MARCH MADNESS LIVE: Scores, updates from Thursday's NCAA Tournament games
It wouldn't be March Madness without a few bracket-busters. To help keep your 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket somewhat intact, Sporting News college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy offers up his picks for the upsets and sleeper teams to watch out for in each region. You've been warned.
Bonus: Check out each region preview linked below for Final Four picks, star players to watch and more.
MARCH MADNESS: Printable NCAA bracket
March Madness bracket predictions
East Region: No. 10 Butler over No. 7 Arkansas. Yes, KenPom already called this using his secret-sauce formula, and no, we did not copy off him. Butler seems well set up to handle the Razorbacks’ inconsistent defense and punish the Hogs with a wide variety of weapons: Kelan Martin’s complete game, Kamar Baldwin’s stop-and-go dexterity, the deep shooting of Paul Jorgensen and Sean McDermott.
South Region: No. 12 Davidson over No. 5 Kentucky. With so many teams playing variations of pick-and-roll offense, coach Bob McKillop's fluid motion offense still looks like it did a decade ago, during Steph Curry's magical run to the Elite Eight. (Except there's no Steph Curry now.) Davidson shoots nearly 40 percent from 3-point range as a team and closed the season with eight victories in the final nine games. This will be a profound defensive challenge for UK's young team.
Midwest Region: No. 12 New Mexico State over No. 5 Clemson. There are seven seed lines between them, but oddsmakers have the Tigers favored by only 5.5 points. Clemson has fought hard to remain among the elite since 6-8 senior Donte Grantham was injured in late January. Since then, the Tigers are 2-6 against tournament teams. NMSU is a tournament team, one that has won 85 percent of its games – including against Miami and Davidson. Yikes.
West Region: No. 11 San Diego State over No. 6 Houston. The Cougars played so powerfully in their run to the AAC championship game, but how many wars do we expect them to survive? Their game against Wichita State in the semifinals was one of the best of the college season, and the battle against Cincinnati in the final was almost entirely about which team could survive the attrition. San Diego State’s offense is beginning to sizzle, with five performances in a nine-game winning streak producing 79 or more points.
East Region: No. 9 Alabama. Guard Collin Sexton is showing he is one of the most difficult Division I players to defend.
South Region: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers obviously have a difficult game against Miami in the first round, and there may be no tougher team than Tennessee. But Loyola has shown it can play against high-level competition (that Florida win should get the Hurricanes' attention) and its variety of long-distance shot-makers could provide the right recipe for an upset or two.
Midwest Region: No. 12 New Mexico State. The Aggies are good enough to take a run at the Sweet 16, and each of the higher-seeded teams standing in their way (Clemson and Auburn) lost significant players to season-ending injuries in advance of the tournament.
West Region: No. 11 San Diego State. Trey Kell’s senior scoring average was ruined by injury, and so was his senior season. Until now. He had issues with an ankle, a thigh, an ankle again. He averaged a little better than 10 points because his minutes and/or effectiveness were limited. But this is a terrific player, and he made up for some of his lost time with a 28-point performance in the Mountain West title game to earn this bid. The Aztecs are better than their 22-10 record suggests.