March Madness 2018: Bill Bender's NCAA Tournament bracket picks

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March Madness 2018: Bill Bender's NCAA Tournament bracket picks

March Madness 2018: Bill Bender's NCAA Tournament bracket picks

The 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket is out, and Virginia is going to win the national championship.

If only it were that easy, right? This is Tony Bennett’s third 30-win team at Virginia, and the break-through is coming. It should have been two years ago when the Cavaliers lost in the Elite Eight to Syracuse.

MARCH MADNESS: Printable NCAA Tournament bracket

This will be worth the wait. Before I unveil my 2018 March Madness bracket picks, let me explain my thought process. A bracket always comes down to a handful of games. You might get the 3-14 upset and brag about how you had Stephen F. Austin or Bucknell (it’s always Bucknell, isn’t it?), but this bracket comes down to five tough choices, five games that will determine the direction of this bracket. They are the toughest picks if those games materialize, and they make or, most often, break your bracket.

They are the games you’ll remember the most. For me, those games are:

No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 5 Kentucky (second round)

Yep, I crossed that one out a few times. The winner is capable of beating Virginia no matter what, but which Wildcats are you rolling with?

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Ohio State (second round)

I crossed that one out, too, but I’ll go with the Bulldogs here. I won’t be surprised if the Buckeyes are in the Sweet 16.

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Duke (Sweet 16)

I want to pick Michigan State so bad, but Tom Izzo is 1-11 against Coach K and Duke won this game 88-81 on Nov. 14. More people will pick the Spartans here, but they will be underdogs.

No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 2 UNC (Sweet 16)

Same deal here. Want to pick the Wolverines, but North Carolina won rather easily 86-71 in November and has the up-tempo offense that can score on the Wolverines.

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 2 Purdue (Elite Eight)

The winner here will play for a national championship, and that’s always tough. Purdue ranked second in the nation in 3-point percentage (42.0), but Villanova has the highest-scoring offense at 87.1 points per game. This could be the best game of the tournament if it happens.

Birdsong (Arizona) | DeCourcy (Villanova) | Fagan (Villanova)

Other bracket tips

  • You have to make a real compelling case to put a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. Getting that is far more impressive than picking a first-round upset.
  • I always take all the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to win in the first round. If I miss, then I have a story to tell. Sporting News will have some good ones later this week.
  • For those who fill out multiple brackets (hand raised), make a spreadsheet and track how many times you pick each team in each round. If you fill out 10 brackets and blow that 7-10 game seven out of 10 times, then that's on you.

East | South | Midwest | West

NCAA Tournament bracket picks

South region


West region


East region


Midwest region


Final Four picks


MORE: NCAA Tournament Predictor tool

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Virginia and Villanova are the best teams. That’s my title game prediction, and the Cavaliers will win the national championship. It's never that easy, but that's what I think will happen.

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