SPORTS

March Madness is here. Bracket reveal is the first step in a likely NCAA Tournament free-for-all

Mar 17, 2024, 1:53 PM | Updated: Mar 18, 2024, 6:03 am

Head coach Dan Hurley of the Connecticut Huskies cuts a piece of the net after winning the game aga...

Head coach Dan Hurley of the Connecticut Huskies cuts a piece of the net after winning the game against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the Big East Basketball Tournament Final at Madison Square Garden on March 16, 2024 in New York City. The Huskies won 73-57. (Sarah Stier, Getty Images)

(Sarah Stier, Getty Images)

The story of March Madness figures to look a lot like the story of the regular season that led up to it: a healthy cross-section of very good teams, few dominant ones and no strong consensus on who’s the best bet to be cutting down nets at the Final Four in Arizona.

Defending champion Connecticut is a slight favorite to repeat, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, followed by Houston and Purdue. Barring something unexpected, all three teams will earn No. 1 seeds when the brackets come out Sunday evening. Tennessee and North Carolina are in the mix for the fourth top spot, along with Arizona and maybe even Iowa State, which on Saturday crushed Houston 69-41 in the Big 12 Tournament championship.

The NCAA Tournament begins Tuesday with the First Four, followed by 32 first-round games on Thursday and Friday. The Final Four is set for Glendale, Arizona, on April 6-8.

As always, the more interesting discussions will be about the ever-shrinking bubble and who will be among the last to squeak into the field of 68 teams — 32 of which qualify automatically by winning their postseason conference tournaments.

A handful of unexpected results in conference tournaments — among them, North Carolina State winning the Atlantic Coast, Florida Atlantic losing in the American Athletic and Oregon winning the Pac-12 — meant highly rated teams would gobble up more of the remaining 34 at-large spots. It made the wait more perilous for teams such as Indiana State, Virginia, Seton Hall and St. John’s, while turning Sunday into a much more difficult journey for the committee that picks the brackets.

“This is my fifth year doing this — never have enjoyed Sat night because of how hard it is to select the final teams,” Jamie Pollard, the athletic director at Iowa State who is on the committee, said on social media. “This year is harder than all my previous years combined. Just gut wrenching knowing some very good teams will unfortunately not be dancing.”

Several weeks ago, Gonzaga was considered a bubble team, but a stretch of nine wins in 10 games elevated the Zags, and though they lost their conference tournament final to Saint Mary’s, they will make the field for the 25th consecutive year. That would be one fewer than Michigan State, which is trying to reach its nation-leading 26th straight tournament — if it makes it in off the bubble.

As for the business of actually filling out those brackets — good luck.

Last year, Purdue came into the tournament as a favorite only to become just the second No. 1 seed in history to be knocked out in the first round. The Final Four consisted of UConn, Miami, Florida Atlantic and San Diego State — a grouping selected by only six of about 3.6 million in the NCAA’s bracket challenge. None of those teams was seeded better than fourth.

Some believe this is the endgame in a sport that has been upended by roster upheaval across the board. The birth of athlete compensation deals and more liberal transfer rules has sparked an era in which coaches must concern themselves as much with assembling teams in the span of months as building programs over years.

So be it.

“We have another opportunity to compete for a championship,” FAU coach Dusty May said. “And when every single team in the country starts their season — and usually the season starts almost as soon as the other one ends — your goal is to make the NCAA Tournament. There’s, whatever, 360-some teams now and 68 get in. We’re confident that we’re going to be one of those teams that have a chance to compete for the biggest championship in our game, in our sport, college basketball.”


Contributing: Tim Reynolds, AP Basketball Writer

KSL 5 TV Live

Sports

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Jazz’s Markkanen, Clarkson, Hardy Attend Utah NHL Party

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, guard Jordan Clarkson, and head coach Will Hardy attended the NHL in Utah party at Delta Center.

10 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Former Jazz Players Shining In Postseason

Several former Utah Jazz players are shining in Minnesota and Cleveland on the NBA's biggest stage to open the playoffs.

15 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Top NFL Landing Spots For Former Utah Football Wide Receiver Devaughn Vele

The 2024 NFL Draft is around the corner so today we are taking a look at the top landing spots for former Utah wide receiver Devaughn Vele.

16 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Lions All-Pro Penei Sewell Becomes Highest-Paid OT In NFL With Contract Extension

Former Desert Hills standout Penei Sewell signed a massive contract extension to become the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL.

17 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Peyton Manning Reached Out To Zach Wilson, Welcomed Him To Denver

DENVER – Former Broncos QB and NFL Hall of Famer Peyton Manning reached out to Zach Wilson following the trade to welcome the former BYU Cougar to Denver. In an interview with Denver Sports, Manning spoke on Wilson’s start with the Jets and what’s to come in the Mile High City. As Peyton Manning told […]

17 hours ago

Players, coaches and management of the now inactive Arizona Coy0tes arrived in Utah on Wednesday mo...

Karah Brackin

Hockey fans turn out at the airport to welcome arrival of new NHL team

Players, coaches and management of the now inactive Arizona Coy0tes arrived in Utah on Wednesday morning ahead of the NHL in Utah party Wednesday afternoon at the Delta Center. 

17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

March Madness is here. Bracket reveal is the first step in a likely NCAA Tournament free-for-all