NCAA Tournament bracket: How UConn, Houston, Purdue and UNC earned 2024 men’s No. 1 seeds – The Athletic

By Mark Puleo and Brian Bennett7h ago

Selection Sunday began with a pronouncement of the 2024 NCAA Tournament men’s heavyweight, as Connecticut — aiming to be the first back-to-back national champion since 2007 — was crowned the No. 1 overall seed out of the East.

Other frontrunners Houston (South) and Purdue (Midwest) were also named the No. 1 seeds in the bracket, with North Carolina (West) snagging the final top seed, edging out Iowa State and Arizona.

The tournament is scheduled to begin Tuesday with the First Four round. The No. 1 seeds — and the rest of the tournament field — will play first-round games Thursday and Friday.

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All four top seeds hit minor speed bumps in the first halves of a season defined by upsets, and only one of them will step into the tournament on a winning streak, as the other three fell short of winning their conference tournaments. But all four strung together dominant seasons and each brings a formidable resume into the tournament.

The full bracket can be found below. The downloadable version is here.

 

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East region matchups

The Huskies will face Stetson in the Round of 64 in the East. Iowa State is a No. 2 seed. Illinois gets the No. 3 seed while Auburn is the No. 4 seed. Below are the East region matchups:

  • No. 1 UConn vs. No. 16 Stetson
  • No. 8 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 9 Northwestern
  • No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 UAB
  • No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 Yale
  • No. 6 BYU vs. No. 11 Duquesne
  • No. 3 Illinois vs. No. 14 Morehead State
  • No. 7 Washington State vs. No. 10 Drake
  • No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 15 South Dakota State

UConn (31-3)

UConn is looking to become the first team since the 2006-07 Florida Gators to win back-to-back national titles. The Huskies were dominant in nonconference wins against Indiana, Texas, North Carolina and Gonzaga, losing only to Kansas on Dec. 1 in a battle of top-five teams and recent NCAA champions.

UConn lost again to Seton Hall a few weeks later in its Big East opener, but quickly shook it off, stringing together 14 consecutive wins and cruising through the Big East tournament to win its first conference title since 2011.

“We feel it’s harder to win the Big East than the national championship,” guard Tristen Newton said afterward.

On a roster without Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson, the stars of 2024’s buzzsaw championship run, Dan Hurley’s Huskies refocused around the steady senior backcourt of Newton and Cam Spencer, then retooled around the dynamic combo of splashy freshman guard Stephon Castle — one of the top recruits in the country — and sophomore center Donovan Clingan — a 7-foot-2 defensive behemoth who was Sanogo’s replacement in the middle and could soon be an NBA Draft lottery pick.

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South region matchups

Houston is the second No. 1 seed. The Cougars will face No. 16 Longwood in the Round of 64. Below are the South region matchups:

  • No. 1 Houston vs. No. 16 Longwood
  • No. 8 Nebraska vs. No. 9 Texas A&M
  • No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 James Madison
  • No. 4 Duke vs. No. 13 Vermont
  • No. 6 Texas Tech vs. No. 11 NC State
  • No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 14 Oakland
  • No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Boise State/Colorado
  • No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 15 Western Kentucky

Houston (30-4)

The nation’s No. 1 team in the most recent AP rankings, which came out on March 4, Houston held top-10 status all season en route to earning its second consecutive No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars looked unstoppable in nonconference play and were the last undefeated team in the nation — then won the Big 12 in their first season in the league.

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A 14-0 start was snapped on Jan. 9 at Iowa State, a perfectly acceptable place to lose. That loss, however, was immediately followed by another defeat, this time at the hands of TCU. The back-to-back losses sent the Cougars tumbling in the rankings, but forced Kelvin Sampson’s program to reorganize for the stretch run.
Houston followed with 16 wins in its next 17 games, with the only loss coming against Kansas. Houston avenged that loss with a 30-point drubbing on March 9 to clinch the Big 12 regular-season title.

But Houston’s conference tournament ended with its own drubbing. Iowa State bested them once again, this time by 28 in the Big 12 championship game.

The team’s depth has taken a significant hit — JoJo Tugler, Terrance Arceneaux and Ramon Walker all suffered season-ending leg injuries — but the starry trio of L.J. Cryer, Jamal Shead and Emmanuel Sharp has stayed healthy all season. Shead was named Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as he averaged 13.1 points, 6.2 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

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Midwest region matchups

The Purdue Boilermakers are the third No. 1 seed announced on Selection Sunday. They will face the winner of Montana State and Grambling State in the Round of 64 in the Midwest region. Below are those matchups:

  • No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 16 Montana State/Grambling State
  • No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 TCU
  • No. 5 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 McNeese
  • No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Samford
  • No. 6 South Carolina vs. No. 11 Oregon
  • No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Akron
  • No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Virginia/Colorado State
  • No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 15 Saint Peter’s

Purdue (29-4)

One year after its trip to the NCAA Tournament ended devastatingly fast, when the top-seeded Boilermakers were stunned by No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round, Purdue spent the entire season in the top four of the AP Top 25.

Purdue began the season as the No. 3 team and spent five weeks as the top-ranked team. The bounce-back season began with a dominant Maui Invitational run, featuring consecutive wins over Gonzaga, Tennessee and Marquette.

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Zach Edey, the defending National Player of the Year who spurred the professional ranks to come back and rewrite Purdue’s record books, maintained his All-American level all season. The 7-foot-4 star is averaging 24.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.

But the journey wasn’t entirely smooth. The first hiccup came on Dec. 1, with a 92-88 loss to Northwestern. While they largely coasted through Big Ten play, later losses to Nebraska and Ohio State poked holes in their invincibility.

Since then, the Boilermakers have faced their biggest scares at the worst time: the end of the season. First, indispensable guard Braden Smith suffered a hyperextended knee in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinal against Michigan State. While Smith returned to the game and Purdue held on to win and advance, any hindrance to Smith — who leads the team in assists and steals while shooting 44.8 percent from 3 — would make Purdue’s national championship chances a little slimmer.

In the Big Ten semifinals, the Boilermakers’ run ended as Wisconsin ousted Purdue with a last-second runner in overtime. Edey, who became the school career scoring leader in the loss, was the only Purdue player to score in double figures.

If Smith stays healthy and Edey stays dominant, Purdue has a chance to repeat Virginia’s magic from 2019: Those Cavaliers went from embarrassed No. 1 seed losing in the first round in 2018 to national champions the next year.

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West region matchups

UNC will be the No. 1 seed in the West. The Tar Heels will face the winner of Howard and Wagner in the Round of 64. Here are the West region matchups:

  • No. 1 UNC vs. No. 16 Howard/Wagner
  • No. 8 Mississippi State vs. No. 9 Michigan State
  • No. 5 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 12 Grand Canyon
  • No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 13 Charleston
  • No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 11 New Mexico
  • No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 Colgate
  • No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Nevada
  • No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 Long Beach State

North Carolina (27-7)

Unlike the other three No. 1 seeds, North Carolina has not been a constant top-10 team this season. The Tar Heels have been anything but.

While their nonconference slate included wins over Arkansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma, they fell to Villanova — who would finish the year 18-15 — in November and dropped back-to-back games against UConn and Kentucky in mid-December. Those losses, along with three losses in five games in a February stumble, cast serious doubt on the team’s seriousness as a championship contender.

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But with a roster boasting star guard R.J. Davis and veteran center Armando Bacot — both of whom starred on UNC’s Final Four run in 2022 — North Carolina always packed the potential to put together a special run. That potential was realized in the final quarter of the season, when the Tar Heels strung together eight straight wins and turned back Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium to win the ACC regular-season title.

They reached the ACC tournament final before an upset loss to NC State, which might exacerbate early-season concerns about consistency. But the program’s midseason surge proved just enough to boost their Selection Sunday resume over Iowa State and Tennessee.

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Most surprising team left out

None were all that surprising. I had Oklahoma out this morning, and Indiana State was a victim of being a mid-major that didn’t win its conference tournament and couldn’t get quality non-conference games. St. John’s was a bit surprising, but the Red Storm were always going to be close to the cut line given their resume. What’s most surprising about that is the committee only included three Big East teams (UConn, Marquette and Creighton).

Providence and Seton Hall, in addition to the Red Storm, just missed the field. Three invites seem light for a league that was better than the Pac-12 (four bids) and the ACC (five). — Brian Bennett, college basketball senior editor

Toughest region

Assuming Tyler Kolek is healthy, it’s the South. Top seed Houston was No. 1 in the metrics most of the year, and a full-strength Marquette is a legitimate Final Four contender.

Then there’s No. 3 Kentucky, which can shoot anybody out of the tournament with its offense; No. 4 Duke, which is loaded with talent; No. 5 Wisconsin, which just nearly won the Big Ten tournament; and No. 7 Florida, which has been playing extremely well down the stretch. Maybe the best mid-major bomber is No. 12 James Madison, which won 31 games.

Whoever comes out of here will have earned it. — Bennett

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No. 1 seed with the best path

It sure looks like North Carolina. The Tar Heels have to go West, but they should feel comfortable against a lot of teams out there. Arizona is good but inconsistent. Baylor and Alabama can score like mad but aren’t very physical. Saint Mary’s would have difficulty matching UNC’s depth and talent.

The Tar Heels have a great shot to get to Phoenix — except they might have a difficult second game against either physical Mississippi State or, gulp, Tom Izzo’s Michigan State. — Bennett

Strangest calls

Gonzaga, which looked like a bubble team all year until a good finish, as a No. 5 seed? Florida Atlantic, with a lot of head-scratching losses and only two Quad 1 wins, as a No. 8? Virginia making the tournament was also questionable, as the Cavaliers have had several terrible performances this year and seem more likely to get blown out early than a team like St. John’s or Indiana State would.

The committee also had no seeding love for a good, six-bid Mountain West outside of No. 5 San Diego State, which probably earned respect for its runner-up finish in 2024. League regular-season champion Utah State is a No. 8 and half the First Four is from the MWC: Boise State and the last team in Colorado State, the latter of whom destroyed Creighton on a neutral floor.

Meanwhile, Michigan State at 19-14 didn’t have to go to Dayton. That doesn’t do much to quiet the cynics who say the selection committee is biased against non-power conferences. Though the Big East might provide a counterargument. — Bennett

More NCAA Tournament Coverage

  • NCAA Tournament Midwest Region analysis: Can Purdue bounce back from last year’s embarrassing upset?
  • NCAA Tournament South Region analysis: Is Houston primed to return to Final Four? 
  • NCAA Tournament East Region analysis: Can UConn emerge and repeat as champions?
  • March Madness guide: Odds, upset picks, projections for all the NCAA Tournament action
  • ‘Anti-hero’ Auburn is plotting to blow up some NCAA Tournament brackets

(Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

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