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2024 March Madness Preview: East Region

(Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog)

March Madness is finally upon us, so let’s take a look at the teams in the field of 68. Here is the East Region, headlined by the number one overall seed, the defending champion University of Connecticut Huskies.

(Courtesy of NCAA)

1) UConn Huskies

31-1 Big East Champions

UConn will look to defend its title after winning the National Championship last year, and it might just be the favorite to do so. The Huskies have no obvious weaknesses and five scorers who average double figures. Tristen Newton leads the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists, and Donavan Clingan is one of college basketball’s best rim protectors, averaging 7 rebounds and over 2 blocks per game. UConn will again be a tough out in the dance.


16) Stetson Hatters

22-12 Atlantic Sun Champions

Stetson is dancing for the first time in school history and has one of the most overlooked guard duos in the field. Stephan Swenson leads the Hatters in assists by a wide margin and hit two clutch threes in the final 30 seconds of the A-Sun semis. Jalen Blackmon has been their leading scorer all year, averaging 21.5 points per game, including a 43-point performance in the conference championship game.

8) Florida Atlantic Owls

25-8 AAC At-Large

With the transfer portal and NIL, it’s rare for a school like Florida Atlantic to return so much talent from a team that made the Final Four last year. But credit Dusty May, who returns 90% of last year’s Owls squad. However, FAU has found some struggles as of late, suffering a bad loss to 16-20 Temple in the AAC Tournament. Despite not quite finding the same rhythm that pushed the Owls to the Final Four a year ago, the trio of Johnell Davis, Vladislav Goldin, and Alijah Martin is one that nobody will want to face in the tournament.

9) Northwestern Wildcats

21-11 Big Ten At-Large

Chris Collins has Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years for the first time ever. Boo Buie has an argument for the best combo guard in the Big Ten, with 19 points and 5 assists per game. Northwestern, as a whole, is a great shooting team, ranking 5th in the country in 3-point percentage. However, the Wildcats’ best shooter, Ty Berry, has been out since early February and won’t return for the dance. Matthew Nicholson has been a great interior presence, but his injury status is uncertain as well.

5) San Diego State Aztecs

24-10 Mountain West At-Large

One year removed from their first-ever Final Four appearance, San Diego State looks poised to make another run deep into March. Jaedon Ledee has been the Aztecs’ best player all year but has especially been on a tear as of late. Ledee averaged 27 points and 10 rebounds in San Diego State’s three Mountain West Tournament games despite losing in the championship to New Mexico.

12) UAB Blazers

23-11 AAC Champions

UAB is another team that was able to sneak into the NCAA Tournament by getting hot at the right time, “stealing” a bid from a potential bubble team. The Blazers enter the dance, having won 5 in a row, in large part due to Yaxel Lendeborg. Not only did Lendeborg average a double-double throughout the year, but he tallied 8 games with 15 or more rebounds, including one 21-board outing. If Lendeborg can remain the same interior presence he has been all season, the Blazers will be a tough out.

4) Auburn Tigers

27-7 SEC Champions

Auburn is playing its best basketball of the year and will enter the dance having won its last six, including four wins against fellow teams in the field of 68. The Tigers won the SEC title in large part due to the production of Johni Broome. Broome achieved a double-double in two out of Auburn’s three SEC Tournament games. Auburn also ranks 7th in the nation in assists.


13) Yale Bulldogs

22-9 Ivy League Champions

Coming off a great ending to the Ivy League Championship game, Yale will compete in the tournament for the second time in three years. The Bulldogs have a very well-balanced attack led by Danny Wolf, who nearly averages a double-double. Yale also has August Mahoney, the Ivy League’s leader in true shooting percentage, and John Poulakidas, who had a team-high 18 points in the Ivy League Championship.

6) BYU Cougars

23-10 Big 12 At-Large

BYU was picked to finish 13th in the Big 12 preseason poll. However, they proved to be one of the most prolific scoring teams in college basketball, having never lost more than two in a row all year. The Cougars shoot from deep more than almost anybody and with good reason. Pretty much everyone in their regular rotation can shoot. Their most prolific scorer, Jaxson Robinson, mostly comes off the bench. Whoever they play should be ready to guard.

11) Duquesne Dukes

24-11 A-10 Champions

This year’s longest drought among teams that have made the dance, Duquesne is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977. Duquesne is in Pittsburgh, so it’s no surprise that they are a tough, defensive-minded team. In terms of offense, the Dukes only have 2 scorers averaging double-figures in Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark, but Duqesne’s coach, Keith Dambrot, knows a thing or 2 about coaching young guys. He was LeBron James’ high school coach.

3) Illinois Fighting Illini

26-8 Big Ten Champions

In Terrence Shannon, the Illini have one of the hottest players in the entire tournament. Shannon averaged 34 points in Illinois’ three Big Ten Tournament games. In addition to Shannon, Illinois also has Marcus Domask, who can score, pass, and rebound. Shannon and Domask are probably the Illini’s two most skilled players but don’t count out that Illinois is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, especially Coleman Hawkins and Quincy Guerrier.

14) Morehead State Eagles

26-8 Ohio Valley Champions

Morehead State returns to the tournament after winning the Ohio Valley for the first time since 2021. The Eagles dominated their conference most of the year and are currently on a six-game winning streak. That has been in large part due to their defense and rebounding, both of which have been excellent all season. Morehead State is led by Riley Minix, who is nearly averaging a double-double and put in consecutive 26-point performances in the OVC semifinals and finals. 

7) Washington State Cougars

24-9 Pac-12 At-Large

Pac-12 Coach of the Year Kyle Smith has Washington State back in the tournament for the first time since 2008. The Cougars’ turnaround can largely be attributed to 2 new additions to this year’s team. Isaac Jones is an Idaho transfer who leads Wazzu in both points and rebounds. Washington State also has the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Myles Rice.

10) Drake Bulldogs

28-6 Missouri Valley Champions

Drake Head Coach Darian DeVries has brought the Bulldog program to new heights, and this year has been no different. Drake plays fast, largely through Darian’s son and the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, Tucker DeVries, as well as Atin Wright and leading rebounder and shot-blocker Darnell Brodie. The Bulldogs head into the tournament, having won 10 of their last 11, and are not a team that anyone likely wants to face.

2) Iowa State Cyclones

27-7 Big 12 Champions

Iowa State made a big statement, winning the Big 12 tournament and capping its run-off with a 28-point drubbing of Houston. The Cyclones play aggressive defense, stealing the ball more than almost anybody in America and allowing the fourth-fewest points per game in the country. It starts with the backcourt duo of Keshon Gilbert and Tamin Lipsey, who combine for 26 points, over 9 rebounds, 9 assists, and 5 steals per game.

15) South Dakota State Jackrabbits

22-12 Summit League Champions

South Dakota State has been a consistent presence near the top of the Summit League standings and has now made its second NCAA tournament in three years. The Jackrabbits have won their last eight games. South Dakota State really leaned on its big three of Luke Appel, William Kyle, and Zeke Mayo in the conference tournament, and with good reason. Those three represent the Jackrabbits’ top three in points, rebounds, and assists per game. 



This could be the toughest region to navigate. The top four seeds are all Power 6 conference tournament champions. I think whoever comes out of this region will be a favorite to win the National Championship.

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