73 ESPN experts weigh in on Final Four, national champ

After three days of poring over your bracket and obsessing about which top seeds will fall to Cinderella, tipoff for the 2024 men’s NCAA tournament is upon us. You’ve watched our experts debate which team will cut down the nets in Glendale, Arizona, on “Get Up,” “First Take” and “SportsCenter.” You’ve heard them discuss it on radio. You’ve read every word they’ve written. Now, let’s look at who ESPN’s experts believe will go on a run to remember.

We polled our men’s college basketball analysts, writers and commentators — the people who can take you as close to inside the game as possible without actually lacing up your sneakers — to give their final picks on the field.

Which team will win their region, and which will be the last one standing as the confetti falls on April 8 at State Farm Stadium? Some regions were crystal clear. Some were the manifestation of March Madness. The answers, according to 73 experts, could be below.


Huskies, beasts of the East

Defending champion UConn dominated on its path to winning the Big East regular-season and tournament championship, and everyone is expecting that success to continue. The Huskies were picked by an overwhelming 83% of votes to win the East Region.

That’s even higher than the public’s perception of Dan Hurley’s squad, as 53.6% of brackets entered into ESPN’s Tournament Challenge have the top overall seed taking the East crown.

Who do the remaining 17% of our experts think believe can overcome the Huskies? It’s a mix of 2-seed Iowa State (3 votes), 3-seed Illinois (4 votes) and 4-seed Auburn (5 votes).

The South has claws

If the East Region was nearly a landslide, the South Region is wide open. No. 1 seed Houston looks to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2021 — and 28 of our experts believe in the Cougars. No. 3 seed Kentucky comes in … dead even, with 28 votes, as well.

Our analysts were much closer in those picks than the public, for which 42.9% of brackets have Cougars emerging from the South as compared to a mere 17.5% for the Wildcats.

What about 2-seed Marquette? Shaka Smart’s group has a few supporters, with seven nods. Would this number change if Tyler Kolek hadn’t been injured and missed the Big East tournament?

Fourth-seeded Duke rounds out the teams getting multiple votes. Jon Scheyer’s second NCAA tournament in as many years at the helm will lead to at least a Final Four appearance, according to six panelists.

A handful smell an upset here, though. Hall of Fame coach and ACC Network analyst Jim Boeheim took 11-seed NC State, which enters the Big Dance on a ton of momentum after a historic five-wins-in-five-days run to capture the ACC tournament trophy and an automatic berth. And “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith is riding with 9-seed Texas A&M. A vote apiece also came for 7-seed Florida and 5-seed Wisconsin.

We didn’t ask our panelists when exactly 1-seed Purdue would fall in the Midwest Region. But two-thirds believe it will be before the Final Four.

Almost half of our 73 panelists, including Hall of Fame analyst Dick Vitale, are going with Rick Barnes’ 2-seed Tennessee, while 24 believe in the Boilermakers.

Purdue is looking to put last year’s historic disappointment behind it and follow the path Virginia walked in 2019, when the Cavaliers won the national championship after also losing to a 16-seed in the first round the previous year.

The 13 remaining panelists who voted for neither the Vols nor the Boilers went with 3-seed Creighton (6), 4-seed Kansas (4), 5-seed Gonzaga (1), 6-seed South Carolina (1) and 11-seed Oregon (1).

Among all Tournament Challenge participants, 27.1% have Purdue and Tennessee meeting in the Elite Eight.

High on the Heels in the West

The fourth 1-seed, North Carolina, was selected by our experts to emerge from a West Region that included a few surprises. Even a pair of former-Duke-teammates-turned-analysts, Carlos Boozer and Jay Williams, chose Hubert Davis’ squad.

The next most popular pick was second-seeded Arizona — led by former Tar Heel Caleb Love — as the Wildcats seek their first Final Four appearance since 2001. Can the Cats also end the 26-year national championship drought for the Pac-12? Twenty-four experts think they can at least win the regionals in Los Angeles.

No. 3 seed Baylor, which cut down the nets in 2021, has seven votes.

At Tournament Challenge, 38.1% of brackets have UNC reaching its record 22nd Final Four, while 29.2% have Arizona.

The desert champions

At the end of it all, though, we have a majority. Over 57% of our panelists are backing UConn to win the sport‘s first back-to-back national title since Florida did so in 2006 and 2007.

The next closest competitor? North Carolina will achieve the ultimate redemption — after falling in the national title game in 2022 and not even making the Dance in 2023 — and cut down the nets, according to our experts.

The Houston supporters number seven, and Tennessee, Purdue and Illinois get three top votes each. Two experts believe Arizona will win in its home state, and Kentucky and Auburn get one nod each.

But it’s clear: This is UConn’s tournament to lose.

See the full breakdown of our panelists’ votes below.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top