The 2023-24 men’s college basketball season has finally tipped. Not all of the teams we ranked in the preseason edition played on Day 1, but we know more than we did 24 hours ago.
Have the new wins and losses in the columns significantly changed our 68 teams? No.
Do they give us more questions to answer? Yes.
So, Joey Brackets attempts an answer at eight of those questions, which will define Bracketology all season.
Weekly updates to the seed list begin today, and they will go all the way ’til Selection Sunday on March 17.
1. Who is the fourth No. 1 seed?
It says here that Kansas, Purdue and Duke — in an order of your liking — will separate as the three best teams in college basketball this year. On our board, that makes them the three most likely No. 1 seeds on Selection Sunday. UConn is in the fourth spot following Michigan State‘s opening night loss, but I could see any number of possibilities when all is said and done.
Logic suggests a non-UConn Big East champion (Marquette or Creighton) will be heard from, along with whomever survives the SEC (our pick is Tennessee). And geography tells us not to discount the possibility of a Gonzaga or Arizona rising to the top out west.
2. Which conference gets the highest number of NCAA bids?
If the expanded Big 12 again puts 70% of its members in the field, that would mean a whopping 10 NCAA tournament teams. But we know expansion almost always hurts conference metrics, so I’m not sure the Big 12 will do any better than the seven bids it earned last season. That leaves the bloated football goliaths of the Big Ten and SEC to fight it out, and our early look shows at least eight bids for each.
3. Which conference is most on the rise?
With three of the past seven national championships, we have to say the Big East by a nose. Defending champ UConn along with Marquette and Creighton give the league three top-10 teams as play begins. All have legitimate Final Four aspirations, and that’s without mentioning a recent two-time NCAA champion in Villanova that adds three prime transfers to the Justin Moore–Eric Dixon nucleus.
4. Which conference is keeping its commissioner up at night?
The Pac-12 no longer qualifies. How much sleep can anyone lose with only two permanent members? No, it’s the granddaddy of college basketball, the ACC, that is at a crossroads. Are we looking at a simple blip of decreasing tourney invites and corresponding seeds? Or is there something systemically wrong that has resulted in such a long drought of No. 1 seeds? My gut is leaning toward the latter, but we can’t really know for sure — at least not yet.
5. Most notable team in the projected field that could actually miss the NCAA tournament?
Otherwise known as the Tar Heel Trophy, after North Carolina in 2022-23 became the first preseason No. 1 team to miss the Big Dance altogether. This season, I’m going with Florida Atlantic, not because the Owls are going to miss the NCAA tournament but because they could. What would have happened if FAU didn’t scrape past Middle Tennessee in the Conference USA semifinals in March? Would the Owls have been a lock for an at-large bid? In which case, are we talking about a generational Final Four run or a program entering the rougher waters of the American Athletic Conference? Just saying…
6. Which team currently out of the field is going to make me look bad?
So many choices, so little time. The top candidates probably reside in the Big 12 (Texas Tech, West Virginia and the Oklahoma schools) and Big Ten (Rutgers, Michigan and Iowa). And when all else fails, in terms of embarrassing Joey Brackets, there’s always Syracuse.
7. What winner of a one-bid conference could be in the Sweet 16?
Last season, Princeton, of all names, knocked off Arizona and Missouri to reach the regional semifinals. This season, my best bets are Drake (Missouri Valley Conference) and Charleston (Coastal Athletic Association, formerly Colonial Athletic Association).
8. What other mid-majors could win an NCAA tournament game?
I do not count the American, Mountain West or Atlantic 10 in this category, as all are historically multi-bid conferences. But keep an eye on Yale (Ivy League), Grand Canyon (Western Athletic Conference) and deep sleeper Eastern Kentucky (ASUN). There’s a Fairleigh Dickinson in there somewhere. Saint Mary’s doesn’t count either, by the way, after back-to-back 5-seeds and a pair of tourney wins.