March Madness First Weekend Predictions

NCAA March Madness logo | Image by Steph Chambers / Staff/Getty Images

The 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament holds its first and second rounds nationwide this weekend.

The Tournament has been known to create chaos during its annual three-week run as teams surprise the country with upsets and play deep into the Tournament.

Here are The Dallas Express’ predictions on what will happen in the games during the first weekend.

1. UConn will be the only team from last year’s Final Four to reach the Sweet 16.

This year, the NCAA did a unique thing, putting the three teams returning to the NCAA Tournament from last season’s Final Four in the same region. Because of that, the defending national champion, No.1 seed UConn, may have to play No.8 seed Florida Atlantic in the second round.

No.5 seed San Diego State, the third team from last year’s Final Four, would need to get by No.12 UAB and a very good Auburn team to set up a rematch with UConn the following weekend, which seems unlikely to happen.

2. Drake, Grand Canyon, New Mexico, James Madison, and North Carolina State will come up with first-round upsets.

Picking upsets is one of the most enjoyable yet challenging things about filling out a bracket, and these are a few teams (among others) who have a good chance to do it in the First Round.

Drake has a good enough team to pull off the upset after doing so against Indiana State in their conference tournament, and New Mexico is one of the hottest teams in the country after stealing a bid in the Mountain West Tournament. Grand Canyon averages almost 80 points per game, has 29 wins on the year, and gets to open against a fellow mid-major in Saint Mary’s.

James Madison is a No.12 seed but went 31-3 this year, while North Carolina State is also on a big winning streak and has the size to give Texas Tech fits.

3. A No.1 seed will struggle but not lose in the First Round.

Only two No.1 seeds have ever lost in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, which has never happened in back-to-back seasons. However, several teams have struggled with their first-round opponents as No.1 seeds over the course of the Tournament’s history but survived with late-game runs. It seems like it happens at least once a year, so it makes sense that it would happen again.

4. Purdue will reach the second weekend of the Tournament.

The Boilermakers have not made it out of the First Round in two of its last three trips, even losing as a No.1 seed last season. While Purdue doesn’t have a great March track record under head coach Matt Painter, it appears to have enough of an advantage on the court to win at least its first two games this time.

5. The Big 12 will send four schools to the Sweet 16.

The biggest challenge to this will be Kansas, which will be without leading scorer Kevin McCullar Jr. for the entire Tournament. The Jayhawks have struggled more this season than most, yet still have a pretty clear path to the Sweet 16.

Baylor also has a pretty easy path, while Iowa State and Houston should be favored all weekend.

6. Only two teams from Texas will reach the Sweet 16.

The state starts the Tournament with six teams in the field, but most are lower seeds and have more difficult paths.

In the South Region, which will play its Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups in Dallas at the American Airlines Center, only one of Houston or Texas A&M can reach the Sweet 16 because they would have to pay each other to get there. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is a popular pick to get upset in the first round by North Carolina State, and the Red Raiders would likely have to face a red-hot Kentucky team in the second round if they were to escape the Wolfpack.

In the Midwest, TCU could beat Utah State, but a second-round matchup with No.1 seed Purdue and the 7-foot-4 Zach Edey does not bode well for the Horned Frogs. Texas also has a difficult path that would force it to take on a really good Tennessee team to get to the Sweet 16.

As mentioned above, Baylor also has a favorable path to the Sweet 16 with just No.14 seed Colgate and No.6 seed Clemson or No.11 seed New Mexico in its way.

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