The only rule for filling out your March Madness bracket? Don’t take it for granted

The times they are a changing for collegiate athletics, and it would be foolhardy to assume the status quo for tournaments will remain unchanged. Still, it's fun to look at the matchups for this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament.

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Sports

March 18, 2024 - 2:49 PM

Brackets for the 2024 NCAA men's basketball tournament dates and teams.

March Madness this year comes at a time of great uncertainty in college sports.

In addition to eyeing potential 5-12 upsets and trying to figure out which sleeper to put in the Elite Eight, fans also have to consider more existential questions about college basketball’s future. How will realignment affect the makeup of Division I? How much will football-related decisions affect basketball? How long will the NCAA Tournament stay at 68 teams, and if it changes, what will that mean for the Cinderellas of March?

For now, this event looks pretty much the way it has for a generation. Don’t take it for granted as you fill out your brackets — and if you need some tips, here you go. A Final Four with UConn, Houston, Gonzaga and Michigan State? Let us explain:

EAST REGION

First round winners: UConn, Northwestern, San Diego State, Auburn, BYU, Illinois, Drake, Iowa State.

Yale brings 7-footer Danny Wolf and an experienced supporting cast, but drew a tough first-round matchup against fourth-seeded Auburn. The Tigers are ranked No. 4 in the country by Ken Pomeroy.

Second round winners: UConn, Auburn, Illinois, Iowa State.

The Sweet 16 in this region could include the conference tournament champions of the Big East, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12.

Regional semifinal winners: UConn, Iowa State.

UConn is the betting favorite to win a second straight national title. The Huskies are also ranked No. 1 by Pomeroy, and although we’re used to surprises it’s hard to pick them to exit before the Elite Eight.

Regional champion: UConn. Iowa State had a case for a No. 1 seed, but there’s a gap between the Cyclones and the Huskies.

SOUTH REGION

First Four: Colorado over Boise State.

First round winners: Houston, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Duke, Texas Tech, Kentucky, Florida, Marquette.

James Madison over Wisconsin figures to be a popular first-round upset pick — maybe a little too popular. Same with Vermont over Duke. The chalk holds in this region, for this round anyway.

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