Managing The Madness:
Your 2018 NCAA Tournament Preview
College basketball is a beautiful sport in the midst of unprecedented turmoil. While the NCAA is still trying to wipe off the stench of Louisville's scandals, it's now dealing with a mess in Michigan State, wiretapped wrongdoings in Arizona and whispers of egregious behavior in campuses all across the map. Thankfully, the calendar has turned to March, meaning whatever ugliness away from the court is at least temporarily remedied with the actions on it. The 2018 NCAA Tournament - we guarantee that one of the following 16 teams will cut down the nets on April 2 in San Antonio - won't fully take our attention away from courtrooms and FBI probes but it will be a welcomed distraction.
Sadly, the drama behind Coach Miller is beginning to overshadow Deandre Ayton's brilliant freshman campaign (nearly 20 points/11 rebounds per game) and an overall Wildcats performance that's reminiscent of Lute Olson's talented bunches from the 90s.
Coach Mick Cronin is one of the finest pre-game strategists in the nation. Best believe he'll have Jacob Evans, Gary Clark and the rest of the Bearcats roaring to go, whether they're a No. 2 or 3 seed in the Big Dance.
If Marvin Bagley III, arguably the nation's best all-around freshman, goes into March with strong knees, his high-scoring Blue Devils - their 85.5 points a game is 6th in the nation - have as good a chance as anyone to sprint to the national championship.
The Bulldogs don't have a marquee name in the middle of the roster like past seasons, but in Josh Perkins and Johnathan Williams, they have quite the headline-making ensemble.
A 14th-straight Big 12 title. Super-steady head coach Bill Self. Super-consistent senior Devonte' Graham. It's just more of the same in Jayhawk Country. And that should scare the hell out of every other school in the bracket.
We love Zavier Simpson's spunk and Moritz Wagner's hustle. We're just not so sure how we feel about the overachieving squad's chances beyond the Elite Eight.
Tom Izzo will have done one of his finest coaching jobs ever if he's able to keep his locker room focused on hoops and not the hoopla surrounding the Larry Nassar fallout and lingering recruiting accusations to his best player, Miles Bridges.
One of the mightiest mid-majors, these Blue Raiders have played some bigger-name schools really well (just ask Miami and Vanderbilt), and they won't think twice about doing it two or three more times in the tourney.
Luke Maye (18 ppg) and Joel Berry III (17.7 ppg) form one of the most explosive combos ever in Chapel Hill. That's saying a lot. That the well-rounded Tar Heels have a legitimate shot at repeating as national champions says even more.
The Buckeyes have season-shaping wins over Michigan State and Purdue since New Year's Day. They could be celebrating a lot more than that by Easter Sunday, if Keita Bates-Diop keeps scoring like he has.
The Boilermakers don't have the most encouraging postseason history (zero Elite Eight appearances since 2000), but they haven't had a menacing presence quite like 7-2 Isaac Haas in that span, either.
Over the past three full seasons, the Wildcats have averaged 33.3 wins per year. If a 12-3 mark since January 1 tells us anything, it's that the Jalen Brunson-led squad has another long run in them this year.
In February, the Cavaliers became No. 1 for the first time since 1982. If this defensive-minded bunch - the Cavs give up an NCAA-best 52.1 points a night - keeps playing such disciplined ball, it could make its first Final Four since '84.
Coach Bob Huggins has do-everything Jevon Carter - the first player from a major conference to tally 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career - so his Mountaineers will always be in the Sweet 16 conversation.
It's criminal how overlooked this consistent squad (nine straight years of 20+ wins) is in the national media. But what's even more felonious is sophomore guard Landry Shamet's lightning-quick hands in the passing lanes.
Trevon Bluiett can score with the best of'em. Coach Chris Mack's Musketeers can defend with anyone. We'd be shocked if the squad's all-for-one attitude didn't carry it through the tournament's second weekend.
Clemson, Tennessee and
Georgia State, Nevada and Rhode Island