March Madness bracket 2024: Why each of the 68 teams won't win a national championship

The NCAA Tournament field is set, and 68 teams now have the opportunity to etch their names into history. Instead of trying to figure out why each team could cut down the nets, let's look at why they won't.

There haven't been back-to-back NCAA Tournament champions since 2007. Can Donovan Clingan and UConn defy the odds and win it all again?
There haven't been back-to-back NCAA Tournament champions since 2007. Can Donovan Clingan and UConn defy the odds and win it all again? / Sarah Stier/GettyImages
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29. Kentucky Wildcats

We bounce from one blue blood to another. Kentucky is much healthier than Kansas, but they have a major problem of their own to contend with: they can't stop anyone. The Wildcats have been engaging in shootouts with SEC opponents all year, and while it's true that they have the offense to outscore anyone, it's also true that if their shots stop falling for even a little bit, they could be toast. To illustrate the range of potential outcomes for John Calipari, his team just won five straight over the likes of Alabama, Mississippi State, and Tennessee while averaging over 99 points per game, but then they gave up 97 points to Texas A&M in an SEC Tournament loss. Yes, the same Texas A&M that is one of the worst shooting teams in the country. Kentucky will light up the scoreboards in this tournament, but the brightest light they make may come from their inevitable crash and burn.

30. Long Beach State Beach

Did you know that Long Beach State was called the Beach? Your humble author did not, and I have to say, I don't like it. Forget that LBSU is a 15-seed, forget that they actually fired their coach before the conference tournament and then went out and won it anyway with him. I'm sorry, but you're not winning the national title with a name like the Beach. If that's not scientific enough for you, LBSU has some fatal flaws that will keep their stay in the tournament brief. They shoot barely over 31% from three, their offense as a whole is bad, and their defense is worse. Yeah, I'd say that's enough. Next!

31. Longwood Lancers

Did you know that Longwood was called the Lancers? OK, I'll stop. Longwood is a 16-seed, and they may have the worst draw in the tournament. They get Houston in the first round, and the Cougars are angry. Fresh off a shocking loss by 29 to Iowa State, Houston may not let Longwood score 25 points, lest they risk facing the fiery wrath of Kelvin Sampson. The Lancers haven't faced a defense half as imposing as Houston's all season, and in fact have only taken on one tournament team, a respectable 78-69 loss to Dayton just before New Year's. There have been two 16 over 1 upsets in NCAA Tournament history, but don't bet on this being the third.

32. Marquette Golden Eagles

Like Kansas, Marquette is a talented team that has been near the top of the pack all year. Also like the Jayhawks, the Golden Eagles are dealing with an injury to a star player at exactly the wrong time. All-American guard Tyler Kolek is on the mend with an oblique injury, and while the word is that he's expected back in time for the tournament, we've learned in the past not to believe any injury news that is released while the Selection Committee is listening. Even if he does come back, Kolek may not be 100%, and that's a problem for a team that doesn't get to the free throw line or grab rebounds with any regularity. Shaka Smart's team is very good, but if they meet up with a team that can bully them on the glass, that may be all she wrote. If you can remember a few thousand words ago, one of Florida, Boise State, or Colorado will be waiting for Marquette in the second round, and all three are masterful at pulling down misses.

33. McNeese State Cowboys

I've got to say, the 12-seeds this year are a hell of a lot of fun. Like James Madison and Grand Canyon, McNeese State is a smaller school with a nearly blemish-free record. The Cowboys have wins over VCU, UAB, and Michigan (I know, but still), and have only three losses by a combined 14 points on the year. McNeese State has all the ingredients to snag some wins in March. They shoot nearly 40% as a team from three, they have an eye-popping turnover margin, and even though their percentage from the free throw line isn't great, they are really good at earning trips t o the charity stripe. The Cowboys haven't had to deal with a team that has effective size in the frontcourt, and a first-round matchup with Gonzaga and Graham Ike could prove problematic. Still, as we've mentioned above, this isn't the best iteration of Mark Few's Bulldogs, and if the Cowboys can overcome what will be a pro-Zags crowd in Utah, a Cinderella run could be in the offing, as a battered Kansas team and perennially underachieving Purdue could be next. Could the Cowboys win a few games? I can see it. Can they win it all? Not happening.

34. Michigan State Spartans

While we're on the topic of teams that aren't as good as they used to be, I present to you the Michigan State Spartans. Tom Izzo has had a lot of success in March, but it's been harder and harder to come by in recent years. Michigan State is the only team besides Saint Peter's, Montana State, Howard, and Wagner that made the field with fewer than 20 wins. Sparty's defense is characteristically excellent, but they don't rebound like they used to, and they finished the season losing five of seven. If, and that's a big if, they get by Mississippi State in the first-round, longtime Izzo nemesis North Carolina will be waiting in the second. Izzo has beaten UNC in the regular season, but never in the tournament, going 0-2 with losses in the Final Four and the National Championship.

35. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State locked its tournament bid up with a 17-point win over Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. This statement win reversed a late-season slide that threatened to keep the Bulldogs out of the field, but it's hard to ignore that four-game losing streak against four tournament teams to end the regular season. Mississippi State plays a different game than most of its SEC brethren, i.e. it actually plays defense, yet that still only helped Chris Jans' team finish 8-10 in conference. As far as I can tell, no team has ever won a national title while finishing under .500 in conference play. UConn came the closest, finishing in a tie for ninth in the Big East in 2011 with a 9-9 record before Kemba Walker led the Huskies on an unbelievable run. Freshman Josh Hubbard and senior Tolu Smith are great players, but they're no Kemba Walker.

36. Montana State Bobcats

Montana State plays Grambling on Wednesday night for the right to take on Purdue. If there's one 1-seed you want to face, it's the Boilermakers, who lost to 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson just last year, but it's hard to envision the Bobcats pulling off a similar feat. Three stats will doom head coach Matt Logie's team. The Bobcats are near the bottom of the country in offensive rebounding, they have real trouble defending shots from inside the arc, and they foul a lot. Add those three together and we may be looking at a 40-25 line for Zach Edey. Montana State finished fifth in the Big Sky and 17-17 overall. Their NCAA Tournament run will be short.

37. Morehead State Eagles

We've talked about how brutal the East region is when looking at the long-term prospects of highly-rated teams such as Auburn, Illinois, and Iowa State. It will be hard enough to emerge from that region and make the Final Four for some of the hottest major conference programs in the country; just imagine how daunting it will be for 14-seed Morehead State. The Eagles play good defense and allow very few assisted baskets, but that probably won't keep Terrence Shannon from dropping 30+ on them. Illinois' difficulties in the turnover department are a weakness that Morehead State is not equipped to exploit, as the Eagles have an even worse turnover margin. If lightning strikes and Morehead State advances, BYU or Iowa State will break the glass slipper.

38. NC State Wolfpack

Cite all the stats you want, it's hard to come up with a logical rebuttal to a team of destiny, especially when that team is NC State, a program that knows a little something about defying the odds in March. The Wolfpack are fresh off one of the greatest conference tournament runs in history, having knocked off Duke and Carolina on the way to winning five games in five days to grab the ACC's automatic bid. The path is there for a Wolfpack run, with a middling Texas Tech team and the defense-free Kentucky Wildcats standing in the way of a Sweet Sixteen berth. An NC State-Houston regional final would stir all kinds of 1983 emotions. Let's snap back to reality, though. The Wolfpack lost seven of nine to end the regular season, and the only notable part of their statistical profile is that they don't turn the ball over. They don't shoot the three well as a team, and with the exception of soon-to-be tournament darling DJ Burns, they don't assist on many baskets.