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March Madness Bracket Predictions & Best Bets 2024

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2024

The greatest tournament in all of sports has returned, and it’s as unpredictable as ever. Fresh off a wild conference championship weekend, March Madness has arrived with a fresh, unblemished bracket.

This pool of 68 teams will shrink to just one in the coming weeks. Although it sounds simple, the path to this moment will be anything but. And we’re here to help.

Are you seeking some much-needed bracket and betting help before the madness begins? Let’s unpack it all.

March Madness Expert Bracket Picks

Adam Kramer March Madness Bracket Filled Out 2024

⬇️ Download your own March Madness bracket.

Please note that all CBB odds and March Madness lines are current as of Monday, March 18, at 8 a.m. ET, and courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Easiest Final Four Path: Houston

The last time the Cougars took the floor, they were pummeled by Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship Game. It was a rather stunning departure from an otherwise brilliant regular season.

Despite the rough conclusion, Houston is in prime position for a deep run. Although no run to the Final Four will be easy, this one figures to be.

At moments this year, Marquette (No. 2), Kentucky (No. 3), and Duke (No. 4) have all looked Final Four worthy. However, consistency has not always been there, which should help an experienced Houston team and roster.

The South still has teeth, although so does Houston.

Toughest Final Four Path: Connecticut

Now, let’s make something clear out of the gate. UConn is more than capable of navigating any path.

The Huskies proved this last season with a title and this season with a pristine 31-3 record heading into the tournament. They have also won 21 of the last 22 games.

That said, the East is loaded and filled with momentum. To reach the Final Four, UConn will have to get through three notable conference champions: Iowa State (Big 12), Illinois (Big Ten), and Auburn (SEC).

All three teams turned in notable performances this weekend, and all three could serve as a challenge at various points of the bracket.

Can UConn do it? Of course. The No. 1 overall seed has the makeup for another deep run. But the selection committee was not overly kind.

Strongest Upset Pick: No. 12 McNeese Over No. 5 Gonzaga

Smackdab in the Middle of the Midwest, No. 5 Gonzaga, which is a strange new reality given how good this team has looked in recent years, will look to move onto the Round of 32 against a No. 12 seed with spunk.

McNeese has lost just one game since last November, and guard Shahada Wells is poised to be an issue for the Bulldogs. The Cowboys ranked No. 5 in scoring defense this season, which can partially explain why this team lost only three games all year.

Gonzaga played considerably better down the stretch, although the season ended with a loss to Saint Mary’s. With the Zags not nearly as loaded as they once were, look for the 12-seed to find a way to pull off an upset.

Why Tennessee Will Defeat Baylor for the NCAA Tournament Championship

As we saw last season, the bracket rarely goes as planned. And after an upset-filled conference championship weekend, expect that theme to continue into the tournament.

Tennessee knows plenty about this upset-filled weekend. The Vols were upended early in the SEC Tournament, although they ripped off a slew of quality wins down the home stretch of the regular season. Playing in the manageable Midwest, look for Tennessee to get right.

Conversely, Baylor is positioned to get past North Carolina and Arizona in the West. The Bears navigated the brutal Big 12, showcasing plenty of promise along the way. The Bears will conquer that region before taking down UConn.

It’s not the final many are predicting, although it’s the one we’re settling on. Tennessee conquers college basketball in emphatic fashion.

Tennessee to Win National Championship () • DraftKings Sportsbook

The Vols are the seventh selection on the board, and the value with the two-seed is tremendous, given the talent and path.

Baylor to Win National Championship () • DraftKings Sportsbook

Is 16/1 not good enough? Then 30/1 should be. Baylor has a chance to make noise as a three-seed, and I am willing to ride the Bears as well, given that I’ve predicted them to be runner-ups.

Now, I’ve invited my colleagues to contribute to these NCAA Tournament 2024 predictions.

March Madness Staff Predictions

NCAA Tournament Winner

Houston defeats Arizona

The Houston Cougars have been tourney contenders for the last four seasons, getting to the sweet sixteen in each of those years. Houston ranks 17th in offensive adjusted efficiency and 1st in defense, per KenPom. Look for that strong balance to result in a national championship. — Frank Ammirante

Houston defeats UConn

Repeating is tough, which is why no team has done it since Florida in 2006-07. Houston has all the elements to go toe-to-toe with the Huskies and win, should they meet in Glendale. — Pat Pickens

NCAA Final Four Team Predictions

Houston (winner), Arizona (runner-up), Tennessee (Midwest), UConn (East)

The Tennessee Volunteers have the pieces in place for a strong run, boasting the third-ranked defense in the country, according to Pomeroy’s rankings.

The defending champion UConn Huskies are good enough to take down the tourney once again, led by the top-ranked offense, per KenPom. — Frank Ammirante

Houston (winner), UConn (runner-up), North Carolina (West), Creighton (Midwest)

Picking chalk isn’t interesting, but Carolina is super-talented and battle-tested.

Creighton ranks 11th in KenPom, slotting 12th and 24th, respectively, in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. — Pat Pickens

NCAA Tournament Best Cinderella Team

McNeese State

The Cowboys are a top-40 offensive team and top-5 defensively and will enter with a 30-3 record. That’s a scary draw for Gonzaga and the rest of the Midwest region. McNeese State looks like a Sweet 16 team. — Pat Pickens

TCU

One thing that I look for in a Cinderella team is balance. TCU fits the bill, coming in 44th on offense and 31st on defense, according to KenPom. The Horned Frogs have an impressive win over top-seeded Houston on their resume. — Frank Ammirante

NCAA Tournament Early Upset Losing Team

Kansas (lose to Samford in Round 1)

The Bulldogs can bomb it from outside, ranking seventh in 3-point percentage (.393) and fifth in the country in points per game (86.0) and are 29-3 in their past 32 games after an 0-2 start. The Jayhawks are 7-8 in their past 15 games and banged up. Take Samford to advance. — Pat Pickens

Alabama (lose to Charleston in Round 1)

The Charleston Cougars come into the tournament on a hot streak, winning 12 in a row. This is a good spot for an upset vs Alabama because the Crimson Tide are vulnerable on defense, ranking 112th in the country.

Charleston does a good job crashing the glass, averaging the 18th-most offensive rebounds per game. That could be a problem for Alabama. — Frank Ammirante

NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player

Jamal Shead, G, Houston

The senior guard who averaged 13.1 points and 6.2 assists per game for the Cougars this season. Look for Shead’s experience to play a major factor in Houston’s tourney run this year. With the Cougars being my national champions pick, it makes sense to ride with one of their best options to win the Most Outstanding Player award. — Frank Ammirante

Shead won Big XII Player and Defensive Player of the year this season. If the Cougars cut down the nets in Glendale, he’ll be a huge reason why. — Pat Pickens

After filling out your bracket, keep up with the latest March Madness game odds:

Selection Sunday Bracketology Format

How NCAA Tournament Seeding Works

Once the 68 teams are decided, they begin to tediously seed each team from No. 1 - No. 68.

The committee does not have a set-in-stone algorithm or formula in its seeding, making it more of an art rather than a science. The committee will use a wide variety of factors including:

  • Overall and Conference Record
  • Box Scores
  • Head-to-Head and Common Opponent Results
  • Strength of Schedule
  • Player and Coach Availability (Injuries, Suspensions, etc.)
  • Computer Metrics (NET, RPI, KenPom, and more)

🖥️ Check out Kevin Davis’ March Madness simulation for insight on how to use computer metrics to make your bracket picks.

NET Rankings

In 2018, the NCAA sought to improve its tournament selection process. It landed on the NET rankings, an algorithm that combines the key factors of the selection committee into one ranking.

It ranks teams based on an algorithm — the exact metrics used are unknown but the two main data points used are:

  • Team Value Index — a model based on game results, the strength of an opponent, and the location of the game.
  • Net Offensive and Defensive Efficiency

Every D1 college basketball team — from No. 1 - No. 363 — is ranked in order. The rankings are then used in both the at-large selection and seeding process.

Although the NET is both a predictive and reactive model, it will often vary heavily from the CBB National Championship odds.

NET rankings are not the end-all-be-all for seeding and deciding who’s in and who’s out, but it has been a great tool for the committee in its first four years.

Quadrant Wins

All teams are arranged in four quadrants and receive wins and losses based on their opponents’ NET ranking and where the game is played:

  • Quadrant 1: Home games against teams ranked 1-30, neutral games vs top-50 teams, road games against top-75 teams
  • Quadrant 2: Home games against teams ranked 31-75, neutral games vs 51-100, road games vs 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home games against teams ranked 76-160, neutral games vs 101-200, road games vs 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home games against teams ranked 161-351, neutral games vs 201-351, road games vs 241-363

It is important to note that Quadrant records are fluid until the end of the Conference Tournaments and do not account for when the game is played, meaning No. 1 - No. 30 are the same value.

A Quadrant 2 win can become a Quadrant 1 win if that team goes on a winning streak, or a Quadrant 3 loss can become a Quadrant 4 loss if a team starts to struggle.

Author

Adam Kramer

Adam Kramer is an NFL, college football, and gambling analyst for The Game Day. While college football has long been his calling, he’s also covered sports such as boxing, horse racing, and baseball at The Game Day and in other places. He’s also written for Bleacher Report, VSiN, and various other outlets over the past decade-plus.

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