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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59. UConn Huskies

How are we going to take down the champs? To start with, the Huskies were hardly rewarded for earning the tournament's top overall seed, and were placed in this year's Group of Death with Iowa State, Illinois, and Auburn. The Huskies would be defying recent history by cutting down the nets for the second year in a row, as no team has pulled off back-to-back championships since the Joakim Noah-led Florida Gators won their second straight title in 2007. UConn has been dominant this year in going 31-3, but that doesn't mean they're invincible. An early-season loss to Kansas when the Jayhawks were fully healthy looked at the time to be a national championship preview, but the Jayhawks have fallen off since then. Double-digit losses to Seton Hall and Creighton make one wonder if the Huskies just got complacent, or if they're ripe for a letdown at the wrong moment. As good as the Huskies have been, they're missing three key contributors from last year's title run. Will they miss Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins, and Andre Jackson Jr., or will newcomers Stephon Castle and Cam Spencer be ready when the lights are bright?

60. UAB Blazers

UAB was but one soldier in an army of bid thieves this year, but can they continue their run? A first-round game against defending national runner-up San Diego State is no way to ease into tournament play, as the Aztecs' stingy defense will exploit the Blazers' poor shooting. If they can win an ugly one and escape the first round, Auburn and its superior athleticism are sure to be waiting in the second round. The Tigers have 25 wins of 10 points or more this year, and their ability to share the ball and speed up the game will overwhelm UAB.

61. Utah State Aggies

Utah State is a remarkable success story. The Aggies essentially have a brand new team from the one that went 26-9 and earned a 10-seed, and somehow they were even better this year, as they finished first in the Mountain West to earn a tie for the highest seed in program history. Utah State was great at defending the three-point line, but TCU, its first-round opponent, shoots very few threes. The Aggies are weak inside, allowing over 53% shooting from inside the arc, and the Horned Frogs can take advantage. If Utah State survives, they'll be faced with an impossible choice between double-teaming Zach Edey in the post, or staying home on the Boilermakers' cadre of sharpshooters. Sometimes there are just no good options, and the result is usually a seat on the next flight home.

62. Vermont Catamounts

We mentioned earlier that Duke doesn't seem to have that championship feel this year. That doesn't mean the Blue Devils are going to get upset in the first round, but they can't expect to just show up and win against Vermont, who are winners of 19 of their last 20. The Catamounts play at one of the slowest paces in the nation, and they shoot a ton of threes, though their percentage of makes isn't great. Duke would be happy to make this a three-point shooting contest, as Jeremy Roach and Jared McCain are much bigger threats than anyone on Vermont's roster. Duke also has the advantage on the interior, as Vermont has nobody over 6-foot-8 to contain the 7-foot Kyle Filipowski. Duke only won one game in the tournament in Jon Scheyer's first year as head coach, but they'll have enough to make sure they at least equal that result this time around.

63. Virginia Cavaliers

Let's face it, Virginia is lucky to be in the tournament after blowing its ACC semifinal game against NC State in the waning seconds. Tony Bennett's club has some of the calling cards his teams have been known for in the past: tough defense, an excruciatingly slow tempo, and a turnover-free style of play. Whereas in past years the Cavaliers could count on at least some offense to support their tireless defense, this year's offensive showing has been abysmal. Virginia really struggles to put the ball in the basket. The one area they're good at, three-point shooting, doesn't even help them much because they hardly shoot any threes compared to most teams. They rarely get to the free throw line, and when they do, they shoot a putrid 63.7%. Blowout losses, once unthinkable for this program, have become more commonplace, with their nine regular season losses all coming by between nine and 34 points.

64. Wagner Seahawks

As bad as Virginia shoots the ball, Wagner is even worse. The Seahawks shoot only 42.8% from two, but they did enough to go 3-0 and capture the Northeast Conference Tournament. Their matchup against Howard in Dayton will be a bizarro battle of the movable object versus the resistible force, as the Bison feature one of the worst defenses in the country. Whoever emerges with their first NCAA Tournament win will be summarily destroyed by North Carolina, even if the Tar Heels put forth a C- effort like they did against Georgia Tech and Syracuse earlier in the year.

65. Washington State Cougars

Washington State came out of nowhere to finish second in the Pac-12 behind Arizona, and they even beat the Wildcats in both meetings. The Cougars might be the better seed in their first-round game against Drake, but it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see them go down to the Bulldogs. Tucker DeVries will be the best player on the court, and Drake is the best team in the country at limiting second chances, something the Cougars are normally pretty good at. Drake is also exceptional at limiting turnovers, and Washington State doesn't force many, meaning Drake should have a plenty of possessions where they can work the ball around and find an open shot. Washington State prefers more of an isolation-style offense, plus they don't shoot a lot of threes. Their best hope for a win against Drake is to slow the game down and try to pull out a close one. If they succeed, a second-round meeting with Iowa State should be all she wrote.

66. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

It's become increasingly commonplace for 15-seeds to match up well with 2-seeds in the first round. If you're looking for a team that can make Cinderella's slipper fit this year, it might be the Hilltoppers, and I'm not just saying that because I want to see their mascot on One Shining Moment (even though I really, really do). Western Kentucky plays at the fastest pace in the country, and they win games by going nine deep and wearing teams out. Marquette could be without All-American Tyler Kolek, which could open the door for the fourth 15 over 2 upset in four years. Though the Hilltoppers could surprise a team or two with their sheer speed, an offense and defense that both rank outside the top 100 in efficiency will make it impossible for them to cut down the nets in Phoenix.

67. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin has been a Jekyll and Hyde team this year, and Badger fans are praying that they don't revert to bad habits when the tournament begins. The Badgers were on the verge of collapse late in the season, losing eight of 11 to fall out of favor in the polls, but a run to the Big Ten Tournament final that included an overtime victory over Purdue has them looking more like the team that won 12 of 13 and beat Marquette earlier this year. Though they seem to have turned the corner, the Wisconsin can't love the draw they received from the selection committee. James Madison, which went 31-3 and features one of the best three-point margins in the country, could be a nightmare for the Badgers and their 344th-ranked 3-point defense. Duke, who could be waiting in round two, shoots it even better from the outside. The Badgers better hope those Barclays Center rims are tight.

68. Yale Bulldogs

The Ivy League has acquitted itself quite well in the NCAA Tournament lately. Princeton reached the Sweet Sixteen as a 15-seed last year, and Cornell made it just as far as a 12-seed in 2010. Harvard also has two wins in that span, and Yale joined the fun when it upset Baylor in 2015. The Bulldogs have made two NCAA Tournament appearances since then, with their third coming this year against Auburn. Yale can play, and if they can slow the game down and keep it close for the first half, they could frustrate the Tigers into some mistakes. Yale has faced two teams of a similar caliber to Auburn: Gonzaga and Kansas, both of whom beat the Bulldogs by 15. No Ivy League team has ever won more than two games, so even though Yale could certainly hang around and even win a game or two, there won't be blue and white confetti streaming down on April 8th.

There you have it folks, a look at why every team won't win the national championship. Which team will overcome their flaws and the difficult road ahead to remain standing in the end? Embrace the madness, because we're about to find out. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need a nap before the first game tips off.

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Next. March Madness bracket predictions 2024: Picks for every game, Final Four and more. March Madness bracket predictions 2024: Picks for every game, Final Four and more. dark