NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Syracuse

The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee revealed its top 16 seeds for the 2024 NCAA Tournament as things currently stand in the season ahead of Saturday's slate. Not surprisingly, Purdue, UConn, Houston and Arizona lead the way as the four No. 1 seeds with exactly one month until Selection Sunday. Purdue earned the top overall seed and edged out No. 1-ranked UConn, which earned the second overall No. 1 seed. Houston and Arizona were the No. 3 and No. 4 overall teams in the eyes of the committee, respectively. 

Purdue and Houston were No. 1 seeds in the in-season reveal for a second consecutive season after both earned the midseason distinction and went on to later become No. 1 seeds in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. The reveal, which has become an annual tradition for eight years running, is a snapshot in time from the committee that evaluates where teams stand ahead of Selection Sunday with a month of action still yet to be played.

A lot can change between now and when the official bracket is posted on March 17, but recent sneak peeks over the years have typically been fairly useful in predicting how things might settle. Over the last three years, 45 of the 48 teams in the committee's top 16 seeds went on to stay in the top 16 of the bracket, albeit with some minor shuffling from in-season reveal to Selection Sunday. Last year, the committee's No. 1 seeds all went on to become No. 1 seeds, and three of the four No. 2 seeds went on to earn No. 2 seeds.

So what is there to glean from the reveal? What can we learn from how the committee structured its top 16 and what it might mean for the future? Here are five takeaways from Saturday's unveiling. But first, here's how things looked in the official mock exercise from the committee:

Check out Palm's latest bracket, Bubble Watch and full field of 68 at the Bracketology hub.

1. Purdue > UConn

The reigning national champion UConn Huskies have been the No. 1 team in college basketball for one month and change, but it was Purdue -- not UConn -- that took the spot as the No. 1 overall seed. The decision was unanimous in the room for the committee, too, according to Dr. Charles F. McClelland, the committee's vice chair.

Purdue has more Quad 1 wins than any team in the sport with nine -- one more than UConn -- which helped separate the razor-thin edge. Purdue had one fewer win in Quad 2 than UConn, but the Boilermakers have a 5-0 record against Quad 3 opponents to UConn's 1-0 record, with the Huskies having played six more games that qualified as Quad 4 opportunities. 

Given how strong the top of the Big East and Big Ten are this season, there is a good possibility we could see some changes at the top when the bracket is revealed next month. But right now it's pretty clear Purdue has the inside track to keep its No. 1 overall spot.

2. Reason for optimism in the Mountain West

The case for the Mountain West being the healthiest league on the West Coast strengthened with San Diego State's inclusion as a No. 4 seed (No. 14 overall). SDSU has a losing record in Quad 1 opportunities but no bad losses, and its No. 4 seed suggests the committee views the Mountain West as a strong league. TBD on whether that's editorializing on my part or not, but in what has been a strong year for the league, I think there's reason to believe there could be six teams from the MWC that go on to become NCAA Tournament teams. 

3. Committee high on Tar Heels

North Carolina was the top No. 2 overall seed in the mock exercise committee, which was a fine reminder that in evaluating résumés, the committee looks at the totality of work and not just what a team has done lately. UNC has lost three of its last five games and has fallen back to the pack in the ACC to open up the title race with Duke and Virginia, but it was 17-3 prior to that skid. The Tar Heels have the fourth-most wins in Quad 1 opportunities and some quality wins over projected tourney teams -- including Tennessee, Oklahoma, Clemson and Duke -- that should keep them in the mix as a sleeper No. 1 seed contender next month.

4. Wisconsin hangs on

The point made above about North Carolina applies directly to Wisconsin, which was a No. 4 seed and the No. 16 overall team: evaluation is about the body of work and not about what a team has done of late. Wisconsin has dropped four of its last five -- including to Michigan and Rutgers, two of three Quad 2 losses in the last month -- but its résumé still stacks up well enough to narrowly make the cut for now. Its margin of error is probably thin just given how things have gone lately and the trajectory of other teams that are making late-season surges, but overall it's been a good season for the Badgers. First good news for the program in what feels like a few weeks.

5. Dayton, Clemson, Creighton just miss

Several teams were in the mix to be included in the committee's top 16 but narrowly missed the cut. Among them were Dayton, Clemson and Creighton. 

"Dayton was absolutely close," said Dr. McClelland. "Great conversation about Dayton as well as Creighton and Clemson, not in that particular order. But all three of those teams right there on that 16-seed line fighting for it." 

Dayton arguably has the strongest case it was snubbed. Bart Torvik's ratings, when filtering using KPI and Strength of Record, rank the Flyers No. 10.