2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (2024)

  • 2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (1)

    Keith Lipscomb, ESPN.comMar 17, 2024, 07:55 PM ET

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      Keith Lipscomb is a senior editor for ESPN Fantasy Games.

Welcome to March Madness. As you prepare to fill out your 2024 men's NCAA tournament brackets -- might I suggest ESPN Tournament Challenge, where you can submit up to 25? -- we have a boatload of facts and trends for you to sink your teeth into.

It's been such an exciting season, one in which we saw top-10 teams lose to unranked opponents at a record rate. Now that the Big Dance is here, why should we expect the upsets to stop?

The usual disclaimer applies: This column is designed to inform and entertain, not to predict. You will hear from many ESPN personalities throughout the week, but this piece is all about historical nuggets we hope you will find interesting.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats referenced are since 1985 (also called the "modern era" throughout the column). In addition, any historical reference to the "first round" relates to the round of 64, and "second round" to the round of 32. The First Four stands on its own to avoid confusion. Lastly, all results mentioned ignore any subsequent vacating by the NCAA. For example, we consider Louisville the winner of the 2013 national championship game, even though its appearance has been vacated.

(Mostly) seed-related trends

First Four

1. In 11 of the 12 tournaments when the First Four has existed, at least one of its participants has advanced to the second round.

  • Two have advanced to the Final Four (UCLA in 2021 and VCU in 2011)

  • Three others reached the Sweet 16

  • 2023 marked the first time that two First Four participants reached the second round (11-seed Pittsburgh, 16-seed FDU)

First/second rounds

2. Not only has a No. 15 seed won a first-round game in three consecutive years for the first time, but all three went on to reach the Sweet 16 as well.

  • Princeton (2023), Saint Peter's (2022) and Oral Roberts (2021)

  • Saint Peter's took it a step further by advancing to the Elite Eight

  • No. 15 seeds are 11-141 in first-round games. Nine of those 11 winners finished in the top two in their conference standings

  • This year, South Dakota State (first in the Summit League) is the only 15-seed that finished in the top two in its conference

3. In the past five tourneys, 14 of the 20 matchups between No. 4 and No. 13 seeds were decided by single digits, the most of any first-round seed pairing.

  • Surprisingly, only seven of the 20 matchups between 8- and 9-seeds were single-digit games

  • No. 13 seeds have won at least one game in 27 of 38 tournaments

4. At least one top-4 seed has lost in the first round in 14 of the past 15 tournaments.

  • Last year, there were three top-4 seeds ousted in their first game: No. 1 Purdue (by FDU), No. 2 Arizona (by Princeton) and No. 4 Virginia (by Furman)

5. At least one No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed in 32 of 38 tournaments, but this once "sure thing" is trending downward.

  • 12-seeds failed to win a game just three times in the first 30 years of the modern era, but have come up empty in three of the past eight tournaments (2015, 2018, 2023)

6. Second-round trend: No. 3 seeds suddenly feasting on No. 6 seeds

  • Since 2008, No. 3 seeds are 22-5 against 6-seeds

  • From 1985 to 2007, No. 3s were 26-25 against No. 6s

Sweet 16

7. A double-digit seed has advanced to the Sweet 16 in 15 straight tournaments and 36 of 38 overall.

  • Last year, 15th-seeded Princeton was the only double-digit seed to reach the second weekend

  • Four teams seeded 10th or worse reached the Sweet 16 in both 2021 and 2022

8. No. 11 seeds have played the Cinderella role well recently.

  • At least one 11-seed has made the Sweet 16 in seven of the past nine tournaments

  • We've seen multiple 11-seeds make it to the second weekend in five of the past 12 tourneys

  • 11-seeds were absent from last year's Sweet 16. The last time we had consecutive Sweet 16s without an 11-seed present was 15 years ago

9. In the 68-team era (since 2011), there have been just as many No. 15 seeds to reach the Sweet 16 as No. 12s (four).

10. All four No. 2 seeds have reached the Sweet 16 just twice in the past 26 tournaments.

Elite Eight

11. At least two teams seeded No. 6 or worse have reached the Elite Eight in each of the past three tournaments (and six of the past seven).

12. Last year marked the first time an Elite Eight did not have at least one No. 1 seed present.

  • All four No. 1 seeds reached the Elite Eight just once in the past 13 tourneys (2016)

Final Four

13. There were zero No. 1 seeds in last year's Final Four, ending a streak of 10 straight tourneys with at least one.

  • Either one or two No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four in 30 of 38 tournaments (79%)

  • Only once have all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four (2008)

14. At least one team seeded seventh or worse has reached the Final Four in nine of the past 10 tourneys.

  • By comparison, in the first 32 years of seeding (1979-2010), this happened only eight times total

  • Each of the past 13 tournaments has had at least one team seeded No. 4 or worse reach the Final Four

15. It's been 32 years since a No. 6 seed made the Final Four, by far the longest drought among seeds that have a Final Four appearance.

  • In all, three 6-seeds have reached the Final Four: Michigan (1992), Kansas (1988) and Providence (1987)

16. Bad news for Iowa State? Of the 36 teams that were seeded in the top two and in the AP top 10 after entering the season unranked, none reached the Final Four.

  • Both teams that fit these criteria last season lost during the first weekend (No. 1 Purdue lost to FDU in the first round, No. 2 Marquette lost to Michigan State in the second round)

  • Iowa State received no votes in the preseason poll, but earned a No. 2 seed and is ranked fourth

  • Early-exit alert: 15 of the 23 No. 2 seeds to meet these criteria lost in the first or second round

Championship game

17. There has not been a repeat champion since Florida in 2007. Since then, no defending champ has advanced past the Sweet 16.

  • Only four of the 15 defending champs since then even reached the Sweet 16 ... and four others missed the tournament altogether

  • Defending champs have lost in the first or second round in each of the past six tournaments, three of which were No. 1 seeds: Kansas (2023), Baylor (2022) and Villanova (2017)

  • This is the third straight year the defending champion (UConn) is a No. 1 seed

18. No team has ever won a national championship after losing its first game in the conference tournament.

  • Tennessee (No. 2), Creighton (3), Kentucky (3), Duke (4), Kansas (4) and Alabama (4) are the highest-seeded teams to lose their conference tourney opener this year

19. Since 2002, when KenPom began tracking it, 20 of 21 national champions have finished top 25 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

  • The only exception is UConn in 2014 (39th on offense, 10th on defense)

  • UConn, Purdue, Arizona, Auburn, Houston, Creighton, Marquette and North Carolina currently meet these criteria entering this year's tourney

  • Duke and Tennessee are very close to qualifying as well, so they could easily do so by the end of the tournament

20. Twelve of the past 16 champions were 1-seeds. But it has been 11 years since the last time the overall No. 1 seed won the title (Louisville in 2013).

  • Eight of the 19 previous overall No. 1s lost in the Sweet 16 or earlier, including each of the past two years (Alabama in 2023, Gonzaga in 2022)

  • They have been more likely to lose during the first weekend (four) than to be champions (three)

  • This year's overall No. 1 seed is defending champion UConn

21. A No. 2 seed has reached the championship game just once in the past 10 tournaments.

  • Villanova won in 2016 as a 2-seed

  • The current six-tournament drought without a title game appearance is the longest ever

  • There has never been a matchup of No. 2 seeds in the championship game

22. A No. 5 seed has never won a championship, the only seed in the top 8 that hasn't done so.

  • Last year, a pair of 5-seeds made the Final Four in the same tourney for the first time

  • San Diego State became just the fourth No. 5 seed to reach the title game, joining Butler (2010), Indiana (2002) and Florida (2000)

  • This year's No. 5s are: San Diego State, Saint Mary's, Wisconsin and Gonzaga

23. It's been 34 years since a champion came from a conference that received fewer than four bids.

  • UNLV in 1990 (three-bid Big West Conference) and Louisville in 1986 (three-bid Metro Conference) are the only schools to do so in the modern tournament era

  • This year, UConn, Marquette and Creighton - all top-3 seeds and the only Big East representatives -- are the highest-seeded teams looking to end this streak. Both WCC reps, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's, are No. 5 seeds.

Conferences

The trends below range from positive to negative to just plain interesting, so the conferences are listed alphabetically to make them easier for you to find your favorite leagues.

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (2)24. ACC has had at least one team reach the Elite Eight in 34 of 38 tournaments.

  • Multiple Sweet 16 teams in 32 of 38

  • At least one Final Four team in 26 of 38

  • At least one team in the title game in 18 of 38

  • While this is the first time an ACC team earned a No. 1 seed since 2019, the league has had eight teams reach the Final Four in the past eight tourneys

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (3)25. Big 12 has had a team reach the title game in three of the past four tournaments, including champions in 2021 (Baylor) and 2022 (Kansas).

  • Conference teams are 21-5 in the first round of the past four tournaments (best win percentage of any conference)

  • Big 12 teams seeded eighth or worse are 5-1 in the first round in that span

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (4)26. Big Ten hasn't won a national title since 2000.

  • Just four Big Ten teams have reached the Sweet 16 in the past three years (fewest in a three-year span since 1996-98) and none have made the Final Four

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (5)27. Coastal Athletic Association has not won a first-round game since VCU left the league after the 2012 season.

  • Four of the past five CAA teams to earn a 12- or 13-seed have lost by single digits in the first round (Charleston is a No. 13 seed)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (6)28. Mountain West finally got past the Sweet 16 last year but still has demons to exorcise.

  • Last year, San Diego State became the first Mountain West team to get past the Sweet 16, advancing to the title game

  • However, MW teams are 2-12 in the first round in the past seven tournaments

  • Mountain West teams seeded 10th or worse are 1-26 all time (including 0-4 in the First Four), with the only win coming in 2002

  • While the conference received its most bids ever this year with six, four teams were seeded 10th or worse (Nevada, Boise State, Colorado State and New Mexico)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (7)29. It's been 27 years since the Pac-12 had a national champion ... and this is its final chance.

  • The last time it had a team in the championship game was 2006

  • Just two Pac-12 teams in the past 15 years have reached the Final Four

  • The conference hasn't had a team advance past the Sweet 16 in four of the past five tournaments

  • This is the sixth time in the past seven tourneys the Pac-12 has received four or fewer bids

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (8)30. Since 2016, none of the 17 SEC teams to earn a top-4 seed have reached the Final Four.

  • The only two SEC teams to advance to the Final Four since 2016 were seeded No. 5 (Auburn in 2019) and No. 7 (South Carolina in 2017)

  • The last SEC team to reach the title game was 8-seed Kentucky in 2014

  • Tennessee (2), Kentucky (3), Auburn (4) and Alabama (4) are top-4 seeds this year

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (9)31. The Southern Conference is looking to win an NCAA tournament game in consecutive years for the first time in 47 years.

  • The last time it happened was when VMI won two games in 1976 and one more in 1977

  • Last year, 13th-seeded Furman upset Virginia in the first round

  • This year, 13th-seeded Samford represents the conference and faces Kansas on Thursday

  • SoCon teams are 5-33 in the first round in the modern era. Three of those wins were by teams seeded 11th or worse (Furman in 2023, Chattanooga in 1997, East Tennessee State in 1992)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (10)32. The past three Sun Belt Conference teams to earn a 12-seed won their first-round games.

  • James Madison is this year's Sun Belt rep and earned a No. 12 seed. The Dukes will face Wisconsin in the first round.

Teams/coaches

We'd like to provide a note for every team in the Big Dance, but we had to narrow it down to those with the most interesting tidbits -- some positive, some negative. Like with the conferences above, we have listed them alphabetically.

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (11)33. Alabama

  • Alabama has not advanced past the Sweet 16 in five previous trips as a top-4 seed

  • In those appearances, the Crimson Tide are 9-1 in the first two rounds, but 0-4 in Sweet 16 games

  • Alabama has never reached the Final Four

  • Its only Elite Eight appearance was 20 years ago as a No. 8 seed

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (12)34. Arizona

  • Arizona has reached the Final Four just three of the 15 times it has been a top-2 seed

  • The Wildcats' last Final Four appearance came in 2001 (lost to Duke in title game)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (13)35. Auburn

  • 11-0 in first-round games in the modern era (no other school without a first-round loss has more than three wins)

  • In Bruce Pearl's four previous trips as coach of a top-4 seed (two each at Tennessee and Auburn), his teams have lost in the second round three times and the Sweet 16 once

  • The Tigers lost in the second round in their past two trips as a top-4 seed (2018, 2022)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (14)36. Baylor

  • This is Baylor's fourth straight year as a No. 3 seed or better

  • It's been "trick or treat" (but mostly "trick") in Baylor's past six trips as a top-5 seed: a championship in 2021, but also losses to teams at least three seeds lower in the other five years

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (15)37. Boise State

  • The Broncos have played the most NCAA tournament games without a win (0-9)

  • This is the first time Boise State has been to three straight NCAA tournaments

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (16)38. BYU

  • The Cougars have the most NCAA tournament appearances without reaching a Final Four (30)

  • BYU has won more than one game in a single tournament just once since its Elite Eight run in 1981

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (17)39. Clemson

  • 1-6 in first-round games since 1998

  • 12 of the Tigers' 13 all-time NCAA tournament losses have come by eight or fewer points

  • The only time Clemson has advanced past the Sweet 16 was in its first Big Dance appearance in 1980 (Elite Eight)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (18)40. Creighton

  • The Bluejays' best two NCAA tournament results in the modern era have come in the past three years (Elite Eight in 2023, Sweet 16 in 2021)

  • Last year's Sweet 16 win against Baylor was their first against a top-4 seed (1-8)

  • Creighton is a No. 3 seed, matching its highest in school history

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (19)41. Dayton

  • All four NCAA tournament games Anthony Grant has coached have been decided by one or two points, or in overtime (1-2 at VCU, 0-1 at Alabama)

  • It's the 10-year anniversary of Dayton's Elite Eight trip as an 11-seed in 2014, and the 40-year anniversary of its Elite Eight run as a 10-seed in 1984 (Grant was a freshman on that team)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (20)42. Duke

  • This is the first time Duke has been a 3-seed or worse in consecutive tournament appearances

  • This is the sixth time the Blue Devils are not a top-3 seed. In the previous five instances, they lost in the first or second round three times and lost in the Sweet 16 twice.

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (21)43. Florida

  • Has won eight straight first-round games dating back to 2011, four of which came as a 6-seed or worse

  • The Gators have made 11 trips to the Sweet 16, but only one as a No. 7 seed or worse

  • Florida is a 7-seed this year

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (22)44. Gonzaga

  • Has made the Sweet 16 in eight straight tournaments, the longest active streak

  • The Zags have won 14 straight first-round games

  • This is the lowest seed the Zags have earned since they were an 11-seed in 2016 (they reached the Sweet 16 that year)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (23)45. Houston

  • No. 1 seed in consecutive years for the first time in school history

  • Houston has reached four straight Sweet 16s and is seeking its first championship game appearance since 1984

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (24)46. Illinois

  • Hasn't advanced past the first weekend since 2005, when the Fighting Illini lost to North Carolina in the title game

  • They haven't defeated a team seeded better than No. 8 since then

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (25)47. Iowa State

  • The Cyclones' No. 2 seed ties for the best in school history

  • Iowa State's only Elite Eight appearance in the modern era came as a 2-seed in 2000

  • Iowa State has scored fewer than 60 points in all four NCAA tourney games under T.J. Otzelberger, and allowed 60 points just once

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (26)48. Kansas

  • All-time-best 34th consecutive tournament appearance and 23rd straight as a top-4 seed

  • Only third time in past 14 tourneys the Jayhawks aren't a top-2 seed

  • Each of the past four times the Jayhawks were not a No. 1 seed, they lost in the second round (7-6 overall in second-round games since 2010)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (27)49. Kentucky

  • The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight or deeper seven times in John Calipari's first 10 seasons in Lexington, but haven't advanced past the second round since 2019

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (28)50. Marquette

  • Won its first NCAA tournament game since 2013 last year as a No. 2 seed before being upset by Michigan State in the second round

  • Shaka Smart is 1-7 in his past seven tourney appearances (at VCU, Texas and Marquette) with four losses to double-digit seeds

  • The only win in that span came in last year's first round vs. 15th-seeded Vermont

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (29)51. Michigan State

  • Spartans are 13-1 in first-round games as a No. 9 seed or better since 2007

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (30)52. Mississippi State

  • Bulldogs are seeking their first NCAA tournament victory since 2008

  • Since their Final Four run in 1996, they have just four tourney wins (all in the first round)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (31)53. Nebraska

  • Cornhuskers are the only power conference school without an NCAA tournament win (0-7)

  • Only Boise State and Eastern Kentucky have played more tourney games without a win

  • This is the Huskers' second tourney appearance in the past 25 years

  • Since 2000, teams that were single-digit seeds and seeking their first NCAA tourney win are 5-2 in the first round

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (32)54. Nevada

  • Steve Alford made the Sweet 16 in his first tourney appearance as a head coach at Southwest Missouri State in 1999 by beating No. 5 and No. 4 seeds

  • In 11 tourney trips since -- with Iowa, New Mexico, UCLA and Nevada -- he has not defeated a team seeded better than No. 6

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (33)55. New Mexico

  • The Lobos have never won two straight NCAA tournament games

  • Richard Pitino's lone NCAA tournament victory as a head coach came as a No. 10 seed in 2019 when he was at Minnesota

  • New Mexico is an 11-seed this year

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (34)56. North Carolina
It's worth noting the extreme difference in success the Tar Heels have had as a No. 1 seed (which they are this year) compared with being a No. 2:

  • Since 1985, they have reached the Final Four nine of the 14 times they were a No. 1 seed, including four national championships

  • By contrast, they have just one Final Four appearance in seven trips as a No. 2 seed

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (35)57. Northwestern

  • Trying to become the third school since 1985 to win a first-round game in each of its first three NCAA tournament appearances (joining Seton Hall and Tulane)

  • In both previous appearances, the Wildcats lost by single digits to a top-2 seed in the second round

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (36)58. Purdue

  • No. 1 seed in consecutive years for the first time in school history

  • Seeking its first Final Four appearance since 1980 and its first trip to the title game since 1969

  • Purdue has lost to teams seeded 16th, 15th and 13th in the past three tournaments -- the only school ever to be eliminated by a team seeded 12th or worse three straight years

  • No school has more NCAA tournament appearances as a top-2 seed without reaching the Final Four than Purdue

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (37)59. Saint Mary's

  • Made three straight NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history

  • The Gaels have won more than one game in a single tournament just once (Sweet 16 in 2010)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (38)60. San Diego State

  • The Aztecs have 11 of the Mountain West's 27 all-time tournament victories (no other school has more than four)

  • As a top-5 seed, SDSU is 6-0 in the first two rounds, but 2-10 as a No. 6 seed or worse

  • San Diego State is a No. 5 seed this year, just as it was for last year's run to the title game

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (39)61. South Carolina

  • In their last tourney appearance in 2017, the Gameco*cks won four games as a No. 7 seed to reach the Final Four

  • Those are their only four NCAA tournament wins in the past 50 years

  • South Carolina is a No. 6 seed this year, its best since being a 3-seed in 1998 (when the Gameco*cks were upset in the first round by Richmond)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (40)62. TCU

  • Has reached the NCAA tournament three straight years for the first time in school history

  • The Horned Frogs have never won more than one game in a single NCAA tournament

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (41)63. Tennessee

  • Tennessee has the fourth-most NCAA tournament appearances without making the Final Four (25)

  • In eight previous trips as a top-4 seed in the modern era, the Vols are unbeaten in first-round games (8-0) but have never advanced past the Sweet 16

  • Last year's second-round win against Duke was Rick Barnes' first win against a single-digit seed since 2008 (when he led Texas to the Elite Eight)

  • In four of Barnes' five previous tournament appearances at Tennessee -- all as a 5-seed or better -- his teams have been eliminated by a No. 9, 11 or 12 seed

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (42)64. Texas Tech

  • The Red Raiders have advanced to at least the Sweet 16 in three of their past four appearances

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (43)65. UConn

  • First time as a No. 1 seed since 2009, when the Huskies reached the Final Four

  • UConn won its first outright Big East regular-season title since 1999, when it went on to win its first national championship. This year, the Huskies are seeking their sixth title.

  • In case you missed it above, the last time we had a repeat national champion is also the last time a defending champ advanced past the Sweet 16 (Florida in 2007)

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (44)66. Utah State

  • The Aggies are an 8-seed, tied for highest in school history

  • Since reaching the Elite Eight in 1970, the Aggies are 1-18 in the NCAA tournament with nine straight first-round losses

  • The one win came in overtime over Ohio State in 2001 as a No. 12 seed

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (45)67. Washington State

  • This is Washington State's first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008, when the Cougars reached the Sweet 16 under coach Tony Bennett<

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (46)68. Wisconsin

  • The past two times Wisconsin was a No. 5 seed, it lost by double digits to the No. 12 seed in the first round ('19 vs. Oregon, '13 vs. Ole Miss)

  • The Badgers reached the Sweet 16 six times in a seven-year span from 2011 to 2017, but haven't escaped the first weekend since

Special thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for its help.

2024 March Madness: 68 bracket facts for men's NCAA tourney (2024)

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