Best seed outlook: According to the FiveThirtyEight version, top seed Duke has the best chance of advancing to the Final Four at the whole area (53 percent probability) as well as the best odds of winning the national title (19 percent).
The Blue Devils are led by four soon-to-be first-round draft picks, such as Zion Williamson, among the greatest talents in recent memory. Duke is a walking highlight reel to the offensive end and much stingier on protection than many might realize. This is one of Mike Krzyzewski’s most-balanced teams and jobs to become his first since 2010 to rank inside the top six in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and protection metrics. That team won the national title.1
This team lacks, however, is signature along the perimeter. Duke shoots a grisly 30.2 percent from beyond the arc, the worst marker among tournament-qualifying teams. Within an offensive age increasingly dominated by distance and perimeter scoring, the Blue Devils could match the trend punishing the rim.
On the other side of the area is that the winner of the Big Ten conference championship, Michigan State. As their reward, the No. 2 Spartans have the honour of a potential matchup against the top overall seed in the Elite Eight. Head coach Tom Izzo was none too happy. The Spartans are pummeled by injuries but remain among the most balanced teams in the country, ranking inside the top eight in Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and protection metrics.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 4 Virginia Tech. Directed by the celebrity pairing of Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, the Hokies are a balanced squad which ranks among Pomeroy’s Top 25 teams on both the offense and defense. Although they’ve dropped eight times, just two of those were double-digits. Virginia Tech also has a not-altogether-unfriendly attraction, with extremely winnable opening games against Saint Louis (87 percent) and the Mississippi State-Liberty winner (63 percent) before most likely running to Duke’s juggernaut. We give the Hokies a decent 25 percent chance against the Blue Devils — along with a 54 percent chance against individuals emerges from the bottom of the region if they do manage to knock off Duke.
Don’t wager : No. 3 LSU. With coach Will Wade embroiled in a pay-for-play scandal and his group probably overvalued as a 3-seed, the Bayou Bengals could be ripe for an upset in this particular tournament. They ranked only 18th in Pomeroy’s ratings — about the quality of a No. 5 seed — thanks in large part to a defense which didn’t even decode the country’s top 60 in adjusted efficacy. (This showed up at the 51 second-half points that they allowed to Florida while shedding their first match of the SEC tournament.) Their NCAA course isn’t very easy, either: Yale is no pushover as a No. 14 seed, nor is possible second-round opponent Maryland, also we give the Tigers a mere 26 percent chance of beating Michigan State when the groups meet at the Sweet Sixteen. That is easily the lowest-rated top-three seed within the field.
Cinderella see: No. 11 Belmont. The East is top-heavy, with Duke and Michigan State soaking up most of the Final Four chances. However, the Bruins are an intriguing lower-seeded team because of an impressive offense led by do-everything swingman Dylan Windler. According to Pomeroy, Belmont ranks 20th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (and second nationwide in raw points per game behind Gonzaga), whereas Windler was one of only 3 players nationally to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Even though the Bruins do have to acquire a play-in game against Temple only to produce the area of 64 — we provide them a 59 percent opportunity — they would have a very competitive 39 percent likelihood of upsetting Maryland in the first round and an even greater opportunity from the LSU/Yale winner.
Player to watch: Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Three years back, zzo stated he believed his 6-foot-1 freshman could be Michigan State’s best passer since Magic Johnson. The Spartans’ do-everything point guard — one of the best facilitators from the nation — is validating his coach’s comment. Only Murray State’s Ja Morant, a surefire lottery pick in this year’s draft, has a greater assist speed than Winston (46.0 percent). And behind Winston, the Spartans help on the highest speed of field goals in the country.
The junior also appears to be Izzo’s leading scorer and one of the country’s greatest perimeter threats, shooting better than 40% from beyond the arc. As injuries have relentlessly sapped the Spartans of the on-court production, Winston has elevated his game to compensate. As he set it to The Athletic,”I have to do a lot for my own team to win”
Likeliest first-round upsets: No. 9 Central Florida over No. 8 VCU (47 percent); No. 11 Belmont* over No. 6 Maryland (39 percent); No. 10 Minnesota over No. 7 Louisville (34 percent)