2024 NCAA Tournament Bracket Watch: Who’s fourth No. 1 seed? And hello, Virginia – The Athletic

By Brian BennettFeb 9, 2024

The weekend is here, and everyone is talking about the big game. No, not the one with all the Taylor Swift cutaways. We’re, of course, referring to America’s favorite pastime: the Blind Resume Challenge!

The annual tradition in this space works like this: We present key team-sheet numbers for a group of unnamed programs, deleting overall records to increase the degree of difficulty. Then you pretend to be on the NCAA Tournament selection committee and decide which team should be seeded higher. No preconceived notions about the name on the front of the jersey; just plain ol’ body of work. (All stats are through Thursday afternoon; props to Bracketologists.com’s compare resumes function for making this easy).

Let’s start at the top. Purdue, UConn and Houston remain the top three overall seeds this week, but who should be the fourth No. 1? (Note: None of the teams involved in these challenges has a Quad 4 loss, so we have excluded that category in all charts).

Who’s the fourth No. 1 seed?

Team A Team B Team C Team D
NET 4 5 10 12
KenPom 6 5 8 13
BPI 3 7 9 14
KPI 6 2 5 9
SOR 12 4 9 7
Noncon SOS 9 17 29 43
Road 3-3 4-2 5-1 2-4
Q1 5-3 4-4 5-4 5-3
Q2 3-1 5-1 4-1 4-1
Q3 6-1 3-0 4-0 4-1

The predictive metrics (NET, KenPom, BPI) like Team A, while the results-based ones (KPI, Strength of Record) would suggest Team B. Team C has an outstanding road record, while Team D’s resume doesn’t scream “No. 1 seed” in any category.

Reveal time: Team A is Arizona, Team B is Tennessee, Team C is North Carolina and Team D is Kansas. Of course, there is more context involved here than simple numbers. Tennessee lost to both UNC and Kansas, in an eight-day span in November. Kansas has wins over a pair of other No. 1 seeds — UConn and Houston (both at home). Arizona has four Top-25 victories, three of them away from home, including a true road win at Duke, but some shaky Pac-12 road performances. This table was done before the Wildcats blew a 16-point halftime lead at Utah on Thursday but held on to win in triple overtime, giving them a sixth Quad 1 win.

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That’s enough for Arizona to get the nod, barely, as No. 4 overall. You could make a good case for any of these four teams as the fourth No. 1 seed but probably not for anybody else outside this group.

OK, time for Round 2. Do you think being on the selection committee is easy? Try seeding these three teams:

Tangled trio

Team A Team B Team C
NET 36 37 38
KenPom 35 30 29
BPI 33 25 26
KPI 43 52 49
SOR 26 28 39
Noncon SOS 300 330 215
Road 2-4 4-2 3-3
Q1 3-5 3-5 4-5
Q2 4-0 3-0 2-1
Q3 4-0 3-0 2-1

The NET and KenPom rankings of this trio are mirror images. Team A has been better in the first two quads (7-5, compared to 7-6 for Team B and 7-8 for Team C), while Team C played the best of three pretty crummy nonconference schedules.

Move that bus! Team A is Texas Tech, Team B is TCU and Team C is Texas. Complicating matters further, the Red Raiders won at Texas but lost at TCU, while the Longhorns beat the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth last Saturday.

Yikes Well GIFfrom Yikes GIFs

 

We give the slight edge to TCU because its metrics average slightly outpaces Texas Tech (34.4 to 34.6 — razor-thin stuff) and it beat Houston and won at Baylor while taking the head-to-head meeting against the Red Raiders. Texas Tech’s win in Austin gives it a leg up on the Longhorns. But it’s a thorny vine, and we wonder how much the committee will dock each of these teams for those poor nonconference schedules even while playing in the nation’s gnarliest conference.

GO DEEPER

Bubble Watch: Did the Big 12 game the system? And 6 more locks

Finally, let’s go to the bubble. See if you can sort out who should be in and who should be out of the field of 68:

Five on the bubble

Team A Team B Team C Team D Team E
NET 42 47 50 56 66
KenPom 39 40 37 54 62
BPI 35 32 39 42 71
KPI 62 66 55 59 64
SOR 50 70 55 45 49
Noncon SOS 155 83 31 212 238
Road 2-4 2-6 2-5 2-5 4-3
Q1 2-7 3-6 2-7 4-5 4-4
Q2 5-1 3-2 5-1 2-3 1-3
Q3 2-1 2-3 2-2 0-0 2-1
Top 25 wins 0 2 1 3 2

We added the Top-25 wins category for more context, and you can see that Team D stands out here. But what if we told you that same team lost its best player midseason? Or that Team B is just one game above .500? Or that Team C lost to Oakland and Delaware at home?

Many of you probably have figured out what all of these teams have in common.

  • Team A: St. John’s
  • Team B: Villanova
  • Team C: Xavier
  • Team D: Providence
  • Team E: Seton Hall

And we didn’t even include Butler, which is very much on the bubble. The Big East amazingly has six teams bunched up on the cutline; the always-bananas league tourney in Madison Square Garden is going to be even more incredible if this continues. For the record, we have all of these teams in the field except Villanova and Xavier. Nova’s 12-11 record and poor road performance are too hard to forgive, while the Musketeers are coming on strong and have nonconference wins over Saint Mary’s and Cincinnati that are paying dividends. Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

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And thank you for playing America’s favorite game.

Some more notes on this week’s bracket, now just 37 days until Selection Sunday:

• The ACC is back, baby! Well, sorta. After a few weeks of having just three bids, the league boosts that number to four this week thanks to Virginia’s resurgence. The Cavaliers have won seven straight to move most of their metrics into the 30s. Clemson’s big win on Tuesday at North Carolina solidified the Tigers’ at-large status and improved the quality of UVa’s win on Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum. With wins at Alabama and UNC and versus South Carolina, Clemson can afford a few more hiccups and still make the field.

• Making their bracket debut this week: the Washington State Cougars! Wazzu (17-6) quietly has won seven of its past eight games, including Quad 1 victories over Arizona, Colorado and at Washington, and though its nonconference schedule was light, it did beat Boise State. The program hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since Tony Bennett led it to the Sweet 16 in 2008.

• We didn’t venture into the comments section during last week’s all-mailbag edition, but we’ll be back to play along this week. Tee up those questions and complaints. We are game.

First Four Dayton 16 Eastern Kentucky 16 North Carolina Central Dayton 11 Seton Hall 11 Washington State Dayton 16 Merrimack 16 Grambling Dayton 12 Cincinnati 12 St. John’s Midwest Region (Detroit) Indianapolis 1 Purdue 16 Merrimack Grambling Indianapolis 8 Texas 9 Mississippi State Salt Lake City 4 Dayton 13 Akron Salt Lake City 5 Creighton 12 Appalachian State Memphis 3 Baylor 14 Morehead State Memphis 6 Clemson 11 Michigan State Charlotte 2 Tennessee 15 UNC Wilmington Charlotte 7 Colorado State 10 Butler South Region (Dallas) Memphis 1 Houston 16 Green Bay Memphis 8 Utah 9 Boise State Spokane 4 Duke 13 Yale Spokane 5 South Carolina 12 McNeese State Pittsburgh 3 Wisconsin 14 Vermont Pittsburgh 6 Kentucky 11 Seton Hall Washington State Indianapolis 2 Marquette 15 Colgate Indianapolis 7 Oklahoma 10 Indiana State West Region (Los Angeles) Salt Lake City 1 Arizona 16 North Carolina Central Eastern Kentucky Salt Lake City 8 Texas Tech 9 New Mexico Spokane 4 Illinois 13 UC Irvine Spokane 5 BYU 12 Grand Canyon Pittsburgh 3 Auburn 14 Eastern Washington Pittsburgh 6 Utah State 11 Providence Omaha 2 Kansas 15 South Dakota State Omaha 7 Saint Mary’s 10 Ole Miss East Region (Boston) Brooklyn 1 UConn 16 Quinnipiac Brooklyn 8 Northwestern 9 Virginia Brooklyn 4 Alabama 13 Samford Brooklyn 5 San Diego State 12 Cincinnati St. John’s Omaha 3 Iowa State 14 Louisiana Tech Omaha 6 Florida Atlantic 11 Nebraska Charlotte 2 North Carolina 15 High Point Charlotte 7 TCU 10 Texas A&M

First Four Out Next Four Out Last Four In Last Four Byes
Nevada Gonzaga Seton Hall Ole Miss
Xavier Kansas State Washington State Michigan State
Florida Richmond Cincinnati Nebraska
Wake Forest Memphis St. John’s Providence

Multi-bid conferences

League Bids
Big 12 10
SEC 8
Big East 7
Big Ten 6
Mountain West 5
ACC 4
Pac-12 3

Seed list

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

(Photo of Butler’s Andre Screen and UConn’s Donovan Clingan: David Butler II / USA Today)

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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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