5 Sweet Sixteen Bets to Make in 2018 March Madness

sweet-16-bets2018 March Madness has been great for fans of the unpredictable. This year’s tournament has seen:

  • Two No. 1 seeds fail to make the Sweet 16 for the first time in 14 years
  • The South Region’s top four seeds lose already.
  • A No. 16 seed beating a top seed the first time ever.

It’s been a crazy March for sure. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t still navigate the betting market with accuracy. In fact, I see 5 enticing bets in this weekend’s Sweet 16.

I’m going to discuss 5 schools that have a great chance to cover. Also, keep in mind that you can bet on these teams as well as the entire Sweet 16 at GTBets.eu.

1. No. 5 Kentucky Covers -5.5 Against No. 9 Kansas State (Thurs, 9:37 p.m., CBS)

gilgeous-alexanderKentucky is the top seed left in the South Region after the top four seeds were upset. Many were expecting the Wildcats have to play No. 4 Arizona and Deandre Ayton, who’s considered the top NBA prospect heading into the 2018 Draft. But Buffalo dominated Arizona and, in turn, had the same done to them against Kentucky.

John Calipari’s squad now faces Kansas State, which has been a solid team this season. The Wildcats will get a boost when Dean Wade returns to the lineup. However, I’ll don’t see this making enough of a difference.

K-State is quite possibly the most-predictable tournament team, because they beat teams they’re supposed to, and lose to superior opponents. Case in point: they were 10-1 against Big 12 opponents that were lower in the standings, and 0-7 against higher teams.

Add in the fact that Kentucky is playing their best basketball this season, and I don’t see this contest being particularly close. The Wildcats have won 9 out of their last 10, and they shouldn’t have any trouble continuing this impressive streak.

Score Prediction: Kentucky 82, Kansas State 68

2. No. 3 Texas Tech Covers +2 Against No. 2 Purdue (Friday, 9:57 p.m., TBS)

purdue-sweet-16-oddsPurdue had the best inside-outside game in college basketball. But they took a major hit when Isaac Haas got injured. The 7-footer was key to drawing defenders into the paint so that Purdue could get open shots on the perimeter.

The Boilermakers will attempt to use the same formula with backup center Matt Haarms, who had a good game against Butler. Purdue was able to make 11 of their 24 shots from behind the arc in the second round. And they’re going to need the same hot shooting to beat Texas Tech.

Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards, Ryan Cline, Dakota Mathias, and P.J. Thompson have all shot at least 100 three-pointers and made over 40% of their attempts. Even without Haas, this team will be tough to beat.

But the Red Raiders can also fill up the nets. This is especially the case now that senior point guard Keenan Evans is back on the court and healthy.

Evans has averaged 22.5 points in the first two rounds. While Purdue plays solid defense, Evans will likely once again score over 20 points.

Perhaps more importantly, Tech Tech has a long, mobile defense that can get out on shooters. Without Haas down low, this team will be able to roam around the perimeter even more and force Purdue off the three-point line.

This game is going to be close. But Texas Tech will be on the right side of their +2 spread.

Score Prediction: Texas Tech 73, Purdue 72

3. No. 2 Duke Covers -11.5 Against No. 11 Syracuse (Friday, 9:37 p.m., CBS)

duke-sweet-16-oddsThe Midwest Region has almost gone by script so far. But Syracuse is the one surprise in this region.

The Orange were the last team taken by the selection committee. Starting in a play-in game against Arizona State, Syracuse didn’t seem to have a chance of going very far. But they’ve now rattled off three wins to reach the Sweet 16.

Syracuse is a bad offensive team that leans heavily on Tyus Battle to score. But their strength is a zone defense that forces opponents to shoot just 37% from the field.

It’s no secret that Jim Boeheim’s club will look to slow this game down and make it an ugly affair, much like they did in an upset victory over Michigan State.

Duke has by far the more-talented team here. They feature a starting lineup full of first-round NBA picks, including Marvin Bagley, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr, Wendell Carter, and Trevon Duval.

The Blue Devils can easily turn this game into a blowout if they get out in transition. The same is true if they can speed the contest up.

But what if Syracuse manages to slow this game down as planned? Odds are that Duke will be better at this too.

Duke already beat Syracuse in the same style of game in late February, winning 60-44. The key to this victory was the talented Blue Devils’ talented shutting down Syracuse’s already inept offense. Expect a repeat of the same on Friday.

Score Prediction: Duke 66, Syracuse 41

4. No. 4 Gonzaga Covers -5.5 Against No. 9 Florida State (Thurs, 10:07 p.m., TBS)

josh-perkins-gonzagaThe Zags have exceeded expectations this year, coming off the heels of a national title appearance and losing four of their top eight players. The Bulldogs feature strong guard play with Josh Perkins and Silas Melson. They also like to get up and down the court quickly.

This should make for an interesting matchup, because Florida State also plays at a fast pace. The Seminoles have well-distributed scoring, with their top scorer averaging 12.9 PPG.

Florida State scored an impressive victory against No. 1 seed Xavier. They were able to hold Muskateers stars Trevon Bluiett and Quentin Goodin to a combined 14 points on 31% shooting.

As good as the last victory was, though, Florida State just doesn’t have enough prime-time tournament experience to get past Gonzaga. Furthermore, they’re a middle-of-the-pack tournament team that’s run its course.

Score Predcition: Gonzaga 82, Florida State 73

5. No. 1 Villanova Covers -5 Against No. 5 West Virginia (Friday, 7:37 p.m., TBS)

milal-bridges-villanovaVillanova and West Virginia are widely viewed as one of the most-competitive games in the Sweet 16.

The Mountaineers feature a tough defense that can suffocate opposing teams. They’re great at forcing turnovers, ranking 11th in the nation in this category. And Bob Huggins’ team causes real fits for opponents with their full court press.

One interesting matchup in this contest will be between West Virginia’s Jevon Carter and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson. But while the Mountaineers may match up well here, they’ll have a real struggle to also contain Mikal Bridges. Wesley Harris or Esa Ahamd will take turns trying to handle the future NBA lottery pick.

If they’re not up to the task, then the Wildcats could walk away with this one. And I don’t see Jay Wright’s team having much trouble breaking West Virginia’s press.

Score Prediction: Villanova 80, West Virginia 72

2018 March Madness Futures & Sweet 16 Rankings

gilgeous-alexanderThe 2018 edition of March Madness has definitely embodied the name. We saw UMBC become the first No. 16 seed in history to topple a No. 1 seed. Virginia was the unfortunate top seeded team on the other side of this history.

We also witnessed No. 1 seed Xavier go down along with other title contenders like Arizona, Cincinnati, North Carolina, and Michigan State.

This has created a Sweet 16 that’s mixed well with championship contenders and Cinderellas. Which of these teams has the best chances of cutting down the nets in San Antonio?

I’ll discuss this matter below while covering the Sweet Sixteen rankings from top to bottom. You can also see GTBets’ current 2018 March Madness futures below.

2018 March Madness Futures (Mar. 21 – Sweet Sixteen)

Here are odds on the remaining teams in 2018 March Madness. Keep in mind that you can bet on all of these Sweet 16 teams at GTBets:

  • Duke +350
  • Villanova +375
  • Kentucky +700
  • Gonzaga +750
  • Kansas +750
  • Michigan +800
  • Purdue +1200
  • West Virginia +1500
  • Texas Tech +2000
  • Texas A&M +2500
  • Clemson +3000
  • Kansas State +3000
  • Nevada +3500
  • Florida State +4000
  • Loyola Chicago +5000
  • Syracuse +6000

1. DUKE (28-7)

  • Defeated: Iona (15), Rhode Island (7)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Syracuse (11)
  • Duke Futures Odds: +350

I previewed the 2018 NCAA Tournament field last week and discussed how nobody has more talent than the Blue Devils. But they also had question marks regarding their consistency and defense.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Michigan State vs DukeDuke has largely eliminated these questions in the first couple rounds. They’ve dominated opponents on the offensive glass and have been unstoppable on offense.

Wendell Carter is owning the paint while Marvin Bagley is getting to the rim at will. And teams must also worry about Grayson Allen on the perimeter.

The upcoming matchup against Syracuse could be tricky, because the Orange play such good defense. But this will probably be a speed bump on Duke’s march towards San Antonio.

2. VILLANOVA (32-4)

  • Defeated: Radford (16), Alabama (9)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: West Virginia (5)
  • Villanova Futures Odds: +375

The opening weekend wasn’t a good one for No. 1 seeds. But the Wildcats certainly played like a top seed in advancing past both Radford and Alabama.

Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVicenzo have been knocking down shots from outside. And the defense, which occasionally looked shaky during the regular season, has improved to title contender level.

The only downside for Villanova is that the East Region was the least impacted by upsets. This leaves the Wildcats having to get by West Virginia, and either No. 2 Purdue or No. 3 Texas Tech in the next round.

3. KENTUCKY (26-10)

  • Defeated: Davidson (12), Buffalo (13)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Kansas State (9)
  • Kentucky Futures Odds: +700

Kentucky is an unenviable position right now, because the South Region was filled with upsets.

This leaves the No. 5 Wildcats as the top remaining seed in the South. The second-highest remaining seed in the regional is No. 7 Nevada.

Hamidou Diallo played a great game against Buffalo with 22 points. If he can keep up this play, then Kentucky will have yet another weapon along with their other young talent.

4. KANSAS (29-7)

  • Defeated: Penn (16), Seton Hall (8)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Clemson (5)
  • Kansas Futures Odds: +750

devonte-graham-kansasKansas is looking to erase a recent history of tournament disappointments. And they went a long way towards doing this with a 83-79 victory over Seton Hall.

This win is even more impressive when considering that All-American guard Devonte Graham had a terrible game, shooting just 1-for-7 from the field.

Malik Newman made up for this, though, with a 28-point effort. Udoka Azubuike shook off the rust from an injury by scoring 10 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in 22 minutes.

The Jayhawks are the last power-conference champion left in the field. But they have a tough road to the Final Four, with No. 5 Clemson up next and a possible meeting with Duke in the Elite Eight.

5. GONZAGA (32-4)

Defeated: UNC Greensboro (13), Ohio State (5)
Sweet 16 Opponent: Florida State (9)
Gonzaga Futures Odds: +750

Gonzaga has become as a perennial tournament team. But nobody expected them to perform as well as they have after losing most of their starters from last year’s national title runner-up team.

But here we are, and the Bulldogs have shown solid all-around offense and strong interior defense. The result is a return trip to the Sweet 16, and possibly beyond.

Guard Zach Norvell and forward Rui Hachimura provided heroics for the Zags in the first two rounds. Norvell’s go-ahead three-pointer against UNC Greensboro was especially notable. Hachimura turned out an outstanding effort off the bench with 25 points against Ohio State.

6. MICHIGAN (30-7)

  • Defeated: Montana (14), Houston (6)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Texas A&M (7)
  • Michigan Futures Odds: +800

Michigan was a dark-horse title contender to open the tournament. Nothing has changed in this respect, because they still have a solid chance to win the championship.

John Beilein’s teams are normally known for great offense. But this Wolverines squad has used lock-down defense to prevail in most of its 30 victories.

The defense was especially important against the Cougars, as Michigan had to stay within striking distance with their offense struggling.

Houston star Rob Gray needed 22 shots to score 23 points, while the team as a whole only made 37.1% of their shots. This is the reason why Jordan Poole was able to hit a game-winning three-pointer within the last few seconds.

The Wolverines may not go much further if they don’t finally get some offense going. But they definitely have a chance to win their game against Texas A&M if they bring the same defensive intensity.

7. WEST VIRGINIA (26-10)

  • Defeated: Murray State (12), Marshall (13)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Villanova (1)
  • West Virginia Futures Odds: +1500

Many expected the second-round game between West Virginia and their in-state neighbors, Marshall, to be a competitive affair. But the Mountaineers dominated the contest by a score of 94-71.

This should get the Thundering Herd to stop pestering about playing an annual game. More importantly, West Virginia displayed the aggressive perimeter defense that makes them so tough to play.

The Mountaineers don’t have an easy path to the title, with top-seeded Villinova up next. But they definitely have a shot with their pressurizing defense.

8. TEXAS A&M (22-12)

  • Defeated: Providence (10), North Carolina (2)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Michigan (3)
  • Texas A&M Futures Odds: +2500

Texas A&M’s play has been like Jekyll & Hyde this season. Hyde often showed up during a subpar SEC season for the Aggies. But Dr. Jekyll was in the building for an 86-65 victory over No. 2 UNC.

This is a tough team to play, because their frontcourt has a lethal combination of skill, length, and size. Robert Williams looks like a solid NBA prospect, while Tyler Davis and D.J. Hogg also make the frontcourt a nightmare for opponents.

The challenge for Texas A&M is their lack of depth at guard. But starters Admon Gilder and T.J. Starks have been serviceable so far.

9. TEXAS TECH (26-9)

  • Defeated: Stephen F. Austin (14), Florida (6)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Purdue (2)
  • Texas Tech Futures Odds: +2000

The Red Raiders weren’t quite the same team without Keenan Evans. They lost 2 out of 5 games heading into the tournament. But Evans is back from a toe injury, and the senior has averaged 22.5 points in the first two rounds.

Texas Tech has a quick defense that forces turnovers at a rapid rate. But their weakness is an offense that sometimes disappears. And they’ll need all the offense they can muster against Purdue.

10. PURDUE (30-6)

  • Defeated: Cal State Fullerton (15), Butler (10)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Texas Tech (3)
  • Purdue Futures Odds: +1200

carsen-edwards-purdueIsaac Haas’ injury could ultimately cost the Boilermakers a chance to make the Final Four. After all, the 7-footer’s inside presence opened up a lot of opportunities for this sharp-shooting school.

But backup center Matt Haarms played well enough for this team to work the ball around and make 11 out of 24 three-pointers. Carsen Edwards and Vince Edwards may have to create more shots off the dribble against Texas Tech in order for this team to win.

11. CLEMSON (25-9)

  • Defeated: New Mexico State (12), Auburn (4)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Kansas (1)
  • Clemson Futures Odds: +3000

Clemson is far from a basketball school, given that they hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament in six seasons until this year. But coach Brad Brownell’s squad snapped this streak and has exceeded expectations. In fact, this is the first Tigers squad to make the Sweet 16 since 1997.

Victories over New Mexico State and Auburn haven’t even been close, thanks to a high-scoring backcourt and strong interior defense. Clemson has gotten hot at the right time as they prepare to face their greatest challenge in Kansas.

12. NEVADA (29-7)

  • Defeated: Texas (10), Cincinnati (2)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Loyola-Chicago (11)
  • Nevada Futures Odds: +3500

jordan-caroline-nevadaNevada has gotten used to playing from behind so far, having only led for 4 minutes combined in their first two wins. They erased a 13-point deficit against Texas (OT), then came back from 22 points down to beat Cincinnati.

Eric Musselman’s team has relied on talented transfers to make it this far. This includes Jordan Caroline and Kendall Stephens, who’ve are big scoring threats.

The Wolfpack has the weakest Sweet 16 opponent out of anybody remaining. And this should bode well for their chances of moving on.

13. FLORIDA STATE (22-11)

  • Defeated: Missouri (8), Xavier (1)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Gonzaga (4)
  • Florida State Futures Odds: +4000

The Seminoles have one of the most-mundane profiles in college basketball.

They finished with an even 9-9 record in the ACC. They lost their first-round ACC tournament game to Louisville. And their top scorer averages 12.9 points per game.

But they do have plenty of athleticism and size, which has helped them get by Xavier and Missouri in the first two rounds. This combination makes them tough to score on in the paint, which should help them against Gonzaga, which relies on inside scoring.

14. SYRACUSE (23-13)

  • Defeated: Arizona State (11), TCU (6), Michigan State (3)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Duke (2)
  • Syracuse Futures Odds: +6000

syracuse-tcu-oddsOutside of Tyus Battle and his 19 points per game, this team doesn’t have many quality Division 1 scorers. Oshae Brisset and Franklin Howard are the only other two players who are legitimate offensive threats.

It’s no surprise that the Orange’s defense has led them this far. They have a long team that’s athletic enough to make their zone defense work superbly.

Chances are that this outstanding zone defense won’t be enough against a vastly superior Duke team. But the Orange won’t hang their heads, given that they barely made it into the tournament field anyways.

15. KANSAS STATE (24-11)

  • Defeated: Creighton (8), UMBC (16)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Kentucky (5)
  • Kansas State Futures Odds: +3000

Kansas State is a good team on paper. But it’s hard to have much faith in them, considering that they went 0-7 against Big 12 opponents who were above them in the standings.

The Wildcats also didn’t look very good against No. 16 UMBC, needing a late run to get by their lowly ranked opponent. Perhaps Dean Wade’s return could boost K-State. But even if he does play, it’s unlikely to be enough against No. 5 Kentucky.

16. LOYOLA-CHICAGO (30-5)

  • Defeated: Miami (6), Tennessee (3)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Nevada (7)
  • Loyola-Chicago Futures Odds: +5000

loyola-miami-oddsLoyola-Chicago is the tournament’s last remaining true Cinderella. But the 11-seeded Ramblers haven’t gotten here on sheer luck. They’ve beaten two power conference schools en route to the Sweet 16 and now have a 30-win season on their resume.

They at least have a chance against Nevada, thanks to their defensive discipline and methodical offense. Plus they have two solid scorers in Clayton Cluster and Donte Ingram.

2018 March Madness Odds – 7 First Round Bets You should Make

The first rule in sports betting is that there’s no such thing as a guarantee. This is especially the case with March Madness, where teams from all over college basketball are matched up against each other.

But I see a few 2018 March Madness bets that are definitely worth making. Keep reading as I cover 7 first-round wagers you should consider. And don’t forget to check out the odds of all the games right here at GTBets.

1. No. 10 Oklahoma (+2) Covers against No. 7 Rhode Island (Thursday, 12:15pm on CBS)

The Sooners aren’t exactly coming into the 2018 NCAA Tournament with a head of steam. The’ve lost 11 of their final 15 games, dropping them to a double-digit seed.

But make no mistake about it, this bubble team is still rather dangerous. Furthermore, Trae Young will be the best player on the court for either team. Combine this with how Rhode Island hasn’t played well since their 16-game winning streak earlier in the year, and I see Oklahoma winning by at least 3.

2. No. 3 Tennessee (-12) Covers against No. 14 Wright State (Thursday, 12:40pm on truTV)

It’s never easy to cover 12 points in a March Madness contest, especially when it’s not a No. 1 vs. 16 matchup. But I still like the 3-seeded Vols to blow out Wright State.

When Tennessee wins, they win big. 10 of their 25 victories were by 12 points or more. These include wins against teams that were better than the Raiders.

3. No. 5 Kentucky (-5.5) Covers against No. 12 Davidson (Thursday, 7:10pm on CBS)

gilgeous-alexanderBetting on the No. 12 seed is always a popular move. This is especially the case when dealing with a familiar high seed like Davidson. But the Wildcats also get priced higher than they deserve due to their famed 2008 Elite Eight run with Steph Curry.

John Calipari hasn’t lost a first-round game since taking over as the Kentucky coach in 2009. He’s not going to lose this one either, and I look for the victory to be by double digits.

4. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (+1.5) Covers against No. 6 Miami (Thursday, 3:10pm on truTV)

loyola-miami-oddsLoyola-Chicago is one of the hottest teams in 2018 March Madness, because they’ve won 10 straight games. They’ll be facing a Miami team that’s missing their top all-around player in Bruce Brown.

I’m a bit worried that sportsbooks have already priced in these factors, meaning Loyola isn’t being given a true underdog spread. But I’m still confidently putting money on the Ramblers.

5. No. 4 Arizona (-8.5) Covers against No. 13 Buffalo (Thursday, 9:40pm on CBS)

deandre-ayton-arizonaBuffalo has never seen the likes of DeAndre Ayton, a 7’1″ freshman who can do virtually anything on the court. The future top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft will decimate the Bulls early and often.

The Wildcats also have a motivational factor going for them, after ESPN reported that the FBI is investigating head coach Sean Miller. He denied all charges, and his team has used when they see as a major slight to fuel five straight wins.

6. No. 16 Penn (+13.5) Covers against No. 1 Kansas (Thursday, 2pm on TBS)

Kansas is looking to avenge the past two years, when they had title-worthy squads that came up short of the Final Four. But their first opponent will be trickier than most think.

Penn trailed Harvard in the Ivy League Championship by a score of 30-17. They went on a 28-2 run afterward to grab a commanding lead. This come-from-behind victory was all due to the Quakers’ ability to shoot the lights out.

Kansas is certainly different than playing Harvard. But I like Penn’s chances of keeping this one under 13 points due to their shooting touch.

7. No. 10 Butler (-1.5) Covers against No. 7 Arkansas (Friday, 3:10pm on truTV)

kelan-martin-butlerThe Bulldogs have been to the Big Dance six times since 2010. And not once have they failed to get at least one victory in their tournament appearances.

Despite the thin spread here, Butler would likely have to lose to avoid covering. That said, I recommend wagering on the Bulldogs notching another tournament win and extending their streak.

12 Teams that can Win 2018 March Madness

top-2018-march-madness-teamsMarch Madness starts out with 68 schools that want to hoist the championship trophy. And each school – big and small – dreams of cutting down the nets at the Final Four.

But let’s be honest: only about a dozen or so teams have a realistic chance at winning college basketball’s most prestigious title. And some of these schools, like Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, and Villanova, are in the title hunt year after year.

Which teams have the best chance to emerge the champ in the April? Let’s find out by looking at the 12 best contenders. Also keep in mind that we’ll have odds on all of these favorites and other schools throughout the tournament at GTBets.

1. Virginia (1 Seed)

The Cavaliers haven’t lived up to their tournament expectations in recent years. And here we are again, with them having a high seed and already drawing doubters.

But this doesn’t feel like the same Virginia team that’s come up short in the past. There are few reasons to believe that this squad is the one that’ll make a breakthrough.

They have a methodical offense that uses every second of the shot clock to get highly efficient looks.

Opponents also use every second against Virginia, but only because they’re hounded into doing so.

Virginia’s defense is the second best in college basketball in the last 17 years (0.002 adjusted points per possession). They’re also really good at forcing turnovers, which is a lethal combo for opposing schools to deal with.

Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense has even been smothering against elite opponents like Clemson, Duke, and UNC. The Cavaliers played 16 teams that made the NCAA Tournament this season, holding 12 of 16 of these squads to less than a point our possession (including the three mentioned above).

Virginia hasn’t been to a Final Four since 1984, and they don’t have any future NBA lottery picks on their roster. But this is the ACC champion, and they have the country’s best defense. You can’t do any better in picking a potential winner.

2. Duke (2 Seed)

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Michigan State vs DukeIf we’re basing everything on pure talent, then the Blue Devils would be the odds-on favorite to win it all. They boast a starting five that’s filled with NBA first-rounders, including Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Marvin Bagley

The only problem with this lineup is that they’re inconsistent at times. Allen is the only senior, and he’s scored 20 points or more 10 times this year. But he’s also been held below 10 points on eight different occasions. The underclassmen haven’t fared any better in the consistency department.

Duke utilizes a zone defense, which is an improvement from when they were trying to play man to man. But it’s still nowhere on par with Virginia right now.

3. Villanova (1 Seed)

The Wildcats come into 2018 March Madness with a top-2 seed for the fifth straight year. It’s obvious that as long as Jay Wright stays here, his team is always going to be a contender.

jay-wright-villanovaWright won the title a couple of years ago. The team stumbled as a top seed last spring. Which Villanova squad are going to see this year? My bet is one that wants to avenge last year’s disappointing tournament appearance.

Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges were role players on the 2016 national championship squad. But now they’re the top options and looking for the second championship of their college careers.

4. Kansas (1 Seed)

The Jayhawks have entered each of the past two tournaments as a potential champ. They lost a close contest to Villanova in 2016 before the latter went on to win the title. Kansas also had the misfortune of running into a red-hot Oregon team last year.

I don’t think that this year’s Jayhawks squad is exactly as talented as the two teams that recently lost. But they’ve got to be due for better luck with opponents in 2018.

And the talent is still here of course, including star point guard Devonte Graham. Kansas can also rely on the sharp-shooting Svi Mykhailiuk and all-around talent Udoka Azubuike.

5. Michigan State (3 Seed)

cassius-winstonThe Spartans may not have a top-2 seed. But they do have the potential to rise from being a three seed to cutting down the nets in San Antonio.

Cassius Winston offers excellent guard play, Nick Ward is a load down low, and Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges are future lottery picks.

The problem with Michigan State’s bid is that they’re just 2-4 against NCAA tournament qualifiers. They’re no doubt going to need a more-complete effort against the top seeds to have any hope at winning. I’m still high on their talent, though.

6. Arizona (4 Seed)

Arizona forward DeAndre Ayton has had a stellar freshman season with 20.3 PPG and 11.5 RPG. The 7’1″ phenom has likely played his way into being the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

deandre-ayton-arizonaThis means that the rest of the team has been lacking, given that they’ve only achieved a No. 4 seed. Sure, Arizona won their conference. But the Pac-12 was down this year, and the Wildcats didn’t exactly dominate the conference, despite what their title suggests.

The biggest problem for Arizona is that they don’t play great defense. They also have an ugly out-of-conference loss to Purdue (25 points) on their resume.

Despite the drawbacks, Arizona has a chance mainly because of Ayton’s greatness. He can shoot three’s, score inside, rebound, and block shots. Sean Miller’s team also has a solid starting 5 that can provide Ayton support on most nights.

7. Kentucky (5 Seed)

Kentucky is the biggest dark-horse contender in this year’s crop. And the chief reason why is because Gilgeous Alexander has played much better than his pedigree.

gilgeous-alexanderA four-star recruit in high school, he’s shined over the 5-star recruits on this roster. Gilgeous-Alexander’s play has helped a young team stay in contention. Kentucky especially helped themselves win seven wins in the past eight games.

This isn’t viewed as the same top-5 squad it was to open the season. But they could surprise analysts if their young lineup can finally gel in the coming weeks.

8. North Carolina (2 Seed)

The defending champion punished opponents last year with four big men who owned the paint. Three of these players are gone, and the team is quite different this season. Roy Williams team is now utilizing stretch fours and fives, while the team is shooting more three-pointers than ever before.

The good news for Carolina, though, is that the success hasn’t dropped off amid big changes. Luke Maye, a walk-on who was last year’s Elite Eight hero, is likely the top player on a balanced team.

9. Michigan (3 Seed)

This Wolverines team is playing the best defense in John Beilen’s tenure. They force opponents to work the clock and eventually take bad shots. If Michigan’s Big Ten tournament title run is any indication, they have the goods to compete for a national championship.

10. Gonzaga (4 Seed)

Gonzaga had their best-ever tournament run last season, culminating in a close title loss to North Carolina. But they lost four of their top six players from that squad, including lottery pick Zach Collins. Nevertheless, this four-loss team has played its way into being a Final Four contender once again.

11. Xavier (1 Seed)

Xavier isn’t getting much love here as a top seed. But they’re also the most-vulnerable of the No. 1 seeds, especially since they don’t have much depth. Trevon Bluiett must do his best job to carry this team, especially if they meet Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.

12. Purdue (2 Seed)

Purdue has used a successful formula that includes five different three-point shooters (all 39% or higher) and 7’2″ center Isaac Haas. This inside-outside combo has frustrated opponents all season.