Top seed prognosis: As stated by this FiveThirtyEight version, top seed Duke has got the best chance of advancing to the Final Four in the whole field (53 percent likelihood ) 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, including Zion Williamson, among the most significant talents in recent memory. Duke is a walking highlight reel on the offensive end and far stingier on defense than many may realize. This is among 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 defense metrics. That group won the national title.1
This team lacks, however, is touch along the perimeter. Duke shoots a grisly 30.2 percent from outside the arc, the worst marker one of tournament-qualifying teams. In an offensive age increasingly dominated by space and perimeter scoring, then the Blue Devils could match the trend punishing the rim.
On the other side of the region is the winner of the Big Ten conference tournament, 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 have been pummeled by injuries but remain among the most balanced teams in the nation, standing inside the top eight in Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 4 Virginia Tech. Directed by the star pairing of Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, the Hokies are a balanced squad that ranks among Pomeroy’s Top 25 teams on both offense and defense. Although they’ve dropped eight occasions, only two of those were by double-digits. Virginia Tech also has a not-altogether-unfriendly attraction, with exceptionally winnable opening games against Saint Louis (87 percent) and the Mississippi State-Liberty winner (63 percent) before most probably running into Duke’s juggernaut. We provide the Hokies a respectable 25 percent chance against the Blue Devils — along with a 54 percent chance against individuals emerges from the bottom of the area if they do manage to knock off Duke.
Do not wager on: No. 3 LSU. With trainer Will Wade embroiled in a pay-for-play scandal and his team probably overvalued as a 3-seed, the Bayou Bengals could be ripe for an upset in this tournament. They ranked only 18th in Pomeroy’s evaluations — about the caliber of a No. 5 seed — thanks in large part to a defense which didn’t even decode the country’s top 60 in corrected efficiency. (This showed up at the 51 second-half points they allowed to Florida while shedding their first game of the SEC tournament.) Their NCAA course is not very simple, either: Yale is no pushover for a No. 14 seed, nor will be possible second-round competitor Maryland, also we all give the Tigers a mere 26 percent chance of beating Michigan State if the groups meet at the Sweet Sixteen. That is easily the lowest-rated top-three seed in the area.
Cinderella watch: No. 11 Belmont. The East is top-heavy, together with Duke and Michigan State soaking up most of the Last Four chances. However, the Bruins are an intriguing lower-seeded group due to 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 nationwide to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Although the Bruins do need to acquire a play-in match against Temple just to make the field of 64 — we provide them a 59 percent opportunity — they would have a very competitive 39 percent probability of upsetting Maryland in the first round and an even better opportunity against the LSU/Yale winner.
Player to watch: Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Three years ago, zzo said he thought his 6-foot-1 freshman would be Michigan State’s best passer since Magic Johnson. The Spartans’ do-everything point guard — one of the best facilitators from the country — is supporting his trainer’s comment. Only Murray State’s Ja Morant, a surefire lottery pick in this year’s draft, has a higher assist rate than Winston (46.0 percent). And behind Winston, the Spartans assist on the maximum speed of field goals in the nation.
The junior also appears to be Izzo’s leading scorer and among the country’s top perimeter threats, shooting better than 40% from beyond the arc. As injuries have relentlessly sapped the Spartans of their on-court production, Winston has raised his game to compensate. As he put it to The Athletic,”that I must do a lot for my 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)
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