Sunday, April 14, 2024
spot_img

Bracketology: Breaking down what 2024 NCAA Tournament hopefuls must do in conference tourneys this week

We are just five days from Selection Sunday, but who’s counting? Me. And the teams that need some help down the stretch to hear their name called on that day.

The major conference tournaments get started on Tuesday and there are some compelling storylines to watch. First though, a couple of reminders. Conference tournament games are no more important to the selection committee than regular-season games with two exceptions. First, the committee needs to know which team is the automatic qualifier, which is decided by the tournament. Also, most conference tournament games are played on neutral courts and wins away from home carry more weight with the committee because the tournament is not played on home courts.  

For teams on the bubble, these games can be vital. For others, it is all about seeding or trying to win to get in.

Here is a conference by conference breakdown of each tournament from a Bracketology perspective.

Check out Palm’s latest bracket, Bubble Watch and full field of 68 at the Bracketology hub.

Bracketology top seeds

Check out Palm’s latest bracket, Bubble Watch and full field of 68 at the Bracketology hub.

ACC Tournament

It is another down year for the ACC and if it continues to have down years, that will become the new standard. North Carolina is back to being North Carolina after starting last season as No. 1 in the polls, but failing to make the NCAA Tournament. Duke is also near the top of the bracket as usual. Clemson is a middle-of-the-bracket team.

The bubble is interesting again for this league. Virginia is currently a No. 10 seed in the bracket, but a No. 3  in the ACC Tournament. The Cavs will get a must-win game in the quarterfinal then try to punch their ticket against Duke.

Wake Forest and Pitt are both on the wrong side of the cut line at the moment and on a collision course for a quarterfinal matchup. The winner then gets a shot at North Carolina.

The only other team with any shot at an at-large bid is Virginia Tech, which could get UNC in a quarterfinal game.

Big 12 Tournament

The conference added four new teams this season and two of them have hit the ground running. Houston has a chance to be the overall No. 1 seed. They will be the top seed in the South regardless.

BYU is currently a No. 4 seed and is the only team to win at Kansas this season.

The Jayhawks are going to be without their two best players, Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar for the Big 12 Tournament. For a team with little depth, that does not bode well for a long run. Both players are expected back for the NCAA Tournament.

Kansas State has had a strange season. The Wildcats have not done particularly well in the metrics in part because they have seven overtime wins, which means small margins. They have a tournament draw that gives them a chance to play their way in. KSU will start with Texas and a win gives them a shot at Iowa State.

Big East Tournament

This could be the most fun tournament. With four teams on the bubble, there will be a lot at stake. The last two teams in my current bracket face off in the opening round. The winner of Seton Hall and St. John’s will face UConn and try to make a strong case for inclusion. The loser is not definitely out, but it will be hard to be optimistic.

Villanova and Providence are further from the cutline. They start the tournament with DePaul and Georgetown respectively. Needless to say, those are must win. Villanova would then get Marquette in a quarterfinal, while Providence would face Creighton.

Each of these teams have the same problem with their resume – a poor record vs the top three quadrants. Villanova is 17-14 overall and 12-14 vs Quadrants 1-3. You can count on one hand with fingers to spare how many teams have received at-large bids with records that poor.

The Friars overall record of 19-12 is not a problem, but their 10 Quad 4 wins are. They are just 9-12 vs. the top three quadrants.

By the time either of these teams get enough wins to fix their resume problems, they may be tournament champions.

At the top of the conference, UConn is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will be in the East Regional.

Big Ten Tournament

Purdue enters the conference tournament as the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament bracket and a conference tournament title would solidify that. Regardless, the Boilermakers will be the top seed in the Midwest.

Michigan State looked to be safely in the field, but the Spartans have lost four of their last five games to put their 25-season NCAA tournament appearance streak in some jeopardy. Three of those losses were Quad 2 games. MSU opens with Minnesota and if they win, would get to face Purdue.

Northwestern and Nebraska have each been pretty poor away from home against better opposition. Each team got double byes in the Big Ten tournament. The Wildcats will get whoever emerges among Maryland, Rutgers and Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers will face either Michigan, Penn State or Indiana. One win could lock things up for each of them.

Mountain West Tournament

It has been a banner year for the Mountain West. The league will send at least a record-tying five teams to the NCAA Tournament and may get a sixth.

Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle will garner some National Coach of the Year attention after putting together a roster good enough to win this league after having no returning players that scored a point for the Aggies in 2022-23. 

New Mexico is the only team in doubt of making the tournament. The Lobos are a home-court hero, as usual, but they have stumbled there as well, losing to UNLV and Air Force. That loss to the Falcons is why New Mexico is sweating things out at the moment. The Lobos get Air Force again to start the conference tournament, they will try a third time to beat Boise State. The Broncos swept the Lobos in the regular season. A win over Boise State is probably enough to get New Mexico in the field.

Pac-12 Tournament

The Pac-12 went out like a lion in football, but is going out like a lamb in hoops. Arizona is a potential national champion and if they didn’t stub their toe against inferior foes, the Wildcats would be a better contender for the fourth No. 1 seed. Either way, they will be sent to the West Regional.

Washington State is one of the best stories of the season. Little was expected of the Cougars, but they ended up second in the Pac-12 and have a season sweep of Arizona.

Colorado and Utah are on a collision course for a quarterfinal matchup that could eliminate the loser. The winner is no sure thing either, but a win over Washington State in the semifinal would help. Of course, the Cougars have to get there too.

SEC Tournament

Tennessee is the leader at the moment for the fourth No. 1 seed. The Volunteers may have to win the conference tournament to secure that spot.

Kentucky is probably considered the favorite thanks to a strong run of play to end the regular season, which was capped off by a win at Tennessee. The Wildcats won seven of eight to earn the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament. A win by the Wildcats, facing the best teams they can, could get them as high as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Auburn has a strange resume for a team considered to be a top four seed type of team. They are just 1-7 in Quad 1. They have no losses outside of that, but there has never been a team seeded this highly with just one win in so many tries. The highest seeded team with just one Quad 1 win in at least eight games prior to this year was Michigan State in 2004. The Spartans were 1-9 vs quad 1 and a 7-seed.

Mississippi State has nothing fatally wrong with its tournament resume, but the Bulldogs have been out of form at the end. The committee does not put any extra weight on that, but their four game skid includes a loss at Texas A&M, which is a team they are competing with for a spot in the field. The Bulldogs have not been great against better teams and have a Quad 4 loss to Southern. They start the tournament with LSU. Selection Sunday gets nervy with a loss to the Tigers.

The Aggies have won three straight to get back into contention, but they probably have to win a couple of more games before we can think about them as an at-large team. Their quarterfinal game, if they get there, is against Kentucky.

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.