March Madness Bracket Reveal: Preview, Predictions

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Source: Jason Dean/Getty Images

by Eli Boettger – February 10, 2018

The 2018 March Madness Bracket Preview is slated to air Sunday at 12:30pm ET on CBS.

The event premiered last season as a way for fans, coaches and media to get a first glance and better understanding of the committee’s process for evaluating and seeding teams.

Sixteen teams will be unveiled during the broadcast, covering the bracket’s top four seed lines.

Projections for Sunday’s Bracket Preview are below.

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Here’s a breakdown of the 16 teams projected to appear in Sunday’s seed reveal:

No. 1 (1st overall): Villanova

W-L: 23-2; RPI: 3; Non-conf SOS: 52; Metrics: 2.0; G1: 9-1; G2: 4-1; G3: 6-0; G4: 4-0

Villanova snatches the top overall seed from Virginia after the Cavaliers suffered an unexpected home loss Saturday to Virginia Tech. Jay Wright’s squad is tied with Kansas with the most wins against the RPI column I teams (nine). Barring any unforeseen collapse, Villanova will be a No. 1 seed for the third time in four years.

No. 1 (2nd overall): Virginia

W-L: 23-2; RPI: 1; Non-conf SOS: 64; Metrics: 1.3; G1: 7-1; G2: 6-1; G3: 5-0; G4: 5-0

Virginia checks in as the second-ranked No. 1 seed. Saturday’s loss to Virginia Tech falls under the second RPI column, so it’s not a killer, but it’s just enough to bump UVA from the top spot. Virginia is a unanimous #1 in each of the three results-based metrics (RPI, KPI, Strength of Record) and is also first in KenPom and Sagarin. The Cavs are a shoe-in as a No. 1 seed.

No. 1 (3rd overall): Xavier

W-L: 23-3; RPI: 2; Non-conf SOS: 31; Metrics: 13.0; G1: 8-3; G2: 6-0; G3: 4-0; G4: 5-0

The casual fan will be surprised to see Xavier as a No. 1 seed on Sunday, but the Musketeers certainly deserve the recognition. Villanova’s rival in the Big East owns a stout 14-3 win-loss record against the top two RPI columns and zero losses to non-tournament teams. The February 17 matchup with Villanova could pave the way to the bracket’s No. 1 overall seed on Selection Sunday.

No. 1 (4th overall): Kansas

W-L: 19-6; RPI: 7; Non-conf SOS: 8; Metrics: 8.0; G1: 9-4; G2: 5-1; G3: 3-1; G4: 2-0

The fourth No. 1 seed is very much up for grabs. The selection committee has a history of heavily favoring quality wins, allowing the Jayhawks to appear on the bracket’s top seed line. Kansas is the only team in the nation that ranks in the top eight nationally in RPI, strength of schedule, and predictive metrics average, despite recent head-scratching losses. KU also owns a nation-best nine column I victories.

No. 2 (5th overall): Purdue

W-L: 23-4; RPI: 11; Non-conf SOS: 94; Metrics: 2.7; G1: 5-3; G2: 6-1; G3: 6-0; G4: 6-0

Purdue reached as high as third in the seed list last month, but the Boilers dropped two heartbreakers to ranked teams this past week in Ohio State and Michigan State. The best win to date for the Boilermakers is a November neutral site blowout over Arizona, but the resume thins out after that.

No. 2 (6th overall): Clemson

W-L: 20-4; RPI: 4; Non-conf SOS: 48; Metrics: 20.3; G1: 4-4; G2: 7-0; G3: 3-0; G4: 6-0

Clemson’s road win over Ohio State did not figure to have much of an impact on if or where the Tigers would appear on Selection Sunday, but the Buckeyes are 17-2 since that loss, and have allowed Clemson to enjoy a stellar win that will pay dividends. The Tigers also own victories against conference foes North Carolina and Miami. Beating Duke next Sunday would push Brad Brownell’s team even closer to the No. 1 seed conversation.

No. 2 (7th overall): North Carolina

W-L: 19-7; RPI: 6; Non-conf SOS: 9; Metrics: 11.3; G1: 7-5; G2: 3-1; G3: 6-1; G4: 3-0

North Carolina sneaks into a No. 2 seed after a tremendous week that included a top 10 RPI win over rival Duke and road victory over surging North Carolina State. The home loss to Wofford will be the most significant blemish of any top four seed on Selection Sunday. To combat the loss, UNC has wins over four teams projected to be announced in Sunday’s seed reveal (Clemson, Duke, Tennessee, Ohio State).

No. 2 (8th overall): Auburn

W-L: 22-3; RPI: 8; Non-conf SOS: 86; Metrics: 16.0; G1: 4-3; G2: 5-0; G3: 8-0; G4: 5-0

A two-seeded Auburn in the N.I.T. would have made far more sense heading into the season, but the Tigers deserve this distinction through mid-February. Seven of Auburn’s best nine wins are away from home, and the three teams Auburn lost to will probably end up in the NCAA Tournament. This is a surprisingly strong resume.

No. 3 (9th overall): Texas Tech

W-L: 21-4; RPI: 12; Non-conf SOS: 201; Metrics: 10.7; G1: 4-3; G2: 7-1; G3: 3-0; G4: 7-0

Texas Tech’s non-conference strength of schedule will probably prevent the Red Raiders from finishing the season on the No. 2 line, but 11 victories among the top two RPI quadrants propels Tech to a top three seed. The good news is that Texas Tech still gets chances against Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia and TCU before the conference tournament.

No. 3 (10th overall): Tennessee

W-L: 18-6; RPI: 13; Non-conf SOS: 19; Metrics: 11.0; G1: 4-6; G2: 6-0; G3: 5-0; G4: 3-0

All six of Tennessee’s losses fall under the first RPI quadrant, allowing the Vols to put forth a front-heavy resume for Selection Sunday. Rick Barnes’ team has six away wins against the first two RPI quadrants, a stat that will work in Tennessee’s favor moving forward. A neutral site win from November over Purdue is shaping to be the cherry on the top of a dream season in Knoxville.

No. 3 (11th overall): Duke

W-L: 19-5; RPI: 9; Non-conf SOS: 14; Metrics: 6.0; G1: 4-4; G2: 4-1; G3: 8-0; G4: 3-0

Road results have knocked Duke in the past, and it could do just the same this season. The Blue Devils have resume-damaging losses to Boston College, N.C. State and St. John’s away from Cameron Indoor, all of which could potentially miss the NCAA Tournament. The good news is Duke’s metrics are all formidable and will place the Blue Devils in position of grabbing a No. 2 seed if it goes on a run.

No. 3 (12th overall): Michigan State

W-L: 24-3; RPI: 14; Non-conf SOS: 219; Metrics: 5.3; G1: 3-2; G2: 5-1; G3: 8-0; G4: 8-0

Michigan State is closer to being the 2nd best team in the nation than the 12th, but even after Saturday’s victory over Purdue, Sparty just doesn’t have an eye-popping resume. MSU only possesses two wins against projected NCAA Tournament teams. As a result, you’re looking at a top three team slotted into the bracket’s No. 3 seed line.

No. 4 (13th overall): Cincinnati

W-L: 22-2; RPI: 10; Non-conf SOS: 118; Metrics: 4.3; G1: 4-2; G2: 8-0; G3: 2-0; G4: 8-0

A win-loss record of 22-2, top 10 RPI, top five metrics average, and 12 wins against the top two RPI columns surely has to be enough for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, right? Not in Cincinnati’s case. Numbers-wise, there aren’t many teams in better shape than the Bearcats. To this point in the season, though, the best win CU has to its name is over Houston at home. It certainly won’t push the needle.

No. 4 (14th overall): Ohio State

W-L: 22-5; RPI: 16; Non-conf SOS: 42; Metrics: 15.0; G1: 2-4; G2: 5-0; G3: 10-1; G4: 5-0

Ohio State has two really nice wins over Purdue and Michigan State, and that’s about it. A loss at home to Penn State looks to be an anomaly, though it does fall under the third RPI category. A win over Michigan State and/or Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament will allow Ohio State to at least jump to a No. 3 seed.

No. 4 (15th overall): Oklahoma

W-L: 16-8; RPI: 20; Non-conf SOS: 78; Metrics: 25.3; G1: 6-5; G2: 2-3; G3: 3-0; G4: 5-0

No, Oklahoma’s inclusion has nothing to do with Trae Young. The Sooners have been off their game of late, dropping four of its last five decisions. The selection committee looks at the entire body of work, though, meaning recency isn’t the only factor that is taken into consideration. OU is 5-0 against the RPI top 30 including a win over project No. 1 seed Kansas.

No. 4 (16th overall) Arizona

W-L: 19-6; RPI: 21; Non-conf SOS: 60; Metrics: 23.3; G1: 3-3; G2: 5-3; G3: 6-0; G4: 5-0

The only team from the Pacific or Mountain time zone in the top four seed lines is Arizona, which has recovered from losing three consecutive games in November. Arizona still lacks a marquee win and it won’t have one on Selection Sunday unless Texas A&M or Alabama soar up the seed list in the coming weeks.

Eli Boettger is a men’s college basketball writer and bracketologist, covering the sport since 2015. Currently with USA Today Sports, Boettger is the lead basketball writer for Mountain West Wire. In 2017, Boettger was ranked 36th among 171 contestants in the bracketing competition. Over the past two years, Boettger has correctly selected 132 of 136 teams in the NCAA Tournament, including 128 within one seed line of their actual placement. Boettger is a current USBWA member.