2024 NCAA Tournament Bracket Watch: Tennessee claims a No. 1 seed, Baylor rises – The Athletic

By Brian Bennett2h agoSupported By

(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.)

Bracket Watch HQ is also home to a 5-year-old, who has recently discovered a new favorite song. Which means we’ve been forced to listen to it on an endless Spotify loop:

Yes, for those of you without children or an aversion to cartoons, that’s Reel 2 Real’s relentlessly dumb but inescapably catchy 1993 hit “I Like to Move It,” remade for the “Madagascar” movie franchise. You’re welcome for the earworm.

It also reminds us that things are always changing and growing in unexpected ways. Take the NCAA Tournament, for example (segue alert!). Dana O’Neil reported this week that tournament expansion remains a very likely outcome, but the field would only grow by a modest four to eight teams. Perhaps we’ve reached the acceptance stage of our grief, but we can move forward with a few more play-in games if that’s what it takes to keep the barbarians at the gate.

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It’s also time for teams to make their moves in our latest mock bracket, now just nine days from Selection Sunday. Conference tournaments have begun, and the power conferences get going with their postseasons next week. Bubble teams making their final arguments, bid thieves emerging, top seeds coming into focus — move it!

GO DEEPER

Let the madness begin! Your guide to the early conference tournaments

Just remember there’s never as much movement as you think or some will try to convince you is happening. The selection committee considers the entire season equally, and conference tournaments represent less than 10 percent of a team’s overall body of work. The hay isn’t just in the barn at this point; it’s mostly been baled (Does that metaphor work? We’ve never farmed). Perfect examples came in the past two SEC tournaments, where runs by Texas A&M (in 2022) and Vanderbilt (2023) had media members breathlessly tweeting and broadcasting that both teams had played their way into the field despite shaky resumes. Spoiler alert: They did not. Vandy wasn’t even particularly close.

But teams are still making moves in these final days. Let’s take a look at some of the big changes in this week’s field:

• Tennessee moves ahead of Arizona for the fourth No. 1 seed. This seems to be the consensus among most bracketologists, but it’s still not a slam dunk that the selection committee would go away from the Wildcats, whom they said were firmly on the top line during the Feb. 17 reveal. Consider these numbers, after Arizona beat UCLA by 23 points on the road Thursday night (RIP, Pac-12 Thursdays):

Final No. 1 seed?

Arizona Tennessee
NET 4 5
KenPom 4 5
BPI 4 5
KPI 4 3
SOR 10 4
Q1 7-3 8-5
Q2 7-2 5-1
Noncon SOS 11 16

It’s very close! The Volunteers get the slight edge because of a marginally better road record (8-3 vs. 7-3), better results metrics (KPI and SOR), more Quad 1A wins (five to four) and no losses outside of the first two quads, while Arizona has a Q3 loss (at Oregon State). Plus, while not an official part of the selection process, winning a deep SEC should be viewed as more valuable than a shallow Pac-12. It’s all but a coin flip, though Tennessee will have more opportunities to bolster its resume, starting with a home game against Kentucky on Saturday. This swap doesn’t have a big practical impact on the Wildcats, who are still in the West Region as a No. 2 seed with a chance to play the second weekend in Los Angeles.

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And don’t count out North Carolina, which beat Tennessee head-to-head — especially if the Tar Heels beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday with the ACC title on the line. Kind of a big game, it sounds like.

• Baylor moves to the No. 2 seed line, one spot ahead of Big 12 mate Iowa State. The Bears have come on strong, winning three straight Q1 games, including against Kansas at home, and own a head-to-head victory over Iowa State (in Waco). Marquette drops to the No. 3 line after back-to-back losses and, more critically, the oblique injury to All-America point guard Tyler Kolek, whose status for the postseason remains unknown.

Kansas, with Kevin McCullar Jr. returned to the lineup, has a chance to move back to the No. 2 line with a good finish. And, hey, the Jayhawks are at Houston on Saturday. BYU also moves up to the No. 4 line. The Cougars have been metrics darlings all along and are now 9-9 in the first two quads, with a win in Allen Fieldhouse and no losses outside of the first two quads. The Big 12 tournament will feature more beasts than all the “Madagascar” movies.

• The most fascinating moving days of any conference tournament will take place in the early rounds at Madison Square Garden. The Big East bubble continues to entertain and confound; this week, we have two teams from the league — Villanova and St. John’s, surging despite its lack of lateral quickness — in the First Four, with Seton Hall getting the final at-large bye. Providence is one of the first two teams out. Perhaps Dayton could step aside this year and just let MSG host an All-Big East First Four.

• Now that many conference tournament brackets are set, we have moved to assigning AQ designations to the top remaining seed in each event. So, yes, Richmond gets the Atlantic 10 auto-bid in this latest edition, and South Florida remains in.

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• Bracket Watch will be back on Monday and moves to daily installments until Selection Sunday, including a final update right before the brackets are revealed if warranted. We’ll have much shorter intros (hey, you didn’t have to cheer that loudly!) and far less interaction in the comments with the madness in full swing. But for today, we’ll answer as many questions and gripes as we can. After all, we like to prove it, prove it.

First Four Dayton 16 Stetson 16 Grambling Dayton 11 Virginia 11 St. John’s Dayton 16 Merrimack 16 Norfolk State Dayton 11 Villanova 11 Drake Midwest Region (Detroit) Indianapolis 1 Purdue 16 South Dakota State Indianapolis 8 Colorado State 9 Oklahoma Pittsburgh 4 Kentucky 13 Samford Pittsburgh 5 Clemson 12 Appalachian State Indianapolis 3 Marquette 14 High Point Indianapolis 6 Saint Mary’s 11 Indiana State Memphis 2 Baylor 15 Oakland Memphis 7 Nevada 10 Seton Hall South Region (Dallas) Memphis 1 Houston 16 Merrimack Norfolk State Memphis 8 Boise State 9 Mississippi State Spokane 4 Illinois 13 Akron Spokane 5 South Carolina 12 McNeese State Pittsburgh 3 Creighton 14 Eastern Washington Pittsburgh 6 Washington State 11 Richmond Charlotte 2 North Carolina 15 Morehead State Charlotte 7 Gonzaga 10 TCU West Region (Los Angeles) Charlotte 1 Tennessee 16 Stetson Grambling Charlotte 8 Texas 9 Nebraska Salt Lake City 4 BYU 13 UC Irvine Salt Lake City 5 Auburn 12 Grand Canyon Omaha 3 Kansas 14 Charleston Omaha 6 Utah State 11 Virginia St. John’s Salt Lake City 2 Arizona 15 Sam Houston State Salt Lake City 7 Dayton 10 Michigan State East Region (Boston) Brooklyn 1 Connecticut 16 Quinnipiac Brooklyn 8 Northwestern 9 Texas Tech Spokane 4 Alabama 13 Princeton Spokane 5 San Diego State 12 South Florida Brooklyn 3 Duke 14 Vermont Brooklyn 6 Florida 11 Drake Villanova Omaha 2 Iowa State 15 Colgate Omaha 7 Wisconsin 10 Florida Atlantic

First Four Out Next Four Out Last Four In Last Four Byes
New Mexico Wake Forest Villanova TCU
Providence Colorado Virginia Michigan State
Texas A&M James Madison St. John’s Florida Atlantic
Iowa Pitt Drake Seton Hall

Multi-bid conferences

League Bids
Big 12 9
SEC 7
Big East 6
Big Ten 6
Mountain West 5
ACC 4
Pac-12 2
A10 2
AAC 2
Missouri Valley 2
WCC 2

Seed list

1 Purdue AQ
2 UConn AQ
3 Houston AQ
4 Tennessee AQ
5 Arizona AQ
6 North Carolina AQ
7 Baylor
8 Iowa State
9 Kansas
10 Marquette
11 Duke
12 Creighton
13 Kentucky
14 Illinois
15 Alabama
16 BYU
17 Auburn
18 San Diego State
19 South Carolina
20 Clemson
21 Florida
22 Utah State AQ
23 Washington State
24 Saint Mary’s AQ
25 Wisconsin
26 Gonzaga
27 Dayton
28 Nevada
29 Boise State
30 Northwestern
31 Texas
32 Colorado State
33 Texas Tech
34 Nebraska
35 Mississippi State
36 Oklahoma
37 TCU
38 Michigan State
39 Florida Atlantic
40 Seton Hall
41 Indiana State AQ
42 Villanova
43 Virginia
44 St. John’s
45 Drake
46 Richmond AQ
47 South Florida AQ
48 Appalachian State AQ
49 Grand Canyon AQ
50 McNeese Sate AQ
51 Samford AQ
52 UC Irvine AQ
53 Princeton AQ
54 Akron AQ
55 Vermont AQ
56 High Point AQ
57 Charleston AQ
58 Eastern Washington AQ
59 Oakland AQ
60 Morehead State AQ
61 Colgate AQ
62 Sam Houston State AQ
63 Quinnipiac AQ
64 South Dakota State AQ
65 Stetson AQ
66 Merrimack AQ
67 Norfolk State AQ
68 Grambling 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.

(Top photo of Tennessee’s Zakai Zeigler and Auburn’s Johni Broome: Wade Payne / AP) 

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Brian Bennett is a senior editor for The Athletic covering college basketball. He previously wrote about college sports for ESPN.com for nine years and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal for nine years prior to that. Follow Brian on Twitter @GBrianBennett

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