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2024 March Madness bracket: What to know about every team in the South region

[Regional Breakdowns: South | East | Midwest | West]

With the field for the 2024 men’s NCAA tournament now official, we’re breaking down each team in the bracket in the lead-up to March Madness. Here’s what you need to know about the South region.

No. 1 Houston (+600)

  • 30-4, at-large

As usual, Houston enters NCAA tournament play with a dominant defense. The Cougars rank second in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency after ranking in the top 10 in the metric in each of the previous four seasons.

Houston allowed an NCAA-best 57 points per game and held 10 opponents to fewer than 50 points en route to a 30-4 record and first-place finish in the Big 12, the nation's toughest conference. This is Kelvin Sampson's brand of basketball.

LJ Cryer, right, and Big 12 Player of the Year Jamal Shead hope to lead Houston to its first NCAA championship. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

Senior guard Jamal Shead gets it done on both ends and is a First-Team All-America candidate. The Big 12 Player of the Year averages 13.1 points, 6.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. Senior guard L.J. Cryer and senior forward J’Wan Roberts joined Shead with All Big-12 honors. This is a veteran team with extensive NCAA tournament experience.

But what about that dud in the Big 12 championship? The Cougars shot 26.8% from the floor in a 69-41 loss to Iowa State on Saturday that raises significant flags about their ability to win six consecutive tournament games.

No. 2 Marquette +2500

  • 25-9, at-large

Marquette's tournament story is all about Tyler Kolek. The 2023 Big East Player of the Year and unanimous 2024 All-Big East selection is one of college basketball's most dynamic offensive weapons, the type of player who can lead a deep run in NCAA play. But his status for Friday's opener against Western Kentucky is unclear.

Kolek has missed six straight games with an oblique injury, a stretch that saw Marquette go 3-3 with two losses to No. 1 overall seed Connecticut and another to No. 3 seed Creighton. Head coach Shaka Smart has said repeatedly that he expects Kolek to be ready for tournament play. We won't know truly about his condition until he's back on the court for the first time since Feb. 28.

If healthy, he's a difference maker who averages 15 points, an NCAA-best 7.6 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. He shoots 48.6% from the floor and 40% from 3-point distance on a team that ranks in the top 21 in KenPom's offensive and defensive efficiency ratings.

No. 3 Kentucky +2500

  • 23-9, at-large

Kentucky is loaded again with young talent capable of making a deep NCAA tournament run. That potential, of course, doesn't guarantee success, as Kentucky has so aptly demonstrated in recent years. John Calipari hasn't coached a team to the second weekend of NCAA play since 2019, a span that includes missing the 2021 tournament and bowing out to No. 15 seed Saint Peter's in the first round in 2022 in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.

The heat is on John Calipari. Can Reed Sheppard help him out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament? (Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The heat is on John Calipari. Can Reed Sheppard help him out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament? (Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The pressure is as high on Calipari as it has ever been. He has the talent to relieve it. Kentucky boasts a pair of projected NBA lottery picks in freshman guards Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard. There's leadership in All-SEC senior Antonio Reeves, who leads the team with 20 points per game.

Kentucky boasts wins over No. 1 seed North Carolina, No. 2 seed Tennessee and No. 4 seeds Auburn and Alabama. Anything short of the Sweet 16 will be a massive disappointment, and even that won't satisfy the Kentucky faithful.

No. 4 Duke +3000

  • 24-8, at-large

Duke is not entering the NCAA tournament at its best. The once seventh-ranked Blue Devils finished their season with three losses in their last six games. They fell upset to Wake Forest on Feb. 24 and then concluded their regular season at home with a sweep at the hands of rival North Carolina. North Carolina State then knocked them out of their first game in the ACC tournament.

The metrics suggest that Duke is better than this and a threat to outplay its No. 4 seed. Duke ranks eighth in KenPom ratings, buoyed by its seventh-best adjusted offensive efficiency. The talent is there. Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski is a projected first-round draft pick in the NBA and is joined by senior guard Jeremy Roach as an All-ACC selection. Freshman guard Jared McCain was second in ACC Rookie of the Year voting.

The spotlight now moves to Jon Scheyer, who seeks to avoid a first-weekend tournament exit for the second time in two seasons as head coach after replacing his mentor and legend Mike Krzyzewski.

No. 5 Wisconsin +8000

  • 22-13, at-large

Wisconsin is back in the NCAA tournament following a one-year absence thanks to a fifth-place finish in a tough Big Ten. The Badgers outplayed their seed in the Big Ten tournament with a semifinal win over NCAA No. 1 seed Purdue before losing a 93-87 thriller to Illinois in the title game.

Led by All-Big Ten guard AJ Storr, this is a team that can put up points in bunches. Wisconsin ranks 13th in KenPom's adjusted offensive rating. Storr is the team's leading scorer, averaging 16.9 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 32.7% on 4.2 3-point attempts per game. The Badgers are looking to advance out of the first weekend for the first time since Greg Gard's first full season as head coach produced a Sweet 16 trip in 2017.

No. 6 Texas Tech +10000

  • 23-10, at-large

Texas Tech is back in the NCAA tournament following a one-year absence and the 2023 dismissal of head coach Mark Adams for off-court issues. The helm now belongs to first-year head coach Grant McCasland, who's off to a good start in leading the Red Raiders to a No. 6 seed out of the nation's toughest conference.

Texas Tech is led by a pair of All-Big 12 third-team selections in sophomore guards Pop Isaacs (19.4 points, 4.3 assists, four rebounds per game) and Darrion Williams (11.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game). Texas Tech boasts wins this season over fellow tournament teams Baylor, Kansas, BYU and Texas. Williams is dealing with an ankle injury suffered in the Big 12 tournament. His status for Thursday against NC State is unclear, but McCasland said Sunday that his condition is improving.

No. 7 Florida +5000

  • 24-11, at-large

After a two-season absence, Florida is back in the NCAA tournament under second-year head coach Todd Golden. The Gators finished sixth in the SEC and advanced to the conference championship game with wins over fellow NCAA tournament teams Alabama and Texas A&M before losing to Auburn.

The Gators are an unbalanced team. They rank 14th in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency and 83rd on defense. They rank sixth in the NCAA with 85.1 points per game and promise to play in high-scoring contests as long as they're in the tournament. All-SEC selections Zyon Pullin (15.6 points, 4.9 assists, 4 rebounds per game; 44.7% from 3-point distance) and Walter Clayton Jr. (17.1 points, 3.6 rebounds per game; 36.3% from 3-point distance) lead the way.

Florida will play without starting center Micah Handlogten (5.3 points, 6.9 rebounds per game), who fractured his left leg in Sunday's SEC championship game.

No. 8 Nebraska +15000

  • 23-10, at-large

This is unfamiliar territory. Nebraska is back in the tournament for the first time since 2014 and just the second time since 1998. The Cornhuskers got there courtesy of a third-place finish in the Big Ten that included notable wins over Wisconsin and Midwest No. 1 seed Purdue. Nebraska blew out the Boilermakers at home, 88-72, on Jan. 9 in a game that saw it limit presumptive National Player of the Year Zach Edey to 15 points and seven rebounds.

Keisei Tominaga and head coach Fred Hoiberg have led Nebraska to just their second NCAA tournament appearance since 1998. (Luke Hales/Getty Images)

The third-place conference finish earned head coach Fred Hoiberg Co-Coach of the Year honors. Guard Keisei Tominaga (14.9 points per game; 37.2% from 3-point distance) and Rienk Mast (12.5 points, 7.6 rebounds per game; 34.2% from 3-point distance) earned All-Big Ten honors.

No. 9 Texas A&M +20000

  • 20-14, at-large

Texas A&M finished seventh in the SEC and earned its way in thanks to wins over fellow tournament teams Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi State and Kentucky, which it beat twice.

Wade Taylor IV earned first-team All-SEC honors after averaging 18.9 points, four assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. The Aggies will count on Taylor and second-leading scorer Tyrece Radford (16 points, 6.1 rebounds per game) for the bulk of their offense. Nobody else on the team averages double-figures.

No. 10 Boise State +25000

  • 22-10, at-large

Boise State earned an at-large bid out of a loaded Mountain West that put six teams in the NCAA tournament. The Broncos finished in second place in the regular season then lost their first game of the conference tournament to eventual champion New Mexico.

First-team All-MWC forward Tyson Degenhart leads the Boise State attack with 17 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. Forward O’Mar Stanley earned second-team honors while averaging 13 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

or ...

No. 10 Colorado +25000

  • 24-10, at-large

It's not often that a No. 10 seed boasts a candidate for most talented player in his bracket. That's the case for Colorado freshman forward Cody Williams, a projected NBA lottery selection with a shot at becoming a top-three pick.

Williams has been limited this season by injuries to his wrist and face, and sits behind veterans in Colorado's scoring pecking order. He's a two-way player who averaged 12.6 points, 0.7 steals and 0.6 blocks while shooting 42.1% from 3-point distance this season. He's a breakout candidate to watch if the Buffaloes make it out of the First Four.

Junior guard KJ Simpson (19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists per game) and senior forward Tristan da Silva (15.8 points, 5.2 rebounds per game) are also potential future pros. As a team, the Buffaloes are dangerous on offense (25th in KenPom's adjust offensive efficiency) and capable on defense (42nd in adjusted defensive efficiency).

No. 11 NC State +20000

  • 22-14, ACC champion

NC State is one of the stories of conference championship week after vanquishing Tobacco Road rivals Duke and North Carolina en route to its first ACC tournament since its 1987 Jim Valvano heyday. The Wolfpack entered the tournament needing five wins in five days to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament and got there with Saturday's victory over the West region's top-seeded Tar Heels.

DJ Burns Jr. is ready for his star turn after leading NC State to wins over Duke and North Carolina en route to the ACC championship. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
DJ Burns Jr. is ready for his star turn after leading NC State to wins over Duke and North Carolina en route to the ACC championship. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Senior forward DJ Burns Jr. leveraged his 6-foot-9, 275-pound frame to bully UNC center Armando Bacot in the post in the conference title game and is a player to watch this tournament. Senior guard and Arizona State transfer DJ Horne averages 16.9 points and is a threat to fill up the points column on any given night. The Wolfpack have proven themselves as giant-beaters and are a threat to win multiple games as an 11 seed.

No. 12 James Madison +30000

  • 31-3, Sun Belt champion

James Madison made itself known in November with an opening-night stunner over then-No. 4 Michigan State in East Lansing. The Dukes followed up that statement with a 31-3 campaign and a Sun Belt championship. The win over Michigan State was no fluke. The NCAA bid is James Madison's first since 2013 and its second since 1994 with Lefty Driesell as head coach.

The Dukes boast multiple capable scorers led by Sun Belt Player of the Year Terrence Edwards Jr. Edwards averages 17.4 points and shoots 35.4% from 3-point distance. He dropped 25 points on Michigan State, including 11 in overtime. The Dukes will be a popular 12-5 upset pick over Wisconsin with good reason.

No. 13 Vermont +100000

  • 28-6, America East champion

Vermont finished 15-1 in the AEC regular season then swept the conference tournament to secure its third straight NCAA tournament bid. Head coach John Becker has led the Catamounts to six NCAA tournaments in 13 seasons.

All-AEC guard Shamir Bogues leads the Vermont attack with 11 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game.

No. 14 Oakland +100000

  • 23-11, Horizon League champion

Oakland won the Horizon league regular season with a 15-5 record then secured three straight wins in the conference tournament to win the league's automatic NCAA bid. The bid is the first for Oakland since 2011 and its fourth since transitioning to Division I in 1999. Head coach Greg Kampe has led the team since 1985 and is the longest-tenured active coach in men's college basketball.

Horizon League Player of the Year Trey Townsend leads the team with 16.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

No. 15 Western Kentucky +100000

  • 22-11, Conference USA champion

Western Kentucky is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013 thanks to a surprise run to the CUSA tournament title after an 8-8 third-place finish in the regular season. The Hilltoppers avoided the tournament's top two seeds Sam Houston and Louisiana Tech en route to the championship game, where No. 5 seed UTEP was the highest-seeded team they faced.

First-team All-CUSA selection Don McHenry leads the WKU effort with 15.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

No. 16 Longwood +200000

  • 21-13, Big South champion

Longwood is perhaps the NCAA tournament's least likely team after a 6-10 record produced a fifth-place finish in the Big South. But the Lancers won four straight games in the conference tournament with wins over top-two seeds High Point and UNC Asheville to claim the conference's automatic bid.

The program out of Farmville in central Virginia is making its second NCAA tournament appearance following up its 2022 debut. All-Big South selection Walyn Napper leads the way with 14.6 points, 4.6 assists and four rebounds per game.