March Madness 2018: our writers predict the winners, sleepers and upsets

South regional


Virginia. The Cavaliers have been the nation’s best team for the last two months and play ferocious defense. But as good as they’ve been – and they have been very good – history is not on their side. Despite several outstanding regular seasons, they never seem to have enough to make the Final Four. Will this one be different? LC

Virginia. The Cavaliers are the No1 overall seed in the tournament for good reason. They’re 31-2, just won the ACC regular season and tournament, and boast the nation’s best defense – allowing just 53.4 points per game. Their issue in tournaments past has been scoring enough to beat highly talented teams. Last year’s 39-point output in a second-round loss to Florida remains an all-time horror show of offensive basketball. DG

Virginia. It’s the Cavaliers on paper, but questions abound. With an average of 59.2 possessions per game, they were the slowest of the 351 teams in Division I this year, albeit with the best defensive efficiency in the country. Will that extreme approach hold up in a regional stacked with in-form contenders like No2 Cincinnati, No4 Arizona and No5 Kentucky? BAG

Dark horse

Strange to call Kentucky a dark horse and yet John Calipari’s latest group of one-and-dones spent much of the season trying to catch up to the college game. This has led many to believe they are not a true Kentucky team. But the Wildcats have won seven of their last eight, including the SEC tournament title. This could well be another Final Four Kentucky team. LC

Is it possible to call the NBA factory that is Kentucky a dark horse? Well, they do have 10 losses on the season, a grand total of two junior and zero seniors on the roster and were awarded with just a 5-seed by the tournament committee despite winning the SEC tournament. John Calipari has his latest young team peaking at the right time. DG

Loyola-Chicago, the No11 seed, fits the profile of the unheralded mid-major that inevitably crashes the Sweet 16. The Ramblers are tight on defense (24th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency), lights out from the floor (eighth nationally in effective field-goal percentage) and have a high-profile scalp under their belts (winning on Florida’s home court in December). Miami and Tennessee, beware. BAG

First-round game to watch

Arizona v Buffalo. The Pac-12 champions could be walking into trouble when they meet the Bulls on Thursday night. Though the Wildcats have done a great job of ignoring the controversy surrounding coach Sean Miller and potential payments, those questions will come again at the NCAAs. Buffalo is a tenacious, experienced team that will give Arizona trouble. LC

Kentucky v Davidson. Davidson, the program that produced Steph Curry, has the potential to produce some bracket mayhem. Fresh off of leading his team to a surprising win in the Atlantic 10 tournament, senior forward Peyton Aldridge will see what he can do against the freshmen and sophomores of the Wildcats. DG

Kentucky v Davidson. Two of the nation’s hottest teams face off in Boise. The Wildcats may be peaking at the right time, but they’ll have their hands full with the red-hot Atlantic 10 champions. BG

One bold prediction

Like many of the country’s top teams, Cincinnati has been very good defensively. But can they score? They earned a second seed with their relentless defense and yet their offensive struggles could cost them in the second round against either Nevada or Texas. LC

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