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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49. Samford Bulldogs

Samford has never won an NCAA Tournament game, having only appeared in the Big Dance twice, and you would think that drawing Kansas in the first round would not be a good spot to bag their first trophy. If ever there was a time for David to beat Goliath, though, it may be now. The Jayhawks are a MASH unit, with Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. both dealing with injuries. In losing four of its last five games, the Jayhawks have limped, both literally and figuratively, to the finish line. Samford, which employs one of the deepest rotations in the country, is uniquely equipped to deal with Kansas' lack of healthy bodies. Let's just say the Bulldogs knock off Bill Self in the first round with a barrage of threes, which is something they're very good at. Future matchups with Gonzaga, which has come on strong in the second half of the season, and Purdue, which can take advantage of Samford's poor rebounding and high foul rate, won't be as favorable.

50. San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State is similar in a lot of ways to the team that came within a game of a national championship last season. They're still heavily laden with upperclassmen, and they still play tough, physical defense. The Aztecs no longer have leading scorer Matt Bradley after the forward graduated last year, but Jaedon LeDee has filled his role and then some by averaging 21.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game on the way to making the All-Mountain West First Team. Like many teams mentioned before, the Aztecs have the unfortunate distinction of being in the East region, where they'll have to get through SEC Tournament champ Auburn just to reach the Sweet Sixteen. There, the tournament favorite and defending champ UConn Huskies likely await. That matchup didn't go the Aztecs' way last year, and with UConn even better now, it doesn't figure to change this time around.

51. South Carolina Gamecocks

Nobody expected South Carolina to be in the NCAA Tournament, which is why head coach Lamont Pairs ran away with SEC Coach of the Year honors. The Gamecocks scored wins against nearly all of the SEC's top teams, including Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State. South Carolina will have its hands full with an Oregon team that is finally clicking, and a second-round matchup with Creighton looks like even worse news. The Gamecocks love to slow the game down, but getting into a half-court battle with Ryan Kalkbrenner is nobody's idea of a good time. The Bluejays have more tournament experience, they shoot the ball better, and they defend better than the Gamecocks, so it's hard to see SC making the second weekend.

52. South Dakota State Jackrabbits

South Dakota State has never won an NCAA Tournament game, and this may not be the year they break through. The Jackrabbits have won eight straight, but now have to face an incredibly dangerous Iowa State team that just blew the doors off of Houston. The Jackrabbits don't have a lot of things you look for in a Cinderella. They don't get offensive rebounds, they don't force turnovers, and though they do shoot it pretty well, they don't have a particularly strong defense. This team isn't nearly as good as the one that went 30-5 two years ago, and even that one, which entered the tournament on a 21-game winning streak, got bounced in the first round by a good-but-not-great Providence team.

53. Stetson Hatters

Fun fact: the last basketball team to win a championship while being named after something found in a Western shop was the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Another fun fact: the Stetson Hatters don't have anyone half as good as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili, and they have the thankless task of being first-round cannon fodder for the defending national champion UConn Huskies. Dan Hurley's team is favored by 26.5 points in this lopsided matchup, and a Stetson upset would be the single most shocking result in college basketball history.

54. TCU Horned Frogs

Jamie Dixon's team scratched and clawed its way into the field, but this isn't a team built to make a deep run. The Horned Frogs haven't had more than a three-game winning streak since December 2nd, but could they win a few games? Sure, why not? Their first-round opponent, Utah State, has lost its last nine NCAA Tournament games, and I think I've made my feelings clear on potential second-round matchup, Purdue. On the other hand, TCU has already lost by 13 to Nevada, and the Wolf Pack were neck and neck with Utah State in the Mountain West all year. They also foul a lot, which will be a problem if they face Zach Edey in the second round. TCU showed how high its ceiling is in knocking off Houston in a thriller in January, but they've been unable to maintain the consistency needed to make a deep run.

55. Tennessee Volunteers

Until their loss to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament, Tennessee was thought to have the inside track on the final 1-seed in the bracket. Following that 17-point loss, which really wasn't even as close as the score indicates, the Volunteers are at a crossroads. Are they the team that won one of the toughest conferences in the country, or are they the team that lost three straight earlier in the year to Purdue, Kansas, and North Carolina? Tennessee is led by Dalton Knecht, the kind of player that can carry a team all the way through the tournament. As good as he is, though, he can't do it alone, as his 37 points in the loss to the Tar Heels and his 40 points in the Vols' regular season finale loss to Kentucky show. Tennessee has reached the Sweet Sixteen twice in head coach Rick Barnes' tenure, but they've never advanced further. Barnes himself hasn't reached the Elite Eight in 16 years when he did it at Texas, which coincidentally, might be the Vols' second round opponent.

56. Texas A&M Aggies

Perhaps if this was a volleyball tournament, Texas A&M, with its "throw it up and go get it" style, would be equipped to hang a banner, but in basketball, you need to make shots to win games. The Aggies are unspeakably bad at shooting the ball. Only 10 out of the 363 Division I teams in the country are worse from three-point range than A&M, and the Aggies also rank below 300th in shooting from two. Somehow they've overcome this offensive ineptitude to enter the tournament on a hot streak, winning five of six after a five-game cold spell. This was in the SEC, though, where defense is a dirty word. The Aggies can't get away with being this bad offensively and expect to go far, even if their offensive rebounding is arguably the best in the country.

57. Texas Longhorns

Texas was a game away from a Final Four last year, but they've taken a step back in the uber-competitive Big 12. When head coach Rodney Terry wasn't openly griping about other teams' use of the "Horns Down," he was guiding his Longhorns to a 9-9 conference record. Nothing to be ashamed of, to be sure, but not on par with the performance that got them a 2-seed a year ago. Former Oral Roberts breakout star Max Abmas has filled in ably for the since-departed Marcus Carr and Sir'Jabari Rice, but the team hasn't been able to beat the very best opponents on the schedule, as losses to UConn, Marquette, Houston (twice), Iowa State, and Kansas can attest to. Texas hasn't won more than two games in a row since New Year's Day, so why should we believe they can run off six straight and cut down the nets?

58. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Staying in the Big 12, we move to Lubbock, where first-year head coach Grant McCasland has made an impressive jump from North Texas to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have shifted their identity to a more offensive mindset than the one that saw them reach the national title game under Chris Beard in 2019. The Red Raiders face a daunting road through the tournament, though, with a first-round date against the team of destiny, NC State, looming on Thursday. Should Texas Tech contain the twin DJ pairing of Horne and Burns, an up-tempo affair with Kentucky awaits them in the second round. The Wildcats are the top three-point shooting team in the country, and the difference in style with NC State will be difficult to prepare for on just one day of rest.