Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Dan Gartland

SI:AM | Analyzing the NCAA Tournament Brackets

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I’m genuinely impressed by the greatness of Connecticut’s college basketball teams. One of the smallest states in the nation has five teams going dancing this year: UConn men and women, Yale men, Sacred Heart women and Fairfield women.

In today’s SI:AM:

Expert March Madness picks

💔 Heartbreak on the PGA Tour

🏈 NFL free agency winners and losers

If you’re reading this on, click here to subscribe to receive SI:AM in your inbox every weekday.

The brackets are finally here

After a wild weekend of conference tournament action, the men’s and women’s NCAA tournament brackets are set. Let’s break them both down.

Men’s bubble teams got unlucky

Plenty of men’s teams are steaming this morning after being left out of the bracket. That includes Oklahoma, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and Indiana State. Part of the reason those teams got excluded was because there were several so-called “bid thieves” this year. Duquesne, NC State and Oregon all unexpectedly won their conference tournaments to earn spots in the field, effectively reducing the number of at-large bids by three.

But it wasn’t just that there were fewer available spots for bubble teams. The committee also made some puzzling decisions in filling those spots. The inclusion of Virginia is the biggest head scratcher. The Cavaliers are 54th in the NCAA’s NET rankings and 69th in KenPom. They have a 2–7 record against Quad 1 opponents. St. John’s, by comparison, is ranked 32nd in NET and 25th in KenPom. Indiana State, ranked 28th in NET, became the highest-ranked team in that metric to ever be left out of the tournament.

Questionable men’s seeds

The controversy doesn’t end there. The committee is also drawing plenty of criticism for the way it seeded the men’s bracket. Was Duquesne, which went 10–8 in a not-so-good A-10 really deserving of an 11-seed? Why was Iowa State, considered by many to be a contender for a No. 1 seed, placed as a No. 2 seed in the same region as No. 1 overall seed UConn? Did Michigan State, with a 19–14 overall record, deserve to be solidly in the field as a No. 9 seed?

The most intriguing trend with the seeding, though, was how the committee treated the Mountain West Conference. The league got six teams into the tournament, tied for the third most of any conference, but only San Diego State (No. 5 seed) was seeded higher than eighth. Two MWC teams—Colorado State and Boise State—were among the last four teams into the field. Nevada, ranked 34th in NET and 36th in KenPom with a 6–6 record in Quad 1 games, got a No. 10 seed. How can the committee decide that the MWC is good enough to get more teams into the field of 68 than the ACC (five), Pac-12 (four) and Big East (three), and not reward its teams with seedings more reflective of the league’s strength?

Caitlin Clark’s tough road to a title

Here’s the good news for Caitlin Clark and Iowa: The Hawkeyes are on the opposite side of the bracket from South Carolina, meaning a showdown against the undefeated juggernaut wouldn’t occur until the national title game. But here’s the bad news: Iowa’s region is totally stacked.

The No. 2 seed in the region is UCLA, which is ranked No. 6 in NET. The No. 3 seed is defending champion LSU. The No. 4 seed is Kansas State, which beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City in November. The No. 5 seed is Colorado, which burst on the scene with a season-opening win over LSU on a neutral court. At the risk of looking too far down the road, if Iowa can emerge out of that region, a potential matchup with USC looms in the Final Four. (That would be a great torch-passing moment between Clark and the incredible Trojans freshman JuJu Watkins.) Winning a national title is never easy, but it might be especially difficult for Iowa this year.

Two Ivy League teams in the women’s bracket

For the first time since 2016, the Ivy League is sending two teams to the women’s tournament. Princeton won the conference tournament in convincing fashion with a 75–58 win over Columbia (on the Lions’ home court), but Columbia is still going dancing. The Lions were the only Ivy League team to beat Princeton this season and played a difficult out-of-conference schedule that included three games against Big East teams and two against the SEC. They went 9–4 in non-conference games and were rewarded for challenging themselves by earning their first NCAA tournament bid in school history.

The best of Sports Illustrated

Bob Self/Florida Times-Union

The top five...

… things I saw yesterday:

5. The premature confetti drop at the A-10 championship game.

4. Matt Knowling’s layup at the buzzer to give Yale the Ivy League men’s championship.

3. Bam Adebayo’s deep three at the buzzer to beat the Pistons.

2. Wyndham Clark’s putt on the 18th hole that swirled around the cup before popping out, giving Scottie Scheffler the win at the Players Championship.

1. Kyrie Irving’s outrageous 21-foot, left-handed floater/hook shot over Nikola Jokić to beat the Nuggets.


Though it didn’t officially count because it came in a spring training game, which notable career first did MLB pitcher Jim Abbott (best known for having one hand) achieve on this day in 1991?

  • First home run
  • First hit (a triple)
  • First shutout
  • First stolen base

Friday’s SIQ: On March 15, 1974, San Francisco Giants pitcher Ron Bryant, who had led the majors with 24 wins the year before, was injured while at spring training in Arizona. He went on to post a 3–15 record that season. How did he get hurt?

  • Motorcycle crash
  • Swimming accident
  • Bitten by a dog
  • Slipping in the shower

Answer: Swimming accident.

“Bryant received 25 stitches along the right side of his body when he tumbled off a pool slide last night and hit the side of a hotel swimming pool before going into the water,” United Press International reported at the time.

Bryant was the Giants’ best starter in 1973, posting a 24–12 record and 3.54 ERA, and he was initially penciled in to be the Opening Day starter in ’74. The injury, though, kept him sidelined for the first three weeks of the regular season. In his first start back, he didn’t get out of the third inning, walking four of the 16 batters he faced and allowing five runs (two earned).

Bryant went on to have a terrible season, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen as he posted a 5.61 ERA. He was traded to the Cardinals early in the next season and pitched 10 games before being released, his MLB career over at the age of 27.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.