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    HomeSport2024 NCAA Tournament Bracket Watch: Tennessee claims a No. 1 seed, Baylor...

    2024 NCAA Tournament Bracket Watch: Tennessee claims a No. 1 seed, Baylor rises

    (Editor’s note: This is part of the Bracket Central Series, an inside look at the run-up to the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments, along with analysis and picks during the tournaments.)

    Bracket Watch HQ is also home to a 5-year-old, who has recently discovered a new favorite song. Which means we’ve been forced to listen to it on an endless Spotify loop:

    Yes, for those of you without children or an aversion to cartoons, that’s Reel 2 Real’s relentlessly dumb but inescapably catchy 1993 hit “I Like to Move It,” remade for the “Madagascar” movie franchise. You’re welcome for the earworm.

    It also reminds us that things are always changing and growing in unexpected ways. Take the NCAA Tournament, for example (segue alert!). Dana O’Neil reported this week that tournament expansion remains a very likely outcome, but the field would only grow by a modest four to eight teams. Perhaps we’ve reached the acceptance stage of our grief, but we can move forward with a few more play-in games if that’s what it takes to keep the barbarians at the gate.

    It’s also time for teams to make their moves in our latest mock bracket, now just nine days from Selection Sunday. Conference tournaments have begun, and the power conferences get going with their postseasons next week. Bubble teams making their final arguments, bid thieves emerging, top seeds coming into focus — move it!

    GO DEEPER

    Let the madness begin! Your guide to the early conference tournaments

    Just remember there’s never as much movement as you think or some will try to convince you is happening. The selection committee considers the entire season equally, and conference tournaments represent less than 10 percent of a team’s overall body of work. The hay isn’t just in the barn at this point; it’s mostly been baled (Does that metaphor work? We’ve never farmed). Perfect examples came in the past two SEC tournaments, where runs by Texas A&M (in 2022) and Vanderbilt (2023) had media members breathlessly tweeting and broadcasting that both teams had played their way into the field despite shaky resumes. Spoiler alert: They did not. Vandy wasn’t even particularly close.

    But teams are still making moves in these final days. Let’s take a look at some of the big changes in this week’s field:

    • Tennessee moves ahead of Arizona for the fourth No. 1 seed. This seems to be the consensus among most bracketologists, but it’s still not a slam dunk that the selection committee would go away from the Wildcats, whom they said were firmly on the top line during the Feb. 17 reveal. Consider these numbers, after Arizona beat UCLA by 23 points on the road Thursday night (RIP, Pac-12 Thursdays):

    Final No. 1 seed?

    Arizona Tennessee

    NET

    4

    5

    KenPom

    4

    5

    BPI

    4

    5

    KPI

    4

    3

    SOR

    10

    4

    Q1

    7-3

    8-5

    Q2

    7-2

    5-1

    Noncon SOS

    11

    16

    It’s very close! The Volunteers get the slight edge because of a marginally better road record (8-3 vs. 7-3), better results metrics (KPI and SOR), more Quad 1A wins (five to four) and no losses outside of the first two quads, while Arizona has a Q3 loss (at Oregon State). Plus, while not an official part of the selection process, winning a deep SEC should be viewed as more valuable than a shallow Pac-12. It’s all but a coin flip, though Tennessee will have more opportunities to bolster its resume, starting with a home game against Kentucky on Saturday. This swap doesn’t have a big practical impact on the Wildcats, who are still in the West Region as a No. 2 seed with a chance to play the second weekend in Los Angeles.

    And don’t count out North Carolina, which beat Tennessee head-to-head — especially if the Tar Heels beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday with the ACC title on the line. Kind of a big game, it sounds like.

    • Baylor moves to the No. 2 seed line, one spot ahead of Big 12 mate Iowa State. The Bears have come on strong, winning three straight Q1 games, including against Kansas at home, and own a head-to-head victory over Iowa State (in Waco). Marquette drops to the No. 3 line after back-to-back losses and, more critically, the oblique injury to All-America point guard Tyler Kolek, whose status for the postseason remains unknown.

    Kansas, with Kevin McCullar Jr. returned to the lineup, has a chance to move back to the No. 2 line with a good finish. And, hey, the Jayhawks are at Houston on Saturday. BYU also moves up to the No. 4 line. The Cougars have been metrics darlings all along and are now 9-9 in the first two quads, with a win in Allen Fieldhouse and no losses outside of the first two quads. The Big 12 tournament will feature more beasts than all the “Madagascar” movies.

    • The most fascinating moving days of any conference tournament will take place in the early rounds at Madison Square Garden. The Big East bubble continues to entertain and confound; this week, we have two teams from the league — Villanova and St. John’s, surging despite its lack of lateral quickness — in the First Four, with Seton Hall getting the final at-large bye. Providence is one of the first two teams out. Perhaps Dayton could step aside this year and just let MSG host an All-Big East First Four.

    • Now that many conference tournament brackets are set, we have moved to assigning AQ designations to the top remaining seed in each event. So, yes, Richmond gets the Atlantic 10 auto-bid in this latest edition, and South Florida remains in.

    • Bracket Watch will be back on Monday and moves to daily installments until Selection Sunday, including a final update right before the brackets are revealed if warranted. We’ll have much shorter intros (hey, you didn’t have to cheer that loudly!) and far less interaction in the comments with the madness in full swing. But for today, we’ll answer as many questions and gripes as we can. After all, we like to prove it, prove it.

    First Four Out Next Four Out Last Four In Last Four Byes

    New Mexico

    Wake Forest

    Villanova

    TCU

    Providence

    Colorado

    Virginia

    Michigan State

    Texas A&M

    James Madison

    St. John’s

    Florida Atlantic

    Iowa

    Pitt

    Drake

    Seton Hall

    Multi-bid conferences

    League Bids

    Big 12

    9

    SEC

    7

    Big East

    6

    Big Ten

    6

    Mountain West

    5

    ACC

    4

    Pac-12

    2

    A10

    2

    AAC

    2

    Missouri Valley

    2

    WCC

    2

    Seed list

    1

    Purdue

    AQ

    2

    UConn

    AQ

    3

    Houston

    AQ

    4

    Tennessee

    AQ

    5

    Arizona

    AQ

    6

    North Carolina

    AQ

    7

    Baylor

    8

    Iowa State

    9

    Kansas

    10

    Marquette

    11

    Duke

    12

    Creighton

    13

    Kentucky

    14

    Illinois

    15

    Alabama

    16

    BYU

    17

    Auburn

    18

    San Diego State

    19

    South Carolina

    20

    Clemson

    21

    Florida

    22

    Utah State

    AQ

    23

    Washington State

    24

    Saint Mary’s

    AQ

    25

    Wisconsin

    26

    Gonzaga

    27

    Dayton

    28

    Nevada

    29

    Boise State

    30

    Northwestern

    31

    Texas

    32

    Colorado State

    33

    Texas Tech

    34

    Nebraska

    35

    Mississippi State

    36

    Oklahoma

    37

    TCU

    38

    Michigan State

    39

    Florida Atlantic

    40

    Seton Hall

    41

    Indiana State

    AQ

    42

    Villanova

    43

    Virginia

    44

    St. John’s

    45

    Drake

    46

    Richmond

    AQ

    47

    South Florida

    AQ

    48

    Appalachian State

    AQ

    49

    Grand Canyon

    AQ

    50

    McNeese Sate

    AQ

    51

    Samford

    AQ

    52

    UC Irvine

    AQ

    53

    Princeton

    AQ

    54

    Akron

    AQ

    55

    Vermont

    AQ

    56

    High Point

    AQ

    57

    Charleston

    AQ

    58

    Eastern Washington

    AQ

    59

    Oakland

    AQ

    60

    Morehead State

    AQ

    61

    Colgate

    AQ

    62

    Sam Houston State

    AQ

    63

    Quinnipiac

    AQ

    64

    South Dakota State

    AQ

    65

    Stetson

    AQ

    66

    Merrimack

    AQ

    67

    Norfolk State

    AQ

    68

    Grambling

    AQ

    The Bracket Central series is part of a partnership with E*TRADE.

    The Athletic maintains full editorial independence. Partners have no control over or input into the reporting or editing process and do not review stories before publication.

    (Top photo of Tennessee’s Zakai Zeigler and Auburn’s Johni Broome: Wade Payne / AP) 

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