standings. Then former LSU coach Will Wade arrived. In just one season, he has generated one of the greatest one-year turnarounds in college basketball. The Cowboys won 30 games, dominated the league and won the conference tournament by an average margin of 17.5 PPG.

Region: West
Record: 29-4
Tournament ceiling: Sweet 16

After a nine-win 2018-19 season at the Vanderbilt helm, Bryce Drew — better known as the player who made the deciding shot in Valparaiso’s upset win over Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA tournament — lost his job and dabbled in TV for a year. But coaching is in his blood. And his stint with GCU, home to one of the greatest student sections in the land, has been redemptive. On the back of the Lopes’ win over UT Arlington in the WAC title game, Drew has a chance to pull off an upset or two with a squad that beat San Diego State earlier this season and went toe-to-toe with South Carolina, too.


13-seeds

Region: East
Record: 22-9
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

It was no surprise to see the Ivy League’s top defensive team live up to the hype after it was picked to win the conference crown in the preseason. In Danny Wolf (14.5 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG), Yale coach James Jones has a unique matchup challenge for opposing teams. Wolf, a 7-footer who has connected on 37% of his 3-point attempts this season (despite struggling from beyond the arc recently), has scored 19 points or more in 11 games this season. He’s also one of five players on this roster averaging double figures.

Region: South
Record: 28-6
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

John Becker’s dominance of America East continued with his third consecutive league tournament title and his third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (the sixth of his career). During their 10-game winning streak, the Catamounts were ranked 36th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and held their opponents to a 45.8% clip inside the arc. They play one of America’s slowest paces and rarely commit turnovers (11th in the country, per KenPom). Plus, they won 10 games by double digits in league play.

Region: Midwest
Record: 29-5
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

Whenever you assess an underdog’s shot at an upset, the first question should be this: Does this team do something at a really high level that could continue in the NCAA tournament? For Samford, the answer is yes. This team has connected on 39% of its 3-point attempts — Jaden Campbell (48%) is one of eight Bulldogs who have shot at least 38% from 3 — a top-10 mark in America. Bucky McMillan’s squad also plays at a top-15 pace. Translation: This is a fast team that launches 3-pointers all over the floor. It might not be a fun first-round game for the opponent.

Region: West
Record: 27-7
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

Last year, the Cougars almost spoiled San Diego State’s Final Four run. Matched against the Aztecs in the opening round, Ante Brzovic‘s layup tied the game at 53 with 3:27 to play. Charleston didn’t win, but the team channeled that game’s energy all the way through this 31-win season, orchestrated by coach Pat Kelsey. Led offensively by Reyne Smith (12.8 PPG) and Brzovic (12.3), the Cougars are riding a 12-game winning streak into the NCAA tournament. They won seven of those games by double digits.


14-seeds

Region: East
Record: 26-8
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

Coach Preston Spradlin liked his team’s potential to secure the program’s second NCAA tournament berth since 2011. And then Mark Freeman — the reigning OVC player of the year and the preseason OVC player of the year — suffered a second-ending wrist injury in October. Losing Freeman didn’t stop Spradlin and his squad, though, which then turned to former NAIA star Riley Minix (20.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG) and Milwaukee transfer Jordan Lathon (15.4 PPG, 38% from the 3-point line), who led the Eagles to the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship and that NCAA tournament berth.

Region: South
Record: 23-11
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

When Greg Kampe was hired in 1984, Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” was a chart-topping hit and “Ghostbusters” was the biggest movie in the world. It was also the start of a 40-year run at Oakland, and before this season tipped, Kampe considered retirement. It’s a good thing he stayed. Leading an Oakland squad that was picked to finish sixth in the league’s preseason poll, Kampe pushed this team to the Horizon League regular season title, the conference tournament championship and now his fourth NCAA tournament berth. Trey Townsend (16.9 PPG) & Co. will try to make this season more magical with an NCAA tournament win.

Region: Midwest
Record: 24-10
Tournament ceiling: First round

The MAC has been a target for Power 5 schools searching for a mid-major transfer who could change their program. RayJ Dennis, the 2022-23 conference player of the year, had a multitude of offers before he picked Baylor. Enrique Freeman, a 6-foot-7 forward who has connected on 63% of his shots inside the arc this season, would have drawn the same attention. But Freeman never entered the transfer portal. Earlier this month, he won MAC player of the year as the leader of this Akron squad. The return of Ali Ali (15.6 PPG), who started at Akron but left for Butler last season before coming back, has been critical, too.

Region: West
Record: 25-9
Tournament ceiling: First round

Yes, the school is really named after the toothpaste family. But here’s another fun fact about the basketball program: Before Matt Langel’s run of five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the school hadn’t been to the dance since 1996. Colgate made 39% of its 3-point attempts in Patriot League games and also owned the conference’s top defense this season. It’s a balanced team. Braeden Smith (12.5 PPG) is one of six players averaging at least 6.8 PPG.


15-seeds

Region: East
Record: 22-12
Tournament ceiling: Round of 32

Some teams were so interested in getting Zeke Mayo (18.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.5 APG), SDSU’s 6-4 star guard, to transfer to their school that they contacted some of his family members last summer to try to reach him. But Mayo stayed put, and SDSU returned the nucleus of last year’s team, made 56% of its shots inside the arc this season and is entering the first round with serious upset ambitions.

Region: South
Record: 22-11
Tournament ceiling: First round

First-year head coaches want to put their stamp on a program immediately. Steve Lutz, who led Texas A&M Corpus-Christi to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 2021 and 2022, decided that his new team would play fast. Very fast. Per KenPom, the Hilltoppers are the speediest team in college basketball. Sometimes, the style can look sloppy — WKU committed turnovers once every five trips down the floor. But it can also overwhelm opponents. Don McHenry (15.2 PPG) and the Hilltoppers won the Conference USA tournament by a margin of 19.3 points per game.

Region: Midwest
Record: 19-13
Tournament ceiling: First round

They’re back! Two years after an Elite Eight run changed the program and the campus, the bracket-busting Peacocks are once again in the NCAA tournament. During that magical run of 2022, Saint Peter’s beat Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue before falling to North Carolina in the Elite Eight. Latrell Reid played just one minute in that loss. This season, the 6-foot-3 guard (11.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.6 APG) is one of the top players for a squad that hopes to make magic again.

Region: West
Record: 21-14
Tournament ceiling: First round

Six days ago, Long Beach State announced it had “mutually” agreed to part ways with longtime head coach Dan Monson — after a five-game losing streak entering the Big West tournament — but would allow him to coach through the postseason. His players seemed to use that news as motivation on their way to the Big West tournament title, and the second NCAA tournament appearance of Monson’s tenure. Long Beach State has been one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in America but made 38% of its 3-point attempts in the conference tournament. Everyone should be rooting for Monson and the Beach.


16-seeds

Region: East
Record: 22-12
Tournament ceiling: First round

Donnie Jones has been a college basketball head coach since the 2007-08 season, when he led Marshall. He had stops at UCF and Wichita State, where he was an assistant, before Stetson hired him in 2019. Jones and Stetson were similar in many ways. He had never reached the NCAA tournament, and Stetson had never earned an NCAA tournament invitation as a Division I school. Until now. His star, Jalen Blackmon (21.5 PPG, 39% from beyond the arc), scored 43 points in his team’s win in the Atlantic Sun conference tournament title game. Blackmon will be tough to contain.

Region: South
Record: 21-13
Tournament ceiling: First round

Before coach Griff Aldrich arrived in 2018, Longwood had had one winning season since 2004-05 — when it became a Division I school. Aldrich just finished his third consecutive winning season and won his second NCAA tournament berth. Not bad for a guy who was an international attorney and oil tycoon before he took this job. This season, he achieved it all with Walyn Napper (14.6 PPG), Michael Christmas (11.5 PPG) and Johnathan Massie (11.4 PPG), who helped the team weather a 2-10 stretch to finish the season with seven wins in its last nine games entering the NCAA tournament.

Region: Midwest
Record: 20-14
Tournament ceiling: First round

For three consecutive seasons, Texas Southern represented the SWAC in the NCAA tournament. But a hefty nonconference schedule — Colorado, Iowa State, Dayton, Washington State, Florida — prepared Donte Jackson’s Tigers squad. Grambling is 12-2 over its past 14 games. And Jourdan Smith, a 6-foot-7 forward, scored 20 points in his team’s 75-66 victory over … Texas Southern in the SWAC tournament championship game to secure the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance as a Division I program.

Region: Midwest
Record: 17-17
Tournament ceiling: First round

When coach Danny Sprinkle left for the Utah State job after last season’s NCAA tournament appearance, key players left the program, too. RaeQuan Battle transferred to West Virginia, while Darius Brown II and Great Osobor followed Sprinkle. First-year coach Matt Logie had to start from scratch. He weathered a 14-17 regular season (9-9 in league play), and his new star, 6-foot-6 guard Robert Ford III, scored 68 points in three days to lead the Bobcats to the Big Sky conference tournament title.

Region: West
Record: 18-16
Tournament ceiling: First round

Kenny Blakeney never had to look too far for coaching advice throughout his career. In high school, he played for Morgan Wooten, a legendary prep coach. In college, he played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Now, he’s carving out his coaching legacy at one of the nation’s most prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities with his second consecutive MEAC tournament championship and NCAA tournament appearance. Two starters (Dom Campbell and Shy Odom) have battled injuries this year, but Seth Towns (14.2 PPG), an eighth-year senior — that is not a typo — has been a leader for this group.

Region: West
Record: 16-15
Tournament ceiling: First round

In most non-Power 5 leagues, only the automatic qualifier will get the chance to play in the NCAA tournament. Teams that have dominated their conferences can often be left out, and teams that have struggled can be rewarded for a late run. The latter is the situation for Melvin Council Jr. (14.6 PPG) & Co., who finished the regular season with a 13-15 record overall and 7-9 mark in NEC play — good for sixth place – before winning the tournament championship over top team Merrimack for the league’s auto bid.

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