Top seed outlook: According to this FiveThirtyEight version, high seed Duke gets the best chance of advancing to the Final Four in the entire area (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, one of the most significant abilities in recent memory. Duke is a walking highlight reel on the offensive end and far stingier on protection than many may 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 defense metrics. That team won the national title.1
What this group lacks, however, is signature along the perimeter. Duke shoots a ghastly 30.2 percent from outside the arc, the worst mark one of tournament-qualifying teams. Within an offensive era increasingly dominated by space and perimeter scoring, then the Blue Devils could buck the trend punishing the rim.
On the opposite side of the region is that the winner of the Big Ten conference tournament, Michigan State. As their benefit, the No. 2 Spartans have the honor of a possible matchup against the top overall seed in the Elite Eight. Head coach Tom Izzo was none too pleased. The Spartans have been pummeled by accidents but remain among the most balanced teams in the country, standing within the top eight in Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and protection metrics.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 4 Virginia Tech. Led by the star pairing of Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, the Hokies are a balanced squad that ranks one of Pomeroy’s Top 25 teams on both the defense and offense. Although they have dropped eight occasions, only two of those were by double-digits. Virginia Tech also includes a not-altogether-unfriendly attraction, with extremely winnable opening matches 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 from the Blue Devils — and a 54 percent chance against individuals emerges from the base of the region if they do manage to knock off Duke.
Do not wager on: 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 may be ripe for an upset in this tournament. They ranked only 18th in Pomeroy’s ratings — about the caliber of a No. 5 seed — thanks in large part to a defense that didn’t even crack the country’s top 60 in adjusted efficiency. (This showed up in the 51 second-half things they allowed to Florida while losing their first game of the SEC tournament.) Their NCAA path isn’t very simple, either: Yale is no pushover for a No. 14 seed, nor will be potential second-round opponent Maryland, also we all give the Tigers a mere 26 percent likelihood of beating Michigan State if the groups meet in the Sweet Sixteen. That is easily the lowest-rated top-three seed within the field.
Cinderella watch: No. 11 Belmont. The East is top-heavy, with Duke and Michigan State soaking up most of the Last Four chances. However, the Bruins are still an intriguing lower-seeded group because of an impressive crime led by do-everything swingman Dylan Windler. According to Pomeroy, Belmont ranks 20th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency (and second nationally in raw points per game behind Gonzaga), whereas Windler was one of only three players nationally to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Even though the Bruins do have to win a play-in game against Temple only to make the area of 64 — we give them a 59 percent opportunity — they’d have an extremely competitive 39 percent likelihood of upsetting Maryland in the first round and a much better opportunity from the LSU/Yale winner.
Player to watch: Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Three years ago, zzo stated he believed his 6-foot-1 freshman would be Michigan State’s greatest 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 higher assist rate than Winston (46.0 percent). And behind Winston, the Spartans help on the maximum speed of field goals in the nation.
The junior also happens to be Izzo’s top scorer and one of the nation’s top perimeter threats, shooting better than 40% from beyond the arc. As injuries have sapped the Spartans of the on-court production, Winston has raised his game to compensate. As he put it to The Athletic,»that I have to do a whole 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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