Best seed outlook: As stated by the FiveThirtyEight version, top seed Duke gets got the best chance of advancing to the Final Four at the entire field (53 percent likelihood ) in addition to the best odds of winning the national title (19 percent).
The Blue Devils are led by four soon-to-be first-round draft selections, including Zion Williamson, one of the greatest talents in recent memory. Duke is a walking highlight reel on the offensive end and far stingier on protection than many might realize. This is among Mike Krzyzewski’s most-balanced teams and projects to be his first since 2010 to position inside the top six at Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and defense metrics. That team won the national title.1
What this team lacks, however, is signature across the perimeter. Duke shoots a grisly 30.2 percent from beyond 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 opposite side of the area is that the winner of the Big Ten conference tournament, Michigan State. As their benefit, the No. 2 Spartans have the honor of a potential matchup from the top overall seed in the Elite Eight. Head coach Tom Izzo was none too happy. The Spartans are pummeled by accidents but remain among the most balanced teams in the nation, standing within the top eight in Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and protection 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 which ranks one of Pomeroy’s Top 25 teams on both offense and defense. Although they’ve lost eight times, just two of these were double-digits. Virginia Tech also has a not-altogether-unfriendly attraction, with extremely winnable opening games against Saint Louis (87 percent) and the Mississippi State-Liberty winner (63 percent) before most likely running into Duke’s juggernaut. We give the Hokies a decent 25 percent chance against 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 bet : 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 particular tournament. They ranked only 18th in Pomeroy’s evaluations — about the quality of a No. 5 seed — thanks in large part to a defense that didn’t even crack the nation’s top 60 in corrected efficacy. (This showed up at the 51 second-half things that they permitted to Florida while shedding their first match of the SEC tournament.) Their NCAA course is not very easy, either: Yale is no pushover as a No. 14 seed, nor is potential second-round competitor Maryland, and we give the Tigers a mere 26 percent likelihood of beating Michigan State when the teams meet in the Sweet Sixteen. That is easily the lowest-rated top-three seed within 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 team due to an impressive crime led by do-everything swingman Dylan Windler. According to Pomeroy, Belmont ranks 20th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (and second nationwide 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 need to acquire a play-in match against Temple only to make the area of 64 — we give them a 59 percent opportunity — they would have a very competitive 39 percent likelihood of bothering Maryland in the first round and an even greater chance against 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 because Magic Johnson. The Spartans’ do-everything point guard — one of the greatest facilitators in the nation — 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 speed than Winston (46.0 percent). And behind Winston, the Spartans assist on the highest speed of field goals in the country.
The junior also happens to be Izzo’s leading scorer and among the nation’s top perimeter threats, shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. As injuries have relentlessly sapped the Spartans of their on-court creation, Winston has elevated his game to compensate. As he set it to The Athletic,»I have to do a whole lot for my own 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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