March Madness: Breaking down the 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket

Posted at 1:32 PM, Mar 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-14 15:32:13-04

New voice, same tradition. As always, let’s kick this off with just how difficult it is for a low seed to get far in the NCAA Tournament: no 16-seed has ever knocked off a No. 1 seed in the opening round, and only eight No. 15’s have upset their second-seeded counterparts (though it has happened three times in the past six years). Only nine teams seeded 13th or worse have survived the opening weekend, and just one team seeded No. 12 or lower – the 2002 Missouri Tigers – has lasted to the Elite Eight.

As for the famed Final Four? Only one double-digit seed – the 2016 Syracuse Orange as a No. 10 – has ever made it that far.

Now that you’re well versed on the history of longshots, let’s examine one key betting trend for all 68 teams in the tournament:


Virginia (31-2 SU, 20-9 ATS, 10-20 O/U): The Cavaliers are once again one of the best Under plays in the nation, going above the total just twice in 11 true road games. But that’s what happens when you surrender just 52.8 points per game during the regular season – 4 1/2 points fewer than the next closest team, and 8 1/2 points fewer than the No. 3-ranked defense in the country.

Villanova (30-4 SU, 22-12 ATS, 23-11 O/U): The Wildcats were one of the best Over options in the country in their own arena, going 11-2 O/U at home – including each of their final seven contests at The Pavilion, a streak that saw them average a sizzling 90 points per game. Not surprisingly, Villanova covered in six of those games.

Kansas (27-7 SU, 18-14-1 ATS, 16-16-1 O/U): For everything that the Jayhawks do well, getting to the free-throw line – and converting – isn’t one of them. Kansas attempted just 501 foul shots during the regular season – ranking 322nd out of 351 Division I schools – and made only 350 of them, also good for 322nd overall.

Xavier (28-5 SU, 21-12 ATS, 18-14-1 O/U): The Musketeers showed real mettle away from Cintas Center, covering the spread in eight of 11 true road games. But Xavier was a much stronger Over play in its own barn during the regular season, going above the total 12 times in 18 home games compared to a 5-6 O/U mark on the road.


Cincinnati (30-4 SU, 16-14-1 ATS, 11-20 O/U): The Bearcats were the only team other than Virginia to allow fewer than 58 points per game (57.3) – and they really turned up the defensive pressure on the road, allowing no more than 62 points in any of their final nine away games during the regular season.

Purdue (28-6 SU, 15-17-1 ATS, 15-17-1 O/U): The Boilermakers are the top 3-point shooting team in the tournament, connecting on 42 percent of their attempts during the season. But they played some of their worst basketball down the stretch, covering just one of their final 13 games – including three SU losses in games in which they were favored.

Duke (26-7 SU, 20-11 ATS, 17-14 O/U): The Blue Devils took care of business at both ends of the court, finishing the regular season as the only team in the nation ranked in the top six in scoring offense (85.1 ppg) and rebounding (42.0 rpg). Duke also ended the ACC campaign as a strong Under play, going below the total in six straight.

North Carolina (25-10 SU, 19-14-1 ATS, 19-15 O/U): It was a streaky end to the season for the Tar Heels, who had a five-game cover streak sandwiched between two three game cover-less stretches. On the plus side, North Carolina led all of Division I in average rebounding margin at plus-10.7, edging out Michigan State (plus-10.4).


Tennessee (25-8 SU, 18-13 ATS, 13-18 O/U): Keeping the Vols off the line and inside the arc will be the key to success; Tennessee ranks 39th nationally in foul shooting (75.8 percent) and 49th in 3-point success rate (38.1 percent) but sit well outside the top 250 Division I schools in 2-point shooting at just 47.4 percent.

Michigan (28-7 SU, 21-11-1 ATS, 15-16-2 O/U): The surging Wolverines caught fire offensively down the stretch, surpassing their season scoring average in eight of their final nine games heading into the Big Dance; not surprisingly, they went 6-1-2 O/U in that span while covering in all but one of those contests.

Michigan State (29-4 SU, 15-16-2 ATS, 16-16 O/U): The Spartans were an offensive force this season, leading the nation in assists per game (19.3) while boasting the third-best scoring margin (plus-16.2); yet, despite its offensive success, Michigan State managed just two Overs in nine true road games this season compared to an 11-5 O/U mark at home.

Texas Tech (24-9 SU, 13-15-1 ATS, 13-16 O/U): The Red Raiders’ normally-solid defense stumbled at the end of the regular season, allowing an average of 78 points over the final four games – 13.5 more than their season average. That resulted in a stretch of four straight Overs, each going above by more than eight points.


Auburn (25-7 SU, 19-11 ATS, 15-15 O/U): The Tigers stumbled to the finish line, failing to cover in four of their final five games – including a pair of SU losses as a favorite. But this team knows how to generate offense from the foul line – it led the nation in made free throws (605) while ranking 11th in attempts (767).

Arizona (27-7 SU, 14-18-2 ATS, 16-17 O/U): Plenty of eyes will be on Wildcats big man Deandre Ayton, who averaged an impressive 22 points and 15.2 rebounds over his final five regular-season contests. Yet, despite Ayton’s hot streak, Arizona covered just twice in that span while going Under the total four times in those five games.

Wichita State (25-7 SU, 12-18 ATS, 20-10 O/U): If you’re looking for a trendy Over play heading into the Tournament, look no further than the Shockers. They reeled off 10 consecutive Overs before seeing their streak come to a halt in their regular-season finale against a Cincinnati team that boasts the second-best scoring defense in the country.

Gonzaga (30-4 SU, 14-16-1 ATS, 15-16 O/U): The Bulldogs have been one of the safer early-round bets come tournament time, covering in five of their previous eight March Madness openers (while falling just 3 1/2 points short of making it six of eight last season.) They have also gone Under in five of their past eight tournament kickoffs.


West Virginia (24-10 SU, 15-15 ATS, 15-15 O/U): Few teams work the offensive glass better than the Mountaineers; their 14.2 offensive rebounds per game ranked fourth nationally, while they hauled in nearly 35 percent of all available offensive boards during the season – the eighth-best rate in the country.

Kentucky (24-10 SU, 17-17 ATS, 12-13 O/U): Remember that four-game losing skid earlier in the season – the Wildcats’ longest since 2009? Neither do they. Kentucky won four of five to close out the regular season, with an average margin of victory of 16 points in those four triumphs; all five games went Over.

Ohio State (24-8 SU, 15-15 ATS, 9-21 O/U): The Buckeyes had one of the strongest Under slants of any team in the country this season, but ended the year with a flourish – going above the total in three of their final four contests. They also failed to cover in four of their final five contests to finish a dead-even 15-15 ATS.

Clemson (23-9 SU, 17-12 ATS, 15-14 O/U): Only eight teams were better defenders on 2-point shots than the Tigers, who held foes to 43.9 percent from inside the arc. Clemson was also one of the best home covers in the NCAA, going 10-3 ATS at Littlejohn Coliseum – though two of those non-covers came in their final three home games.


Miami (22-9 SU, 11-15 ATS, 13-13 O/U): It was a tale of two seasons for the Hurricanes, at least from a cover standpoint. Miami was positively dreadful in its own building, failing to cover over their final eight home games. Contrast that to the Hurricanes’ strong road play; they were 8-4 ATS in 12 games away from Watsco Center.

TCU (21-11 SU, 16-13-2 ATS, 21-10 O/U): The Horned Frogs kept the points all year long, finishing the regular season as one of only five teams to post 20 or more Overs. TCU was particularly prolific in its own arena, boasting a 13-4 O/U mark on the strength of a 56.9-percent effective field goal rate that ranks 13th nationally.

Houston (26-7 SU, 18-10-1 ATS, 13-16 O/U): The Cougars were a bettor’s dream at home, going 8-2-1 ATS in 11 games at Hofheinz Pavilion. Houston also enters the tournament as a strong Over option, going above the total in five of their final seven games – including two of three in the AAC Tournament.

Florida (20-12 SU, 15-15-1 ATS, 14-16 O/U): The Gators really tightened things up to close out the regular season, cashing the Under in eight of their final 10 games. And they’re one of the most careful teams with the basketball in all of Division I, having committed the fourth-fewest turnovers (305).


Texas A&M (20-12 SU, 13-16 ATS, 15-14 O/U): The Aggies were relentless in the post as the only team in the nation ranked in the top six in total rebounds (41.3) and blocked shots per game (5.9). But they come into the NCAA Tournament in a bit of a lull, having covered just twice in their previous seven games.

Arkansas (23-11 SU, 17-16-1 ATS, 18-15 O/U): The Razorbacks racked up the Overs down the stretch, going above the number in six of their final eight games. But Arkansas will need to be better at keeping opponents off the line; foes made 17.4 foul shots on 24 attempts per game, both ranking in the bottom-25 nationally.

Nevada (27-7 SU, 16-14-3 ATS, 17-15-1 O/U): The Mountain West Conference powerhouse spread the ball around like few other teams in Division I, sporting a 1.63 assist-to-turnover ratio that ranks second in the country. But Nevada sputtered to the finish line, covering just one of their final six games.

Rhode Island (25-7 SU, 16-13-1 ATS, 15-15 O/U): Few teams covered as regularly at home as the Rams, who made good on 10 of their 14 games at Ryan Center. But Rhode Island managed just two covers over its final five games, a stretch that included three straight-up losses as a favorite.


Seton Hall (21-11 SU, 16-16 ATS, 19-12 O/U): The Pirates flirted with a top-25 ranking for part of the season but couldn’t make their free throws count; they were the only Big East Conference team to shoot below 70 percent from the line. Seton Hall finished the year with eight Overs over their final 10 games.

Creighton (21-11 SU, 14-16 ATS, 16-14 O/U): The Bluejays shot well from just about everywhere this season, but were especially prolific inside the arc – knocking down 59.4 percent of their 2-point attempts, the fourth-best rate in the country. Creighton enters March Madness with four Overs in its past five games.

Missouri (20-12 SU, 16-15 ATS, 12-19 O/U): After major defensive lapses in losses to Ole Miss and Kentucky, the Tigers ratcheted up the D over their final three games, going Under in all three; they have seven Unders in their past 10 games overall. Their minus-3.0 turnover differential ranks 330th in Division I.

Virginia Tech (21-11 SU, 17-11 ATS, 14-14 O/U): Few teams enter the NCAA Tournament as a hotter Under option than the Hokies, who have gone below the total in nine consecutive games. Only nine Division I schools shot better from two-point territory than Virginia Tech, which connected at a 49.8-percent clip from that range.


Alabama (19-15 SU, 17-15-1 ATS, 12-21 O/U): Betting on the Crimson Tide to go below the total at home would have made you a very rich wagerer this past season; Alabama went just 3-12 O/U at Coleman Coliseum, though two of those Overs came in Alabama’s final three home contests.

N.C. State (21-11 SU, 13-12 ATS, 14-11 O/U): The Wolfpack finished just outside the top 50 nationally in field-goal percentage (47.0) but struggled on the boards, pulling down just 69.9 percent of available defensive rebounds – good for 305th in the country. They also ranked 300th in blocks against per game (4.0).

Kansas State (22-11 SU, 14-16 ATS, 11-18-1 O/U): The Wildcats go into March Madness as one of the worst Over options of any team in the tournament – and this was especially true at home, where they surpassed the number just four times all season. Kansas State also ranked 340th in rebounding (30.1).

Florida State (20-11 SU, 15-13-1 ATS, 17-12 O/U): The Seminoles are sputtering at the moment, at least from a bettor’s perspective; they’ve covered just twice in their previous 10 games – and one of those covers came by a half-point. They also went Under in four of their final five true road games entering the tournament.


Texas (19-14 SU, 15-14 ATS, 14-14-1 O/U): Sharing the basketball is not the Longhorns’ forte; they produce just 0.47 assists per made field goal, ranking among the 25 worst teams in the country in that category. Texas did, however, convert the W/O combo in three of its final four games.

Butler (20-13 SU, 15-17 ATS, 19-13 O/U): The Bulldogs knocked down 77.1 percent of their free throws, tied for 20th nationally. But they were positively putrid on the road this season, covering just twice in 10 true away encounters; they also failed to cover either of their games in the Big East Tournament.

Providence (21-13 SU, 14-18 ATS, 15-16-1 O/U): As much attention as the Friars get for going to overtime in three straight Big East Tournament games, don’t overlook the fact that they covered all three – and are 5-1 SU in their past six games. But Providence averages just 6.4 made 3s per game, second-fewest in the conference.

Oklahoma (18-13 SU, 10-20 ATS, 18-12 O/U): Sensational Sooners guard Trae Young recorded 11 point-assist double-doubles this season; Oklahoma went 9-2 SU in those contests, but have dropped two in a row. Oklahoma was one of the worst road covers in Division I, going just 2-9 ATS.


Syracuse (20-13 SU, 14-17 ATS, 14-17 O/U): The Orange were frustratingly inconsistent entering March madness, alternating Overs and Unders over their final eight games. Syracuse’s 47.1 percent adjusted field goal rate ranks 14th out of 15 teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and among the worst 30 teams in the nation.

San Diego State (22-10 SU, 20-10 ATS, 14-14-2 O/U): The Aztecs streaked their way into the NCAA Tournament, winning nine consecutive games while covering the spread in eight of them. San Diego State placed five players in double figures in scoring, but none of them shot better than 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.

UCLA (21-11 SU, 16-16 ATS, 18-14 O/U): The Bruins will likely live and die by their rebounding average; they finished 15th in the country in defensive boards per game (28.5). Look for some high-scoring affairs from UCLA, which went 7-3 O/U in 10 true road games this season.

Loyola-Chicago (28-5 SU, 19-9-1 ATS, 12-17 O/U): The Ramblers are rumbling into tournament week on a defensive roll, posting five consecutive unders while allowing more than 54 points just once in that span. Loyola-Chicago is one of the top road cover teams in the field of 68, going 8-3-1 ATS.

St. Bonaventure (25-7 SU, 15-14 ATS, 16-13 O/U): The Bonnies weren’t exactly a friendly sort this season, ranking outside the top 300 in fewest fouls per game (20.0) with 22 foul-outs on the year. But St. Bonaventure has covered five consecutive times when the spread has been two or fewer points.

Arizona State (20-11 SU, 14-15-2 ATS, 15-14-2 O/U): The Sun Devils were a dud when it came to road covers, converting just twice with a pair of pushes in 10 true away games. But their second-half offense was no joke, as they finished third in the nation in points per game after the half (44.5).


Murray State (26-5 SU, 17-11 ATS, 14-14 O/U): The Racers made Under bettors incredibly happy down the stretch, going below the total in six of their final seven games. And Murray State limited opponents to just 9.8 assists per game during the season, seventh-fewest in all of Division I.

New Mexico State (28-5 SU, 6-2-2 ATS, 3-7 O/U): The Aggies have been a nightmare for opposing offenses, holding opponents to a 45.5-percent effective field-goal rate; only five other teams were stingier. New Mexico State is also a behemoth on the boards, averaging 41.6 rebounds per game – fourth-most in the nation.

Davidson (21-11 SU, 18-12-1 ATS, 13-18 O/U): When it comes to taking care of the basketball, the Wildcats do it better than anyone – their 1.80 assist-to-turnover ratio is significantly better than runner-up Nevada (1.65). And Davidson is rolling at the right time, with covers in six of its previous seven games.

South Dakota State (28-6 SU, 19-9 ATS, 15-13 O/U): The Jackrabbits have won 11 straight coming into this one, covering eight times over that span. But was a tale of two seasons from an Over/Under standpoint, as South Dakota State posted just two Overs in 10 home games while going 10-2 O/U in 12 true road contests.


Buffalo (26-8 SU, 16-12-3 ATS, 19-12 O/U): The Bulls have been favored by at least 7 1/2 points in each of their past six games – and they’ve come through with big performances, covering five times over that stretch. But they’ll need to curb their enthusiasm come tournament time – their 21.2 fouls per game rank in the bottom 20 nationally.

Marshall (24-10 SU, 20-11 ATS, 16-15 O/U): The Thundering Herd have peaked heading into March Madness, making good on four consecutive covers – including a pair of SU wins as an underdog of 5 1/2 points or more. Only four teams finished the year with a higher blocked shots average than Marshall (5.9).

Charleston (26-7 SU, 15-13-1 ATS, 17-12 O/U): The Cougars ratcheted up the offense late in the season, scoring 80 or more points in eight of their final 10 games; not surprisingly, they converted the Over eight times in that stretch. Charleston also takes great care of the ball, ranking fourth nationally at 9.6 turnovers per game.

UNC Greensboro (27-7 SU, 17-9-1 ATS, 11-16 O/U): The Spartans have bucked the trend on low totals, going Under in six of their last seven games when the number is 135 or lower. The catalyst: UNC Greensboro holds opponents to fewer than 21 made field goals per game, third-fewest in Division I.


Bucknell (25-9 SU, 5-5 ATS, 4-4 O/U): Distance means everything to the Bison on offense – they rank outside the top 200 in Division I in 3-point shooting (34.1 percent) but are a top-25 team from inside the arc (55.6 percent). They also sit third in the country in total free-throw attempts (844)

Montana (26-7 SU, 19-11-1 ATS, 19-12 O/U): The Grizzlies were the top Over play among Big Sky teams and carried that trend into the conference tournament, exceeding the total in all three games by at least 10 1/2 points. But Montana makes just 5.5 3-pointers per contest, good for 330th in the country.

Wright State (25-9 SU, 18-13-1 ATS, 12-20 O/U): Don’t let the Raiders’ Over/Under record fool you – nine of those Overs came in true road games, while another two occurred in neutral-site games; they were a combined 11-7 O/U away from home. Wright State also ended the season with four straight covers.

Stephen F. Austin (28-6 SU, 4-1 ATS, 2-3 O/U): The Lumberjacks are the NCAA’s ultimate ball hawks – they ranked first in the nation in forced turnovers per game (20.0) and were the only team to average double-digit steals (10.3). But they also committed a whopping 743 fouls, second-most in Division I.


Georgia State (24-10 SU, 19-11 ATS, 16-14 O/U): The Panthers converted the cover-Under combo three straight times in the Sun Belt Tournament after going an unbelievable 10-2 O/U in their previous 12 contests. But free-throw woes could be their undoing; they  have shot just 67.6 percent from the line, good for 300th overall.

Iona (20-13 SU, 15-14 ATS, 16-12-1 O/U): The Gaels provided plenty of excitement for opposing teams’ fans this past season, exceeding the total in nine of their 12 true road games – including their final three away contests of the campaign, in which they went Over by an average of 30.2 points.

Lipscomb (23-9 SU, 4-2 ATS, 3-3 O/U): The Bison lost major steam after halftime in 2017-18, allowing more than 43 second-half points per game – ranking in the bottom 15 nationwide in that category. They did, however, rank in the top 10 in Division I in free-throw makes (580) and attempts (811).

CS Fullerton (20-11 SU, 18-9 ATS, 8-19 O/U): The Titans were an interesting betting option, particularly away from home; they went 9-4 ATS in 13 true road games, and six of their eight Over conversions came away from Titan Gym. They also hit the cover-Under combo in all three games of the Big West Tournament.


LIU Brooklyn (18-16 SU, 3-4 ATS, 2-4 O/U): The Blackbirds were one of only three teams in the Northeast Conference to shoot below 70 percent from the free-throw line (69.6), but shot a modestly better 71.2 percent in the conference tournament. LIU Brooklyn’s 27.4 rebounds per game rank just outside the top 40 in the country.

Radford (22-14 SU, 5-4 ATS, 3-6 O/U): The Highlanders have gone below the total in each of their previous four lined games, including all three contests they have played in the month of March. Radford has made just two Tournament appearances prior to this year, and lost both by a combined 79 points.

Penn (24-8 SU, 13-14 ATS, 17-10 O/U): Those Quakers were a lively bunch away from The Palestra, going 12-4 O/U in 16 true road and neutral-site games on the season. But rebounding has been a hit-and-miss task for Penn, which ranks fifth nationally in defensive boards (29.0) but are 286th in offensive rebounding (8.7).

Texas Southern (15-19 SU, 6-1 ATS, 4-3 O/U): The SWAC champions won the conference title in style, averaging 87.3 points per game while going Over the total in all three tournament contests. The Tigers also come into the tournament having made the second-most free throws in the country (618).

UMBC (24-10 SU, 3-1-1 ATS, 2-2 O/U): The Retrievers certainly lived up to their name this season – their plus-2.7 average turnover differential ranked inside the top 40 among Division I schools. But free-throw shooting has been a major problem for UMBC, which has hit just 65 percent of its foul shots.

North Carolina Central (19-15 SU, 5-1 ATS, 3-3 O/U): The Eagles enter their third NCAA Tournament on a five-game cover streak, and are 14-5-1 ATS in their past 20 neutral-site games. But North Carolina Central ranks outside the top 300 in 3-point makes (6.0) and attempts (18.0) per game.

Editor’s note: This report was initially published on, a site also owned by Tribune. Click for a printable March Madness bracket, courtesy of Covers.