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NCAA Basketball Power Rankings Ahead of March Madness

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings Ahead of March Madness

Can you feel the madness setting in? March Madness, to be specific. We sure can! Which NCAA basketball hopefuls stand the best chance of going home with coveted NCAA championship title in this year’s March Madness? Or will one of these top dogs be sent home in one of the tournament’s famous upsets?

Let’s find out. Here’s where the top seeded teams stand across a variety of predictions and power rankings as we once again enter one of the year’s biggest sporting events. Plus, if you’re new to the festivities, we’ll explain how March Madness works.

And now that the NCAA tournament is in full swing, we can look back at these power rankings to see how they’ve held up. Keep reading for more info on the big wins and even bigger losses we’ve seen so far. 

Catch every heart-pounding moment of March Madness on DIRECTV.

What is March Madness?

March Madness is the popular name for the NCAA’s Division I basketball tournament. It’s a single elimination tournament involving 68 college basketball teams, 32 of which are the champions from each of the Division I conferences while the remaining 36 are selected by a committee and awarded “at-large” berths.

How Does March Madness Work?

The tournament is conducted across three weekends in March and April and consists of seven rounds, each named for the number of number of teams remaining in competition at the beginning of the round:

First Week

These take place March 19-24.

The First Four: This round involves eight teams: the 4 lowest seeded teams and the 4 lowest-ranked at-large teams. They play each other in a seeded vs. seeded, at-large vs. at-large format, with the winners earning a spot in the Round of 64.

The First Round: 64 teams remaining.

The Second Round: 32 teams remaining.

Second Week

You can watch these matchups March 23-31.

Sweet Sixteen: 16 teams remaining.

Elite Eight: Eight teams remaining.

Third Week

The final games of the tournament will be played from April 6-8.

Final Four: 4 teams remaining.

Championship Game: Winners of the Final Four play each other for the NCAA championship.

When Does March Madness Start?

March Madness kicks off with Selection Sunday on March 17, 2024. The event starts at 8 p.m. on ESPN (Channel 206).

2024 NCAA March Madness Final Four LogoAnd here are the dates for the rest of the tournament:

First Four: March 19 – 20

First Round: March 21 – 22

Second Round: March 23 – 24

Sweet Sixteen: March 28-29

Elite Eight: March 30 – 31

Final Four and Championship Game: April 6 – 8

NCAA Basketball March Madness Power Rankings

So, which NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball teams have the highest chance of taking the top spot? Let’s take a look at the top 15 from each tournament:

Men’s

Wondering how the power rankings below have held up? Before looking at how things have actually played out in the first week of March Madness, let’s look at the top picks for those who created March Madness brackets:

  1. UConn, 24.7%
  2. Houston, 13.6%
  3. Purdue, 10.1%

Turns out, the top fan picks aligned with our March Madness power rankings listed below. But how did those picks pan out in the real world? After all, we know March Madness is famous for upsets…

Leading up to the Sweet 16, all three top contenders are still in the running for the coveted championship. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen some serious upsets that have thrown off thousands of brackets in the last week. 

Some of the biggest, and most surprising upsets include:

East

  • Yale (13) defeated Auburn (4) in the first round 78-76
  • Duquesne (11) defeated BYU (6) in the first round 71-67

West

  • Grand Canyon (12) defeated Saint Mary’s (5) in the first round 75-66
  • Clemson (6) defeated Baylor (3) in the second round 72-64

South

  • James Madison (12) defeated Wisconsin (5) in the first round 72-61
  • NC State (11) defeated Texas Tech (6) in the first round 80-67
  • Oakland (14) defeated University of Kentucky (3) in the first round 80-76
  • Colorado (10) defeated University of Florida (7) in the first round 102-100

Midwest

  • Oregon (11) defeated South Carolina (6) in the first round 87-73

Here are the top-ranked teams for the men’s tournament:

The Top Three

It’s tough to choose between the top three teams competing in March Madness to award one the top spot on this list. UConn is the defending champ, and Perdue has arguably the best player on the court rostered, but the consensus seems to point to …

1. Houston (25-3)

Houston is simply a juggernaut, and they’re the team to beat for the championship this year. Standing at 25-3, they’re the top ranked in overall NCAA standings, and they’ve only lost 17 games over the last four years while posting 117 Ws over same period. ESPN has them at a 30.5% chance to take the title, far higher than any other team.

But then again … March Madness is known for its upsets.

2. UConn (25-3)

The Huskies are howling for another national championship, and their 25-3 record places them right next to Houston and Purdue in the overall rankings. The team is heavily favored to pull off back-to-back wins this year. If they do, it’d be the first time since 2007 that a team has accomplished that feat.

3. Purdue (25-3)

Also standing at 25-3, the Boilermakers are poised to make a strong run at the title, and they’ve got a national player of the year on their side in 7-foot-4 Zach Edey.

Four More in the Fight

4. Arizona (22-6)

The Arizona Wildcats are right at the edge of cracking into the top three on this list, standing at the top of the Pac-12 and bookending a loss to WA State between their current two-win streak and a six-win tear as they hunt for their first NCAA title since 1997.

5. Tennessee (22-6)

The Tennessee Volunteers have never claimed an NCAA title, but this could be their year. They boast a top-tier offense led by Dalton Knecht, Zakai Ziegler and Jonas Aidoo.

6. Kansas (20-7)

With four NCAA championships (most recently over North Carolina in 2022) and the third most all-time March Madness appearances, Kansas is a perennial contender and has a good chance at claiming the title this year. But, they’ve recently been reeling from the loss of star Kevin McCullar, Jr. to injury. Depth is a problem for the Jayhawks.

7. Marquette (22-6)

Marquette hasn’t had a chance to cut the nets since 1977, when Al McGuire led them to victory in his final season as head coach, but they’re also close to the top of the pack of this year’s March Madness hopefuls.

The Third Tier

8. Kentucky (20-8)

9. Iowa State (22-6)

10. Baylor (19-8)

11. Alabama (20-8)

12. North Carolina (22-6)

13. Duke (22-6)

14. Illinois (21-7)

15. Creighton (21-8)

Women’s

Since 1982, the NCAA has held a women’s basketball counterpart to the men’s tournament: the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball tournament. The two tournaments follow the same selection process and run concurrently, for the most part.

Here’s a look which teams currently top the standings for Women’s March Madness:

1. South Carolina (27-0)

2. Ohio State (24-3)

3. Texas (26-3)

4. Virginia Tech (23-4)

5. LSU (24-4)

6. Iowa (24-4)

7. USC (21-5)

8. Stanford (24-4)

9. UConn (24-5)

10. UCLA (23-3)

History of March Madness

March Madness was the brainchild of Ohio State coach Harold Olsen and was first held in 1939, with Oregon taking the title. In the early years, only eight teams played. After some teams protested being locked out of the tournament, the field expanded in 1950 to 16 teams.

The tournament became the most prominent college basketball tournament in the country by the 1970s, and continued to expand the field through the years until it reached the current 68 team format. The 70s were also when seeding was implemented.

At the conclusion of the championship game, the winning team’s players and coach famously and ceremoniously cut down the nets while the tournament’s official anthem, One Shining Moment, plays.

The tournament was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was held in a modified format in 2021.

Watch NCAA College Basketball and March Madness on DIRECTV

Don’t miss a moment of March Madness and the rest of the NCAA college basketball season. Catch all the action on DIRECTV.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the 2024 Men's March Madness Tournament?

The Men's NCAA March Madness Tournament kicks off on Sunday, March 17, 2024, with Selection Sunday. The final matchup with be on April 8.

When is the 2024 Women's March Madness Tournament?

The Women's NCAA March Madness Tournament kicks off on Sunday, March 17, 2024, with Selection Sunday. The final matchup with be on April 7 at 3 p.m. ET.

Which teams are predicted to make it all the way in the March Madness Tournament?

For the Men's Tournament, experts are watching Houston, UConn & Purdue. As for the Women's Tournament, South Carolina, Ohio State & Texas are expected to perform well.

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